1. Rick Nash, LW, Columbus: If talk indeed turns to action, Nash will be dealt this summer.
The New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks were left at the alter at the February trade deadline because they weren’t willing to pay the massive price being demanded by Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson.
The Jackets are in a tough spot because Nash has made it clear he wants out. His $7.8 million cap hit through the 2017-18 season means only certain teams can be involved in the discussions and he has to approve any deal.
Nash wants to be moved to a contender. The Rangers and Sharks both need scoring. Don’t be surprised if the Buffalo Sabres try to get into these discussions.
2. Roberto Luongo, G, Vancouver: There are a lot of teams looking for goaltending: Toronto, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus and the Chicago Blackhawks to name a few.
The issue is the contract given to Luongo by Canucks GM Mike Gillis. He always considers himself the smartest guy in the room, but giving Luongo a deal through with a cap hit of $5.3 million through 2021-22 was ridiculous.
Moving the contract is going to be even more difficult. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman has declared he wants nothing to do with that kind of trade. Toronto GM Brian Burke would have to swallow his pride to acquire Luongo.
Burke has often been an opponent of long-term deals. Perhaps the only hope for Gillis and the Canucks is an “amnesty” clause in the new CBA. That would allow the Canucks to buy him out and not have a cap hit.
3. Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh: This guy would attract plenty of attention. He is the best third-line centre in the league.
The Penguins are going to have to clear cash if they’re going to keep this team together. That could mean moving out a player like Staal because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t going anywhere.
Several teams would make a pitch for Staal — including the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. The Sabres want to get bigger in the middle, which is why Derek Roy has been made available.
Staal is the final year of his $4.5-million contract. The Pens have made it a priority to get Crosby’s deal done. Look for Staal to be dealt and there will be a lot of interest.
4. Jonathan Bernier, G, Los Angeles: He could do just fine sitting behind Jonathan Quick.
If there’s anything this run to the Stanley Cup final has proven, Quick is the man with the Kings and Bernier, 23, is going to have to be happy playing the No. 2 role until a trade is made.
Many believe Bernier can be a No. 1. The Jackets made a pitch for him last year, but couldn’t get the deal done. There is concern he’s never done it before, but maybe Bernier just needs to be given a proper chance.
With a cap hit of $1.25 million, the cost is minimal. He’s young and that means there’s not a lot of risk involved. Can he be a No. 1? That’s the question, but don’t be surprised if a team tries to find out.
5. Tim Thomas, G, Boston: The Bruins have a huge headache on their hands with this guy.
Thomas, 38, has declared he has no plans to play next season. He says he wants to spend more time with family, but many believe he wants to make sure he controls his own destiny when his “no-move” clause expires July 1.
Thomas will likely ask for an extension from the Bruins in July, but make no mistake — he won’t play another game in a Boston uniform. Any chance of his number being retired is gone as well.
Thomas may not actually be dealt to a team looking for help in net. He might actually just be sent somewhere so GM Peter Chiarelli can get his $5 million cap hit off the books. A team trying to get to the floor might want it.