Trades can happen at any time, so why wait until the trade deadline period? Let's jump right into it now. Trade rumours are every hockey fan's favourite kind of gossip. Whether it's due to players being impending UFAs in 2015 or team just looking to shake things up, we could very well see trades happening early on in the season. Here are the top 10 players on the trading block entering the 2014-15 NHL season, ordered based on likelihood and/or talent.
10 Johnny Boychuk - Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have some pressing cap issues. They're currently over the cap by $800,000 and they'll have to clear some space somehow. It's likely that if they are going to part with someone, it'll have to be a veteran in a contract year.
Dougie Hamilton, Torrey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid will be given bigger roles and the 30-year-old Boychuk may have to be the one to go. Trading him would likely yield a good return, as a top-4 defenceman usually does.
9 Nick Leddy - Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have the second-highest payroll in the league. They're more than $2 million over the cap and that means Stan Bowman will have to make some sacrifices. Johnny Oduya is a possibility, but his consistently strong playoff performances will convince Bowman to keep him around. That means Nick Leddy will be the cap casualty.
His $2.7 million salary off the books would be enough for the Blackhawks to slide under the cap. Chicago will eventually need to cut more salary when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's contract extensions kick in next season.
Leddy's just 23, hasn't missed a game in the last three seasons and Chicago will likely be able to find a trade partner.
There have been rumblings that Chicago could explore trading scorer Patrick Sharp, but this is a team that's still in contention for the Stanley Cup. They'll want to go into the season with the best chance possible at winning the cup and they'll want to stay in contention as long as possible. They're built to win now and that means leaning on the guys who have gotten them their two recent Stanley Cups.
8 Dustin Byfuglien - Winnipeg Jets
Dustin Byfuglien is hard to ignore. He's a hulking presence at 6'5", 265 pounds, and he has proven he can provide in big moments. For all his shortcomings, he has shown he can score 20 goals and 50 points a season, and that was for Winnipeg. In a better situation, he could likely reach 60 points.
The Jets aren't going to contend for a playoff spot for another couple of years, and that matches the length left on Byfuglien's contract. He has two years left at $5.2 million. The term makes it a relatively low risk for a team with some cap space that needs some size and scoring ability for a playoff run.
A team like Minnesota or Anaheim could fit that bill, as the Wild have experienced a revival as a franchise and Anaheim has the goods to compete for a Stanley Cup and have some forwards to replace.
Byfuglien hasn't had a chance to play in the postseason since the Blackhawks' cup run in 2010. Do teams still have that in mind when evaluating his value?
7 Antoine Vermette - Phoenix Coyotes
Dave Tippet has worked some magic for the Coyotes since arriving in Phoenix, but it's hard to imagine he can have them contending for a playoff spot this season. They just don't have enough offensive talent to compete with teams like Anaheim, L.A. or San Jose. Their division looks to be another California sweep this year.
Antoine Vermette provides a lot of trade value in his contract year at 32 years old. He's coming off a full 82-game season in which he recorded 45 points, and has an asset many teams value come playoff time; face-off wins. Vermette won 56.4 percent of his draws last year, good for ninth in the league. He's asked to play a bigger role than he should in Arizona, but going to a team to be a no.3 centre would be a much better fit.
6 Joel Ward - Washington Capitals
Another type of player teams will covet come playoff time. He's most remembered for his Game 7 overtime goal against Boston a couple of seasons ago, but his big, strong presence is a commodity. He plays big, not afraid to go to the dirty areas, to the corners or to the front of the net.
He's compiled some experience, at 33 years old. While he's getting seasoned, he actually had his best year yet in 2013-14. He scored a career-high 24 goals, 49 points and was a plus-seven. Odds are Barry Trotz will like what Ward brings to his team, but if the Capitals find themselves struggling for a playoff spot again, they'll have to get some building blocks for the future.
Ward's in a contract year and after this season will be looking for his last big payday approaching his mid 30s. He may be out of the Caps' price range if he posts another 20-goal season. This is a decision the Caps likely won't make in October, or November, but keep an eye on Ward come March.
5 Ryan Ellis - Nashville Predators
Ryan Ellis is in an odd position on the Nashville Predators. He's on an affordable contract with some term, ($2.5 million for five more years), but on this team, he's relegated to the third defensive pairing.
With him playing the right side, that puts him behind Shea Weber and Seth Jones on the Preds' depth chart. Ellis could easily be on a second pairing somewhere else, meaning teams will likely inquire with Nashville about his availability.
Would Nashville really keep him to be on a third pairing? With their need for forwards, they could easily find a trade partner to give them some offence. Teams are always looking for right-handed shots on the point, so the Predators could reel in a need if they would in fact trade Ellis.
4 Mike Green - Washington Capitals
Mike Green could be a liability at times defensively, but his offensive abilities from the blue line will have teams inquiring about him. Green's in a contract year, being paid just over $6 million.
He's a few years removed from his 75-point seasons, but at 28 years old, there's still a lot left in the tank. Him going to a more stable situation can launch him back over the 50-point mark.
He's been relegated to a third-pairing role, but there are teams around the league who would take a chance on him for a bigger one. For the Capitals to keep him with his price tag on a third pairing is pricey.
Teams with powerplay needs will inquire about Green, even if it means Washington has to eat a portion of his cap hit in a trade.
3 Marc Methot - Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators took a huge step back last year and they parted ways with Jason Spezza this offseason. The team seems to be heading for a retooling period, and with contract talks not going well with Marc Methot, GM Brian Murray has hinted that Methot could be traded.
Murray may want to go a little younger for this season and the 29-year-old Methot may want to go to a more serious contender. He has just one year left on a contract with a $3 million cap hit. Even though his play dipped a little last season, he's still proven to be a solid top-four defenceman on his team and teams usually go looking for defencemen when making a playoff push.
2 Evander Kane - Winnipeg Jets
In no way, shape or form should the Winnipeg Jets trade Evander Kane, but the whispers just never seem to go away. The Jets have to realize that they're not in an attractive market for stars to come over via free agency. When they have themselves a young star, they should be hanging on like grim death.
Kane is just 23 years old, has size, talent and has already hit the 30-goal mark in his career. He also has four years left on his contract, so if the Jets were to trade him, it's not as a rental player, which means higher return.
Recent rumours surfaced that the Flyers were very close to landing the power forward (aren't the Flyers already over the cap?) In any event, the situation still seems to be unstable between the Jets and Kane. Will it come to a head this season?
1 Bobby Ryan - Ottawa Senators
Considering that the Senators expected their Bobby Ryan trade to turn them into a Stanley Cup contender, it's all turned out to be a disaster. Ryan had just 48 points last year, low by his standards, and the Senators regressed, now finding themselves in a difficult spot.
They were unable to reach an extension with Ryan this offseason, so now he's in a contract year, for a team that he didn't choose to play for.
The Sens already parted ways with Spezza, so they'll do everything they can to keep Ryan, but all the leverage is with Ryan. He'll have to be paid as the Sens' go-to guy, despite the fact Paul McLean didn't use him in the ways Ryan would've liked last season.
The longer this contract talk goes on, the more likely it is that the Senators move him, if anything to recoup what they lost when they traded for Ryan. Losing Bobby Ryan to free agency after what they've given up would be disastrous and likely would cost Brian Murray his job with the Sens.