You know what you can expect from the upcoming NHL season: a couple of jaw-dropping goals, a rules controversy or two, the Winter Classic, griping about the shootout, an amazing Cup chase.
And trades. Lots and lots of trades.
Last season, 29 of the 30 teams were involved in transactions that included at least one NHL player. The Winnipeg Jets were the lone holdout. And with cap issues, contract stalemates and free agency all factoring heavily into personnel decisions again this season, there is every reason to expect that dozens more players will need the services of a quality real estate agent and a reliable mover.
So, which players are most likely to be dealt this season? Put it this way: If you're thinking of buying a new jersey, you might want to hold off before having it personalized with the name and number of any of these guys.
BOBBY RYAN, LW, OTTAWA SENATORS: The Sens have lost two top players — Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza — during the past 15 months. They can't afford to lose a third, which is why the ongoing negotiations between the team and Ryan are so crucial. Ottawa is ready to ante up in order to lock Ryan in long term, but the winger wants some non-financial assurances before he signs. Ryan took issue with the way he was used at times by coach Paul MacLean last season and he wants the chance to prove that he can be Ottawa's go-to guy. If he feels the love, this situation could be solved quickly. But the longer it draws out, the more likely it is that Ryan leans toward the open market. And that would all but ensure that the Sens put him on the block.
MARC METHOT, D, OTTAWA SENATORS: Methot's contract extension talks with the Sens have gone sideways, to the point where GM Bryan Murray has already said that the 29-year-old vet could be traded if the two sides can't come to an agreement. While there should be a middle ground solution that works for both sides, there's also a real chance Murray decides to cut bait. Considering where his team is in the contention curve, adding a younger asset or two could be very appealing. As for Methot, several teams would be interested in adding a proven top-four defender who is just a year removed from an invitation to Canada's Olympic camp even if his play fell off a notch last season.
ADAM McQUAID, BOSTON BRUINS: It's clear they'll have to make a deal soon to address some pressing cap issues. The question is, who do they sacrifice off a team that has legitimate Cup aspirations? The expectation is that they'll move a defenseman, but it won't be Johnny Boychuk and his expiring contract. Despite the relief he'd provide, he's too valuable a part of their top four. That leaves McQuaid as the most likely option. Plenty of teams would be interested in his size and physicality, even if his thinking lags behind the play at times. That said, there's still a chance that GM Peter Chiarelli sacrifices a forward instead, especially if Simon Gagne or Ville Leino make a strong early impression in camp. Loui Eriksson, Brad Marchand or even Reilly Smith could be moved in the right deal.
RYAN ELLIS, D, NASHVILLE PREDATORS: No matter how contentious a contract negotiation might seem, it almost always gets worked out in the end. That said, the dispute between the Preds and Ellis could be the exception. Nashville obviously puts a lot of stock in his talent — it drafted him 11th back in 2009 — but there are concerns about his upside and his role on this club. With Shea Weber and Seth Jones playing the right side, Ellis is buried on the third pair indefinitely. And with a clear demand for righties on the trade market (hello, Detroit!), he might be more valuable to the Preds as a trade chip than as a depth defender.
MIKE GREEN, D, WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Green's getting a clean slate from new head coach Barry Trotz, and that could well be exactly what he needs to get his game back on track. Still, the 28-year-old is heading into the final season of a deal that pays him just north of $6 million, and on a defense where he's likely to be relegated to the third pair, that's a steep tag to carry. Despite concerns about his own zone coverage, Green's puck skills and right-handed shot could lead to a significant return for the Caps.
JOEL WARD, RW, WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Ward's one of those players who every contender is looking for come playoff time. He's big, strong, fearless in the corners and he has a knack for scoring important goals. He'll turn 34 as he plays out the final year of his current deal, and with Tom Wilson slotted into a top-six role in 2015-16, Ward's usefulness is declining in Washington. He'll be a valuable chip if the Caps find themselves out of the running.
ANTOINE VERMETTE, C, ARIZONA COYOTES: The gritty Coyotes will give it all they've got, but that underpowered offense won't get them into the top eight in the West. Vermette is a terrific talent who can chip in offensively and make a difference in the circle (56.4 percent, good for ninth in the league last season). With his expiring contract, the 32-year-old center should be one of the hottest targets come the trade deadline.
DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN, D, WINNIPEG JETS: Nothing wrong with the draft-and-develop plan of Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff other than the fact that some members of this club will be well past their best-by dates when the kids finally get their act together. At 29, Byfuglien is one of those players, and as someone whose name value might exceed what he brings on the ice, it makes sense for the Jets to explore their options. With a year left on his deal after this one, Big Buff comes with some degree of contract certainty. That should enhance any return he'll bring ... assuming, of course, that Cheveldayoff is willing to make the first trade involving an actual player in his three-plus years on the job.
NICK LEDDY, D, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: GM Stan Bowman is facing cap issues of his own, and the expectation is that he'll have to make a trade before the start of the season to ensure that his team is compliant. He does have other options, including starting the season with a 22-man roster and burying Teuvo Teravainen in the minors all season, but that would leave Bowman with almost no wiggle room for when the inevitable injuries strike. There's a case to be made for trading veteran Johnny Oduya, who is 32 and on an expiring contract. But he's consistently proved to be a valuable asset in the playoffs, and a team with an eye on winning this season probably isn't looking to trade a top-four defender.
That leaves Leddy, whose absence wouldn't cut as deeply with prospects like David Rundblad, Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns and Klas Dahlbeck ready to claim a job in camp. It also worth remembering that Leddy's qualifying offer when he hits free agency next summer will be $3.4 million. That puts him in a price range that's likely higher than what the Hawks will be comfortable with. So short and long-term, he's the least painful way to address this problem.
LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY, D, NEW YORK ISLANDERS: GM Garth Snow's done a solid job adding depth to an Islanders team that looks like a legitimate contender to grab one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. That said, this team could just as easily finish 12th as seventh, and if things go south the Isles will be looking to unload players who won't be part of the solution in 2015-16. That includes Visnovsky, the 38-year-old defender who is playing out the final season of his current contract. The Isles have a wealth of kids knocking at the door, including Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock, either of whom could assume his minutes if needed.
CASEY CIZIKAS, C, NEW YORK ISLANDERS: The 23-year-old is coming off a miserable season and could be a victim of the crowd of talent up front. Given his age, the Isles won't be in a hurry to move him, but if veteran help can be had for the blueline, the dynamic penalty killer is a piece they can afford to move.
DAVID DESHARNAIS C, MONTREAL CANADIENS: Would the Habs really trade their No. 1 center? It all depends on Alex Galchenyuk. The team is loaded down the middle with Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and newcomer Manny Malhotra slated for fourth-line/key face-off duties.The last spot should go to Desharnais, who rebounded nicely in the second half after a dismal start to last season ... but if Galchenyuk makes enough of an impression in camp to start the season at center, it would give GM Marc Bergevin some options.