The July 28 opening of this year's NHL free-agent market has long passed, and pickings are slim for clubs still trying to address roster needs before the 2021-22 regular season begins in October.
With the free-agent pool drained of quality talent, some teams could return to the trade market. Stars such as Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and Vladimir Tarasenko remain available, and notable talent such as Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak could also draw considerable interest in the coming weeks.
The Nurse deal part of an on-going commitment from the Edmonton Oilers ownership to keep their core intact
Where could some of these players end up? Here are five NHL trades that should take place now that the free-agent spending frenzy has subsided. Don't forget to drop a line in the comments section to let us know what you think.
Christian Dvorak to the Ottawa Senators
On July 29, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators could be in the trade market for a center and a winger. Perhaps they have the Arizona Coyotes' Christian Dvorak in their sights.
The Coyotes have had a busy offseason, shedding notable players such as Darcy Kuemper, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to free long-term cap space while loading up with draft picks. Dvorak has also come up as a trade candidate.
In his 31 Thoughts podcast earlier in August, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggested Dvorak could be moved before the start of the season. He felt a number of teams are interested in the 25-year-old two-way center. On July 21, Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's John Gambadoro included the Senators among several suitors.
The Senators hold two advantages in any potential bidding for Dvorak. They have more projected cap space ($28.5 million) than most teams, giving them more than enough space to fit his $4.45 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 into their payroll. They also have plenty of picks in next year's draft and promising young players to dangle as trade bait.
Garrioch observed the Senators have 10 defensemen on their roster or ready for a call-up. Perhaps a package of a second- and a third-round pick plus a young blueliner such as Erik Brannstrom or Lassi Thomson would interest the Coyotes.
Anton Khudobin to the Edmonton Oilers
The Dallas Stars made a surprising move on the opening day of free agency by signing goaltender Braden Holtby to a one-year, $2 million pact. He joins an already crowded crease, as the Stars also have Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger under contract.
This move raised speculation over how the Stars will handle this logjam. On Aug. 3, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples examined what NHL insiders were saying about the Stars' goalie situation. He observed Sportsnet's Jeff Marek and Friedman suggesting Khudobin could end up with the Edmonton Oilers.
Staples thinks the Stars won't take Oilers backup Mikko Koskinen in return for Khudobin. He suggested packaging Koskinen with a sweetener for teams in need of goalie depth, such as the Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres or Ottawa Senators. That's assuming those clubs aren't on his 15-team no-trade list.
Khudobin carries a four-team no-trade list. If the Oilers aren't on it, and if they can clear Koskinen's $4.5 million cap hit, this move could help both teams.
Bishop missed all of last season because of knee surgery. Assuming he remains sidelined to start 2021-22 (or perhaps longer), the Stars could move Khudobin in favor of a Holtby-Oettinger tandem. That would free some cap space to address other possible roster needs.
The Oilers, meanwhile, would get a reliable backup for 39-year-old starter Mike Smith. With Bishop sidelined by injury, Khudobin came up big during the 2020 playoffs, backstopping the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final. That experience could be invaluable to the Oilers in their quest to become Cup contenders.