Top trade candidates at the draft

Updated: June 28, 2013, 1:24 PM ET
By Craig Custance

Last week, following the GM meetings in Boston, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was explaining why the market wasn't quite ready yet for major trades.

"It's too loose right now. Too undefined. Too many variables -- the cap, the potential buyouts," Regier said when we chatted. "It's a little bit like the airlines -- the flight's a little overbooked."

The flight is now ready for takeoff.

The variables are starting to be removed and teams have a better idea of whom they can sign and can't sign. The compliance buyout window is opening and teams are already taking advantage, with the Flyers clearing space with the buyouts of Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere. The Lightning freed up room with the buyout of Vincent Lecavalier and the Rangers are still weighing a Brad Richards decision.

The market is starting to loosen, setting up a draft weekend in Newark that could be one of the most active in recent memory. The cap is coming down, this draft is loaded with high-end talent (making draft picks extra valuable this year) and the Jordan Staal deal last year showed GMs the value in acting decisively in trading a player before his contract gets too close to its expiration date.

Regier has two key players in Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller entering the final seasons of their contract and when we spoke last week there was no talk of contract extension with either player. At this point it becomes about asset management and exploring the best option for each player because teams are learning more and more that talent can't leave the franchise without getting anything in return.

"We have a good idea what we want to do and where we want to go," Regier said. "It's not knowing yet whether what we want to do and where we want to go is going to be supported at this time."

The challenge when you're potentially trading big pieces like these two is determining the timing. Do you wait and try to take advantage of a team that misses out on free agency? Do you trade early when there might be more teams with needs?