Wings’ Athanasiou among top NHL trade targets on draft weekend

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Andreas Athanasiou

Detroit — The NHL trade deadline still brings plenty of player movement each winter.

But some of that trade action has shifted to NHL draft weekend.

The draft is Friday and Saturday in Dallas and NHL general managers will be ready to deal, with plenty of trade discussions already having taken place at the draft combine earlier this month. With the salary cap set for next season and teams ready to reshape their rosters, trades will occur, during and soon after the draft.

Front-office executives from all 31 teams will be gathered in one location, at the draft, and that will boost the trade action, as well.

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Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is the marquee player expected to be shipped. He is a two-time Norris Trophy winner who would instantly transform a team.

If Karlsson isn’t moved on draft weekend, or soon after, it would be a surprise, as his relationship with the Senators has dissolved on many levels.

But there are many other key players who could be moved, many because of contract issues. The Red Wings, and general manager Ken Holland, are expected to be in the mix.

Holland wouldn’t mind accumulating more draft picks to help Detroit’s rebuild. To that end, there are several current veteran Wings who could be attractive options for teams that believe they are close to making a deep run in the playoffs.

Here are key players who could be moved around the NHL in the days ahead:

Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa, defense, 71 games, 9 goals, 53 assists, 62 points: The two-time Norris Trophy winner only has one year left on his contract and the Senators aren’t likely to meet his going rate. Off-ice issues, too, have made it near impossible for Karlsson to stay. It’s best for everyone to start anew.

Philipp Grubauer, Washington, goaltender, 15-10-3, 2.35 GAA, .923 SVS: Every year there’s one backup goalie who appears ready to be a No. 1 somewhere else. Grubauer is that goalie this summer – and the Capitals need to save every dollar under the salary cap and they can replace him.

Jeff Skinner, Carolina, left wing, 24 goals, 25 assists, 49 points: The Hurricanes will get plenty of calls because Skinner is a year away from unrestricted free agency, and the organization wants to make changes. Skinner has scored more than 30 goals three times in his career.

Ryan O’Reilly, Buffalo, center, 24 goals, 37 assists, 61 points: O’Reilly talked much after the Sabres’ season ended about how a losing culture was invading the locker room. A trade might help the player, and team, as the Sabres likely would get a good return for an effective two-way player.

Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh, right wing, 82 games, 34 goals, 58 assists, 92 points: It’s a bit surprising Kessel’s name has been linked in trade discussion, but the Penguins need a bit of cap relief and his relationship with coach Mike Sullivan could be fraying. Los Angeles, in desperate need of offense, would be a fit.

Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin, Columbus, left wing, 27 goals, 55 assists, 82 points: Panarin is showing a reluctance to sign with the Blue Jackets long-term, and being only one year away from unrestricted free agency, Columbus likely will test the waters to see how much interest there is. There should be quite a bit for an elite offensive player.

Milan Lucic, Edmonton, left wing, 82 games, 10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points: It just hasn’t worked out in Edmonton, and Lucic, 30, isn’t getting any younger or faster. Still, in the right spot, his size (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) would be a benefit.

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay, center, 21 goals, 29 assists, 50 points: Might only be available because the Lightning will need salary cap space next summer, and the return for Johnson would be good right now. He’s definitely a 50-60 point producer when healthy.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal, left wing, 64 games, 17 goals, 20 assists, 37 points: A year from unrestricted free agency, having battled injuries, and the Canadiens looking for change, the time might be right to move the former Michigan star. Being away from the Montreal pressure cooker might rejuvenate Pacioretty.

Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit, left wing, 71 games, 16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points: Athanasiou and the Wings’ organization have never really seemed to hit it off. Certainly Athanasiou’s inconsistency doesn’t help his case, but there are teams certainly believing they could unlock his potential.

Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit, right wing, 82 games, 21 goals, 19 assists, 40 points: The 21 goals were nice, but the 40 points were a career-low. A year from unrestricted free agency, Nyquist is more likely to be dealt at the trade deadline, where general manager Ken Holland could get several draft picks.

Justin Faulk, Carolina, defenseman, 76 games, 8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points: The Hurricanes want to make changes, and Faulk has been linked in trades for several years. Faulk has a great shot, and is effective on the power play.

Tyler Myers, Winnipeg, 82 games, 6 goals, 30 assists, 36 points: The Jets will be hit hard by salary cap decisions the next two years, so the time could be right to deal the minute-munching Myers, who has been injury-prone in his career.

Mats Zuccarello, N.Y. Rangers, right wing, 80 games, 16 goals, 37 assists, 53 points: The Rangers likely wouldn’t really want to move Zuccarello, but they have younger options they need to keep. He’s not big (5-foot-8, 179 pounds) but plays with a passion that makes him a fan favorite.

Noah Hanifan, Carolina, defenseman, 79 games, 10 goals, 22 assists, 32 points: The Hurricanes aren’t inclined to trading Hanifan, 21, but there are rumors they could get some great offers for the restricted free agent. He’s barely scratched the surface of his potential.

Kevin Hayes, N.Y. Rangers, center, 25 goals, 19 assists, 44 points: A restricted free agent, and only 26, the Rangers have a big decision to make. Hayes is a serviceable asset who appears to be a good fit in New York. But you wonder who much is Hayes is really worth in terms of a new contract.

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa, right wing, 62 games, 11 goals, 22 assists, 33 points: It’s staggering there’s four years left with a $7.25 million cap hit on Ryan’s contract. He’s 31, injury-riddled, and slowing down.

Brooks Orpik, Washington, defenseman, 81 games, 0 goals, 10 assists, 10 points: The Capitals desperately need salary cap space and Orpik, 37, with one year left at $5.5 million, would appear to be a prime trade piece. Orpik showed he can still help a team during this Stanley Cup run.

Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh, left wing, 79 games, 18 goals, 12 assists, 30 points: Sheary, 26, is another player the Penguins probably don’t want to trade, but could to plug holes elsewhere. At a $3 million cap hit for the next two seasons, he’d be a bargain for most teams.

Corey Perry, Anaheim, right wing, 71 games, 17 goals, 32 assists, 49 points: It’ll be hard to trade Perry, 33, who has three years remaining ($8.625 million cap hit), but the Ducks would likely do it in a heartbeat. It appears the years of tough hockey have finally taken their toll.