Although things have been quiet over the last several weeks in the National Hockey League, there is a growing sense as we draw closer and closer to the rumored start date of January 13th that the stalemate is about to break.
No doubt there will be several significant moves given the unique circumstances created by the pandemic but today we won't be taking a look at the biggest potential moves or the sexiest ones, instead we will look at 3 NHL players who themselves could greatly benefit from a trade to a new team. Whether it be an aging veteran in need of a boost or a once young star in the making who never got the chance to blossom, here are 3 players I would like to see playing on a new team sooner rather than later.
#1 Rasmus Ristolainen - Buffalo Sabres
There have not been many players in my years covering the NHL that I have felt more sorry for than Ristolainen. The 26 year old Finnish defenseman looked like a stud coming into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, resulting in the Sabres picking him 8th overall, but unfortunately he has been trapped on a losing Sabres team for his entire 7 year NHL career.
Ristolainen has the size and the skill to be a dominant shutdown style defense in the NHL, one that can still produce offensively, but whether or not he will ever be recognized as such while a member of the Sabres remains to be seen.
The Sabres of course made a big addition during the offseason when they acquired Taylor Hall, but despite that I would still love to see Ristolainen get a clean slate on a team that doesn't have such a losing culture. Especially considering that he has been a part of that culture for so long.
#2 P.K. Subban - New Jersey Devils
The 31 year old Canadian defenseman is coming off the worst season of his professional career and I don't think that it is a coincidence that it came as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Subban seemed lost at times in New Jersey and although he has never publicly stated that the lack of success from his team impacted his play, his uninspired performances on the ice certainly did.
Subban may be one of the few players well positioned to actually benefit from the pandemic, with the extra time off perhaps proving to be a blessing in disguise. Subban has dealt with a host of injuries over the last several seasons of his career and a refreshed and fully healed Subban could look to recapture a glimmer of his Norris Trophy winning level of play at the tail end of his prime. That is not likely to happen on a team that seems destined to once again miss the playoffs however.
The biggest obstacle in finding a new team for Subban will be finding one willing to take on his contract, and that's even if the Devils retain as much as half of his salary.
#3 Patrik Laine - Winnipeg Jets
It seems crazy to talk about a guy that has averaged over 30 goals a season through the first 4 seasons of his NHL career needing a fresh start, but it's no secret that Patrik Laine may be looking for exactly that. The Winnipeg Jets star forward has allegedly not seen eye to eye with his team for some time now and has issues with how he has been deployed by that team, especially as of late.
Although Jets fans may not love the idea of seeing Laine go somewhere else, understandably so, the hockey fan in me wants to see Laine go somewhere where he will be able to maximize his on ice potential. Whether or not Laine knows what is best for his own good is another matter entirely, but either way the Jets have clearly failed to keep him happy given comments he himself has made to the media both in North America and overseas.
The silver lining in a Laine trade for the Winnipeg Jets fan base is that historically the Jets have done very well for themselves when forced to trade big name players, even in situations where they were considered to be trading from a position of weakness.