After months and months of speculation, the constant trade talk surrounding Jack Eichel is finally over after the star Buffalo Sabres center was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this month. So where does the trade market go from here? Though still early in the season, there is thought to be some trade chatter ongoing between teams who expected different results early on this year, whether that is a surprise contender looking to load up, a struggling preseason favorite in need of a shake-up, or a bottom-dweller looking to move talent as soon as possible to maximize the return. The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy and Matt Larkin recently broke down the trade market and believe the top available name could be the product of that latter scenario. The pair feel that Phil Kessel is set to step into Eichel’s shoes, not only as a major name on the block but also as a player that is guaranteed to be traded. The 1-13-1 Arizona Coyotes have all the makings of a last-place team and Kessel is an aging veteran and respected champion on an expiring deal; the fit is poor and should be resolved soon rather than waiting until the deadline whilst Kessel plays meaningless games and risks injury for the ’Yotes. The scoring winger should be attractive to any number of teams and Arizona could take the first impressive futures package offered to them to further their rebuild.
- Though mentioned by Kennedy and Larkin as a top trade chip, piling on top of plenty of recent speculation, Tomas Hertl may not be as guaranteed to move as people have been led to believe. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz writes in a recent mailbag that Hertl seems be enjoying this season more than last. A winning record so far certainly helps, but Hertl is also appreciative of his growing role as a team leader amidst a culture turnaround in San Jose. Kurz believes that Hertl has a 50/50 chance of signing an extension with the Sharks, which doesn’t even speak to his likelihood of being traded. If the team continues to win and stays in the playoff picture all season and the possibility of a renewed deal between the two sides remains, Hertl may not move after all. There are some cap management factors working against a deal for both team and player, with the Sharks’ restrictions limiting Hertl’s contract potential and making such a move more risky for San Jose, but if the team is playing well and Hertl is happy, producing, and leading the young locker room, it will be difficult for the Sharks to opt for a trade instead of working toward an extension.
- Meanwhile, Kennedy and Larkin do not mention Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard as top trade bait, but his name has been a fixture on the rumor mill in recent days. According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, the Avs made a late run at Eichel and floated Girard as the centerpiece of the deal. Now, even with Eichel off the market, Chambers believes that GM Joe Sakic is still willing to part ways with Girard. Though young and offensively gifted, Girard has some glaring defensive weaknesses that Colorado would rather not deal with given his $5MM cap hit. Girard is still an elite defenseman, but the well-balanced Avs are looking to use that cap space in a different way, if at all possible, by landing another elite forward. With phenom Cale Makar locked up long-term, a number of reliable veterans in support, and other promising young defenders like Bowen Byram and Justin Barron, the team could survive the loss of Girard if it means adding another difference-maker to their top-heavy forward corps. If the Avalanche continue to fall short of expectations this season, it will only serve to fuel a potential shake-up with Girard as the most likely trade victim.