To many, winning in the NHL is all about having strong goaltending and great defense. Yet, for some reason, many of the league’s best defensemen are consistently tossed around the rumor mill, with teams willing to part with their blue line stars for the right price.
Perhaps it’s because minute-munching defensemen carry a ton of value on the open market. Maybe it’s because offensively gifted blueliners aren’t dime-a-dozen assets and hold a special value in today’s NHL. Whatever the case may be, there never seems to be a shortage of options when it comes to defensemen on the market, assuming you’re willing to pay the asking price.
With that in mind, over the course of the 2018-19 NHL season, there will a few defensemen worth keeping an eye on. Existing relationships with their respective franchises may be rocky, players may want to make a change or the sticker price is simply too high.
Most of the summer’s discussion has been about Erik Karlsson. Where will the star defenseman land? Why hasn’t he been traded from the Ottawa Senators yet? Could a deal actually be worked out that would see him stay put?
Most believe Karlsson leaving Ottawa is a matter of when and not if and considering he’s among the best defensemen in all of the NHL, he’s easily the blueliner to keep an eye on. Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Vegas have been the teams most rumored to be involved in trade talks but the level to which they’ve gotten serious has varied.
In a deal that was thought to be a sure thing this summer, it could turn into an NHL Trade Deadline transaction.
Why the Nashville Predators would trade P.K. Subban is anyone’s guess but rumors still exist his name is being floated out there. With one of the best defensive corps in hockey, perhaps the Preds could afford to move him and with the recent signing of Dan Hamhuis, maybe Subban leaving town is more likely than it’s ever been.
Hamhuis is not a replacement for Subban but Subban’s massive salary and reputation for drawing attention, along with Nashville’s history of trading top-flight defenders and Hamhuis able to fill some of whatever hole Subban leaving creates, make this situation one to keep an eye on.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs determine they cannot afford to keep defenseman Jake Gardiner with the team long-term, this will be the first official negative domino to fall as a result of giving John Tavares $11 million per season when the team was already ripe with offensive talent.
Gardiner is one of the Leafs top blueliners and he’s a weapon on offense. The Leafs can’t afford to lose him but they’re talking contract with him right now to gauge what his expectations are for a salary and whether or not they can afford to keep him. There is a chance Toronto won’t have the salary cap room and a trade is inevitable.
Jacob Trouba was just awarded a $5.5 million salary with the Winnipeg Jets. It’s fair value for what he brings. The problem is, this is now the second, perhaps third instance where the Jets and Trouba have had trouble coming to terms on a deal to keep him with the team. Most insiders believe these two sides are headed towards a break-up.
Trouba feels like he’s lost in the shuffle that is the Jets priority of who to spend their cap space on. The Jets feel like Trouba is hard to convince working with the team to keep a winning group together. It feels like both will decide the grass is greener elsewhere and while the Jets are a playoff contending team and will want Trouba in the lineup, the rumors of a trade will exist throughout the season.
The reason to watch Shea Weber is not that there’s a chance he’ll be traded. That seems highly unlikely considering his health, age and the size of his contract. But, Weber dictates what happens in Montreal based on whether or not he plays at any time this season, looks to retire or requires the Canadiens seek more help to replace him.
If Weber can’t go, and the Canadiens struggle, GM Marc Bergevin could be fired, a player like Andrei Markov might find his way back or the Canadiens might even consider adding a player like Slava Voynov.