As the 2021 NHL season approaches its conclusion, the teams eliminated from the playoffs and those that failed to qualify are laying the groundwork for their offseason plans. Their general managers can make trades with each other now, but most tend to wait until the postseason has ended to begin swinging deals.
The trade market should return to life by mid-July. Business could pick up the week of July 18-24, with the NHL expansion draft on July 21 followed by the entry-draft weekend on July 23-24.
There could be a significant amount of trade activity this summer. Struggling teams, such as the Buffalo Sabres, could attempt to move out some noteworthy talent. Others, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, could shake up their rosters following another disappointing postseason. Meanwhile, clubs like the Los Angeles Kings could try to accelerate their rebuild.
Here's a look at 10 NHL teams that need to make bold trades during the offseason.
Big changes could be afoot for the Buffalo Sabres after missing the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. Those could involve a couple of their top forwards.
During his end-of-season interview in May, team captain Jack Eichel expressed frustration regarding what he called a "disconnect" with management over treatment for his season-ending neck injury. That sparked considerable speculation about his future in Buffalo. On June 16, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Eichel trade talks were growing in seriousness and intensity.
Sam Reinhart, meanwhile, declined to commit to a return with the Sabres during his season-ending interview. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, he's also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. The 25-year-old center indicated he didn't want to be part of a rebuild.
A rebuild, however, is what could be coming for the Sabres after a decade mired in mediocrity. That could involve an eye-catching move involving Eichel, Reinhart or both. Perhaps other longtime Sabres, such as defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, could end up shopped this summer.
The Calgary Flames looked like Stanley Cup contenders in 2018-19 after finishing atop the Western Conference with the league's second-best record. After two first-round playoff exits and missing the postseason in 2020-21, a roster shakeup could be in order.
Johnny Gaudreau has surfaced in the rumor mill as a potential trade candidate. The 27-year-old left winger is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. While he's open to negotiating a new contract, his modified no-trade clause kicks in on July 28 with a five-team trade list. The Flames could attempt to move him before then if a contract extension cannot be reached.
Sean Monahan also popped up in recent media trade chatter. On May 25, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Flames were listening to offers for the 25-year-old center following his disappointing 28-point campaign. He has two seasons remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.25 million and a 10-team no-trade clause.
Gaudreau and Monahan were once considered the foundation of a potential Cup contender in Calgary. With that dream derailed, perhaps they are peddled this summer for returns that get the Flames back on track.