In scouring the very helpful capgeek.com team salary breakdowns, and cursory knowledge of teams' prospect bases, it sure looks like there are a lot of trades ready to go down in the NHL. There's not many free agents available, and there's holes on rosters that don't seem like they can or should be filled by a club's prospect. Still, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if the trade market totally dries up in the summer heat, and here's why:
A. Labor uncertainty. Scuttlebutt is that the NHL wants to cut back on the players' share of revenues which would in turn decrease the salary cap. The cap right now is based on a 57/43 player/owner revenue split; rumors have placed the owners' initial offer of a revenue split below 50% for the players, which if accepted would drop the salary cap by over 10%. Teams might not want to make trade offers based on the uncertainty of the cap and thus the uncertainty of certain players' value - if the cap decreases significantly, young (and thus cheap) players' values rise and older players' value falls. Right now under a 70M cap, many veterans who signed UFA deals under the 59M cap of 2 years ago are a significant bargain. That could change in the coming months.
B. Amnesty buyouts. If the cap does decrease significantly, it's hard to imagine that it would happen without the possibility of amnesty buyouts, where a team is released from its contract obligations with a player for an amount of money that won't appear on their salary cap ledger. Imagine a second Free Agent Frenzy after the dust settles from the upcoming labor dispute; guys like Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Mike Komisarek, Wade Redden, Ryan Malone, Keith Ballard and so forth could become free agents, with plenty of cash in their pocket from their buyout. Sure, none of these guys are likely to propel a team from a fringe playoff team to a championship contender, but they could help shore up holes on team's rosters, and they won't cost anything besides money.
It'll be a hard summer for fans who know their team should, by all means, make a trade to improve their circumstances, but depending on how the new CBA shakes out, the wait could be very well worth it.