TORONTO - While the dreams of many National Hockey League prospects will be realized this weekend in Pittsburgh, and others will see theirs dashed, some established NHL veterans could wake up on Monday morning and begin preparations to move to a new city. Undoubtedly, no matter the possible concerns regarding a work stoppage, there will be trades during the draft, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Consol Energy Center. Here’s a look at those who could be on the move this weekend.
1) Rick Nash, Columbus
There’s a solid possibility Nash will be dealt before one player’s name is called in the first round on Friday night. Though 29 other NHL clubs would love to have him, the front-runners probably are the New York Rangers, who could not score to save their playoff lives this spring. The Rangers have the assets, but should be able to keep forward Chris Kreider. Nash has averaged 34 goals in the past eight seasons but the woeful Blue Jackets have not been able to give him much support, perhaps proving once and for all that hockey is a true team sport. No matter where he lands, the trading of Nash will put an end to an NHL drama that has made for a plethora of headlines.
2) Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
Are the Canucks ready to move ahead with Cory Schneider as their No. 1 goaltender? Yes, and those wheels might have been in motion even before Schneider supplanted Luongo during Vancouver’s first-round exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Luongo still can stop the puck — he has won at least 31 games every season since the lockout — but he is 33 and his contract doesn’t end until 2022. Simply, the team that gets him has to be fairly certain it can win in the next couple of seasons, because Luongo might not be around long enough to see a rebuilding team bear fruit in the playoffs. The Canucks want players, not prospects, in return.
3) Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh
The best third-line centre in hockey has one year remaining on his contract, one that will pay him $4.5 million in 2013-14. Staal has developed as one of the top penalty-killers in the NHL, but there’s more to his game than that, and he is coming off his best season statistically – 25 goals and 50 points – though the absence of Sidney Crosby helped. There is speculation that Staal could become a teammate of older brother Eric in Carolina, but the fact remains that he will generate interest from more than a handful of teams. It’s a good position to be in for Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who still will have two of the top centres in the game no matter what he decides to do with Staal.
4) Luke Schenn, Toronto
The Maple Leafs love the depth they have on the blue line, and though others might not think it’s that great, Schenn is a guy who would have the best chance of being on the move if Brian Burke can pull off a trade. Schenn has been involved in speculation for months, and wouldn’t be the least surprised if he is traded. Including Schenn in a trade would be a lot easier for Burke to swallow than, say, using Jake Gardiner as a piece of a deal. Toronto is ready to promote Korbinian Holzer to the NHL next season, and there will not be room for everyone on the Leafs blue line. Schenn’s contract is fairly cap-friendly, another factor that could make him attractive.
5) Patrick Kane, Chicago
As much as the Blackhawks would love to see Kane get his life in order away from the rink (few NHLers are as aware of the power of pictures posted on-line as much as Kane), it’s not a stretch to wonder if the 23-year-old will figure it out. Though he is coming off the least-productive of his five NHL seasons — he had 66 points in 82 games — Kane remains one of the brightest young stars in the league, and every other team could convince itself rather easily that it can be the one to send him on the proper off-ice path. The Hawks should be assured of getting a strong young player in return if they decide to deal Kane.