Less than two weeks following the start of this summer’s NHL free-agent period, player movement has significantly slowed. So has the activity in the trade market.
The reason behind the lack of free-agent movement was the best available players were snapped up within the first three hours of opening day (July 1). As this summer’s market was already shallow in notable free-agent talent, there wasn’t any notable stars remaining following the initial signing frenzy.
The combination of limited free-agent talent, the recent increase of the salary cap by nearly $5 million to $69 million and the ability of teams to retain salary to facilitate trades increased expectation teams which struck out in free agency would turn to the trade market.
We did see some trade activity over the past two weeks. The biggest move saw the Dallas Stars acquire Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators on July 1, adding more excitement to a hectic opening day of free agency.
The Montreal Canadiens also made a significant trade on July 1, shipping Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres for a draft pick. The day before, they dealt aging Daniel Briere to the Colorado Avalanche for winger P.A. Parenteau.
On the evening of June 29 (one day following the completion of the NHL 2014 Draft), the now-Arizona Coyotes landed Sam Gagner in a three-team trade involving the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
But since the Philadelphia Flyers traded Tye McGinn to the San Jose Sharks for a draft pick on July 2, the trade market has gone quiet.
There’s been trade rumors, of course. There always are. The Flyers were trying to find takers for aging Vincent Lecavalier, who has four years at $4.5 million per season remaining on his contract. Interested teams reportedly want the Flyers to pick up part of his remaining salary plus include a prospect or draft pick.
Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane’s name popped up again in the rumor mill following a recent radio interview in which he said he was a Jet “for now.”. While Kane’s comments stoke trade speculation, Jets management doesn’t appear in any hurry to move the promising winger, perhaps because there’s not a decent deal to be found.
The Detroit Red Wings still seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. They’re rumored to have interest in several defensemen, including Washington’s Mike Green and Buffalo’s Tyler Myers. A recent report out of Detroit, however, claims trade discussions are slowing down. The Wings will keep shopping, but they don’t appear any closer to addressing their blueline need.
The names of Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, along with blueliners Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson, occasionally appear in trade chatter, but the Leafs appear content to keep their roster intact heading into training camp in September. Of the trio, Reimer seems the most likely to move, but given this summer’s soft goalie market, he could find himself backing up Jonathan Bernier again when the season begins.
The upcoming arbitration period (July 20 to August 4) could be a reason behind the lack of trade activity. Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly (whose arbitration hearing is July 23) could be a player worth watching. The Avs are taking him to arbitration, and there’s an expectation in the Denver media they could shop him shortly after he’s awarded his new contract. If so, that will certainly inject some life into an otherwise listless trade market.
Last summer saw considerable early trade activity within the first two weeks of July, after which over two months went by before another trade took place. The way things are currently going, this summer could be even quieter.