6 Trades We Want to See Happen at the 2024 NHL Draft (2024)

6 Trades We Want to See Happen at the 2024 NHL Draft

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    Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner and Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark. Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

    The NHL draft is one of the busiest days on the league's calendar. While the teams are busy selecting prospects hoping they might one day become stars, their general managers often seek more immediate roster help in the trade market.

    Plenty of player movement occurred leading up to, and including, last year's talent grab. Notable veterans such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Tyler Toffoli, Taylor Hall, Corey Perry, Reilly Smith, and Kevin Hayes wound up with new clubs once the dust settled.

    This year could see more activity than usual as the salary cap is projected to rise from $83.5 million to $87.7 million for 2024-25. The league is expected to confirm the actual amount before the draft.

    That could set the stage for significant moves involving several notable players. Trade speculation has dogged Mitch Marner since the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the postseason last month, and Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark has frequently surfaced in the offseason rumor mill.

    Here are six trades we'd like to see occur at the 2024 draft involving players mentioned in trade rumors this season. We're not predicting these moves will happen, but they would bring some extra spice to the proceedings in Las Vegas on June 28-29.

    Do you like our proposed moves? Are there any you want to see? Let us know in the app comments below.

Trevor Zegras to the Montreal Canadiens

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Entering the 2023-24 season, Trevor Zegras was considered a key part of the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks. He was coming off back-to-back 60-plus point performances, was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2021-22, and his flashy offensive skills earned him a place in the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

    The forward's third NHL season didn't turn out as well as expected. He missed training camp due to contract negotiations with Ducks management. Injuries limited him to 15 points in 31 games. He also became the subject of trade rumors after teammate Jamie Drysdale was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers in January for Cutter Gauthier.

    Following the March trade deadline, Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek denied shopping Zegras or receiving any trade calls about him. Nevertheless, the speculation persisted, landing the 23-year-old on our offseason Trade Block Big Board in May.

    The Montreal Canadiens were among the teams linked to Zegras before the trade deadline. That conjecture never went away, with Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette recently suggesting the team look into acquiring the Ducks forward to bolster its scoring depth.

    Zegras could be a good addition for Montreal. He's already a proven scorer who should only improve as he reaches his prime. He's the right age to fit in with the rebuilding Canadiens and is a friend of Cole Caufield. He could also thrive under Habs coach Martin St. Louis.

    The Ducks will seek a significant return. Their asking price could include the Canadiens' first-round pick (No. 5) in this year's draft plus a promising young defenseman such as David Reinbacher or Logan Mailloux.

    Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has a history of making surprising moves during or just before the first round. He traded for Kirby Dach during the 2022 draft and Alex Newhook before last year's event. Acquiring Zegras would be the biggest draft trade yet.

Filip Hronek for Martin Nečas

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    Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Nečas.Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Carolina Hurricanes and Vancouver Canucks each face a potentially complicated situation involving restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer.

    Hurricanes winger Martin Nečas, 25, is completing a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $3 million. He has reached or exceeded 40 points in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 73 points in 2022-23. He played mostly on their third line this season but could seek to double his salary on his next deal.

    Meanwhile, Filip Hronek is coming off a three-year deal worth $4.4 million annually. The 26-year-old Canucks defenseman is a skilled puck mover who netted a career-high 48 points this season skating alongside Vancouver captain Quinn Hughes.

    On May 17, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman doubted that the Hurricanes would pay Nečas a big raise. Five days later, his father told a Czech reporter that his son wanted to play for a team where he could play top-six minutes as a center.

    As for Hronek, CHEK-TV's Rick Dhaliwal reported on May 21 that the defenseman's representatives sought a multi-year deal with an average annual value of $8 million. That's more than Hughes' $7.9 million and perhaps more than the Canucks are willing to pay.

    This situation seems right for an old-fashioned one-for-one hockey trade where the Hurricanes ship Nečas to the Canucks for Hronek.

    The groundwork for this deal may have been done earlier this year. According to Friedman, the two clubs discussed a possible trade that would have sent Elias Pettersson to Carolina with Nečas heading to Vancouver in return.

    That deal is no longer on the table as Pettersson has since signed a contract extension with the Canucks, but a Nečas-Hronek swap could still work.

    Nečas would get a chance to see top-six minutes as a winger in Vancouver while Hronek could help the Hurricanes restock their defensive depth if Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce depart on July 1 as free agents.

Nikolaj Ehlers for Ryan Pulock

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Winnipeg Jets shook up their roster last June by trading Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings and buying out the final year of Blake Wheeler's contract. More changes could be coming after another early playoff exit this year.

    Nikolaj Ehlers has spent his entire nine-season NHL career with the Jets, but there's speculation out of Winnipeg that they could trade him this summer if the two sides fail to agree to a contract extension. He has a year remaining on his deal with an annual average value of $6 million and a 10-team no-trade clause.

    On May 15, the Winnipeg Sun's Scott Billeck speculated that Ehlers could be used as trade bait to bring in a top-four defenseman. He suggested targeting blueliners with a year left on their contracts such as Jakob Chychrun of the Ottawa Senators, Vladislav Gavrikov of the Kings, and Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes, but he acknowledged they might not be available.

    Jets management could look at peddling Ehlers to a team desperate to bolster its scoring punch and willing to perhaps part with a top-four defenseman. The New York Islanders could fit the bill, finishing with a 2.99 goals-per-game average that was 22nd in the league this season.

    On May 20, NYI Hockey Now's Russell Macias proposed offering Ryan Pulock to the Jets in a one-for-one deal for Ehlers. While the 29-year-old Pulock has a full no-trade clause, Macias thought the chance to pair with the Jets' Josh Morrissey might be tempting. His $6.15 million cap hit is nearly identical to Ehlers', though he's under contract to 2029-30.

    Pulock could slot in on the right side with Morrissey, replacing Dylan DeMelo who could depart this summer via free agency. A Manitoba native, he might agree to waive his no-trade clause to play for Winnipeg.

    It's a long shot that Pulock will agree to waive his NTC. Meanwhile, the Islanders could be on Ehlers' no-trade list. Still, a straight-up swap of these two would create plenty of buzz among Jets and Isles fans.

Linus Ullmark for Jakob Chychrun

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    Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Boston Bruins could part ways with goaltender Linus Ullmark this summer.

    Speculation about the future of the 30-year-old former Vezina Trophy winner surfaced before the March trade deadline when he was rumored to have rejected a deal to a club on his 16-team no-trade list. He has a year left on his contract with a cap hit of $5 million.

    Meanwhile, Jakob Chychrun faces an uncertain future with the Ottawa Senators.

    Like Ullmark, the 26-year-old defenseman can become an unrestricted free agent next July, carrying a cap hit of $4.6 million for next season. During his end-of-season interview, Chychrun indicated he hadn't had contract extension talks yet with Senators management and was unsure about what lay ahead.

    The Senators need a reliable starting goaltender to finally become serious playoff contenders, while the Bruins need a skilled left-shot defenseman if they don't intend to re-sign pending UFA Matt Grzelcyk. A swap of Ullmark for Chychrun seems like a good move for both clubs.

    On May 23, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators had looked into acquiring Ullmark before the March deadline. He believes they could revisit their interest during the offseason.

    Garrioch cited a league executive suggesting the Senators would have to offer up Chychrun, a first-round pick, and another selection to the Bruins to land Ullmark. That's assuming they aren't one of the clubs on his no-trade list, which drops to a 15-team no-trade on July 1.

    We don't know what Ullmark's trade value will be, but it's unlikely to be as high as Garrioch's unnamed executive suggested. If the Senators pitched Chychrun, the Bruins could be willing to listen. They might accept that offer if they don't get anything better for Ullmark elsewhere.

Jacob Markström to the New Jersey Devils

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    Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

    Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markström surfaced in the rumor mill in early February.

    Reports emerged that clubs such as the New Jersey Devils were interested in the netminder, including one claiming he was willing to waive his no-movement clause for the Devils.

    TSN's Pierre LeBrun claimed the discussions between the Flames and Devils never reached the stage where Markström was asked to waive his clause. A week before the March 8 trade deadline, he reported in The Athletic that the Devils were willing to take on the 34-year-old's full $6 million annual salary-cap hit.

    Nothing materialized on deadline day, and Markström remained with the Flames for the rest of the season. However, during his end-of-season media interview, he was noncommittal about his future in Calgary. Meanwhile, general manager Craig Conroy would only say time would tell what happens with the goalie.

    Following the trade deadline, Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald said he intended to go "big-game hunting" this summer to address the team's goaltending among other roster issues.

    On June 6, LeBrun reported the Flames and Devils are revisiting their trade discussions, although other clubs are also looking at Markström.

    The Flames will set a high asking price from the Devils that could involve a first-round pick, a top prospect and a promising young NHL player like Alexander Holtz.

    With Markström under contract for two more years, he'll be more than a rental player for the Devils, providing them with reliable goaltending that returns them to playoff contention.

Mitch Marner for Juuse Saros

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    Michael Chisholm/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Nashville Predators created a buzz in May when they traded defenseman Ryan McDonagh back to the Tampa Bay Lightning, clearing his $6.8 million annual cap hit off their books.

    That sparked speculation over whether the Predators might use the cap room to pursue Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner.

    Predators general manager Barry Trotz swatted down that talk as "just rumors." LeBrun reported the Leafs hadn't spoken with anyone about Marner. On June 4, LeBrun indicated the 27-year-old winger's camp hasn't submitted a list of trade destinations as he appears focused on finishing his contract with the Leafs.

    Marner became the lightning rod for criticism among Leafs Nation for the club's poor postseason record. However, his full no-movement clause gives him complete control over his situation. His $10.9 million cap hit for next season could also be difficult for most teams to take on if he was willing to accept a trade.

    Nevertheless, the Leafs must improve their goaltending while the Predators could use more scoring depth at the right-wing position. Meanwhile, Trotz has to determine what to do with netminder Juuse Saros. Like Marner, he's due to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He carries a $5 million cap hit and lacks no-trade protection.

    Several factors would be required for this deal to happen. Marner would have to agree to go to Nashville. While the Predators have over $26 million in cap space, Trotz will want the Leafs to retain a healthy portion of Marner's cap hit. The Leafs could also want a first-round pick or a promising young prospect included in the return.

    This deal likely won't go down with Marner and Saros both eligible for UFA status next summer. Still, it would be this summer's biggest trade if it happened.

    Stats via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly.

6 Trades We Want to See Happen at the 2024 NHL Draft (2024)


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