25 NHL trade candidates you’ll hear about before the deadline

The Hockey Night in Canada panel breakdown all the news and rumors around the league including Zack Kassian being close to an extension with Oilers as reported by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector.

There’s still lots to sort out between now and the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24. Who will buy, who will sell? What will the standings even look like?

And, how many trades will be made before the final day of dealing?

Coming out of the NHL all-star break there are some teams, such as Montreal and Chicago, who previously seemed destined to sell, now have some level of hope and so their plans may change. In the Pacific Division, one point separates five teams so in a way, they could all be considered buyers, but each team is at varying points in their timeline and would be open to moving different sorts of assets.

All of this is going to influence which players are out there on the market and which teams are in the game.

That’s why this list of trade candidates you’ll hear about will change over the next few weeks. Here is our most up to date look at who may be out there:

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
He’s having a career year, sure, but after a very strong November it’s worth mentioning he’s come back to earth with four goals in his past 17 games. Pageau brings other intangibles though.

He’s an excellent penalty-killer and face-off man so he’d ideally fit into a third line centre role anyway. The question is what can the Senators recoup for him in trade? Given he plays a valuable position with special teams capabilities, they’ll likely be seeking a first-round pick. Whether it gets there or not, we’ll see. But, there should be plenty of teams in the market for this type of player.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
There is still a chance Kreider and the Rangers come to terms on an extension, but the rebuilding Blueshirts would rather move him as a rental than risk losing him for nothing to the UFA market this summer.

“All the contenders from Colorado to Boston to St. Louis to Pittsburgh are all believed to be interested in [Kreider],” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during a Hockey Night in Canada Headlines segment in late-December. “Teams don’t believe, right now, the Rangers have made him available, but they are waiting to see if they decide they can’t keep him, and they want to trade him, there is a ton of interest.”

A first line left winger in New York, Kreider would fit any team that needs a top-six flanker. He brings size (six-foot-three, 217 pounds) and is tough around the net, which should lend itself to playoff hockey (though he had three goals and four points in 12 post-season games the last time he made it there in 2017).

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild
Nearly traded already to Calgary and Pittsburgh over the past year-plus, Zucker is again a candidate to move — and possibly even to the Penguins still, as they deal with the loss of Jake Guentzel to injury. With 14 goals and 28 points in 40 games, the 27-year-old Zucker’s scoring pace this season is rivalling his career best. Far from a rental, Zucker has another three years after 2019-20 on his contract with a $5.5 million cap hit, but he does have partial trade protection — he can submit a no-trade list of 10 teams.

Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators
Moved at last year’s deadline to Nashville from Minnesota for Kevin Fiala, Granlund could again be made available as he heads towards UFA status this summer. In his last two full seasons with the Wild Granlund posted 69 and 67 points and looked to be turning a corner in his career, but in 57 games with Nashville he has only 21 points. What gives?

Is this a player not fitting in to a system, or is it something else? He’s still getting top-six minutes and Nashville isn’t struggling for offence, sitting with the sixth-most goals at 5-on-5. Either way, he’s making $5.75 million against the cap and as Nashville appears set for wheeling and dealing, Granlund is a good bet to be wearing another jersey by the end of the season.

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Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
The 27-year-old pending UFA struggled through a low shooting percentage season in 2018-19 and returned a disappointing 13 goals, but he really is good to reach 20 most years — including this one. Toffoli is a fit for anyone hoping to add scoring help on their second line, or to bolster a first line in a complementary role. The Bruins are the team most closely linked to a Toffoli deal, thought the Flames have popped into the conversation as well.

Nick Bonino, Nashville Predators
The Predators may sell some players off, but how deep will it go? Bonino will be a great indicator. He’s having a terrific season (his 57.17 SF% at 5-on-5 is top 20 in the league) and is signed for another season at $4.1 million. He’s Nashville’s top penalty killer, wins 54.1 per cent of his draws, has plenty of playoff experience and brings a good amount of offence, on pace for over 20 goals. He’s a perfect third line centre for a contender, but the cost of acquisition should also be relatively high for his placement in the lineup.

Craig Smith, Nashville Predators
Another Predator who could be had, Smith is generally a 20-goal, 40-point player and while he could be a top-six player for some team, he’s currently on Nashville’s third unit. Making $4.25 million against the cap, Smith would seem like a candidate to move as the Predators look to switch gears and open up some money.

Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins
Well, his GM has already once said that Galchenyuk was available.

“The fact of the matter is, when we’re totally healthy, he’s going to have to work very hard just to get in the top 12,” Jim Rutherford said in December. “That’s just the way it is, because we have a lot of guys playing well. So, that’s the good news and the bad news.”

The Galchenyuk experiment hasn’t worked after the Phil Kessel trade brought him to Pittsburgh last summer. He didn’t click with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and has just five goals and 16 points in 41 games. A pending UFA, Galchenyuk has already been demoted to the fourth line and wouldn’t bring the Penguins back much in a deal unless he’s part of a bigger trade. Any acquiring team would be taking a similar flyer on him and would probably drop him to UFA anyway.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens
Look, any contender already could have had Kovalchuk without giving up anything after the Kings terminated his contract to make him a free agent last month. He ultimately landed in Montreal for the rest of this season at a $700,000 cap hit, but as the Canadiens struggle to stay in the playoff race they could move Kovalchuk for a third-round pick at least. However, he’s been averaging more than 19 minutes a night in eight games with Montreal and has eight points to show for it. He’s fit in tremendously well and a hot start out of all-star weekend could lead the Habs to keep him for a run. If not, and if his play stays this strong, they may even be able to get a second-round pick in return.

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
At 38, Anderson is clearly past his peak and his .897 save percentage this season isn’t going to get any buyer excited. But the idea is that Anderson wouldn’t have to be acquired to be a No. 1 for any team, but rather a backup/safety net in case of injury. Anderson is most likely to walk to UFA this summer. It’s worth noting that Anderson’s numbers are probably hurt by the rebuild in front of him — and that he has a .929 career save percentage in his post-season career, including .922 in Ottawa’s run to the conference final in 2017.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
This section should really be committed to “a Chicago goalie” as they have two pending UFAs manning the crease. But Robin Lehner has bucked the idea he found success with the Islanders last year because of Barry Trotz’s system by following with another good season behind a porous defensive team in Chicago. Between the two, the Hawks should be trying to keep Lehner. That leaves Crawford, who hasn’t been his same high-level self in two years now. Much like Anderson, the thinking is some team could come after Crawford to get his experience as an insurance marker in net, and probably not for a hefty cost.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Alexandar Georgiev, NY Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist is still signed through next season and we shouldn’t expect him to be traded. And the Igor Shestyorkin era has begun as the highly regarded 24-year-old has played three games since getting his AHL call-up. But Georgiev is no slouch. He was terrific in 33 games last season (.914, 2.91, 14-13-4) and though his numbers haven’t been as strong in 2019-20, he’s still a young (23) NHL netminder.

“They’ve got a lot of good defence prospects coming and they obviously don’t need goalies. So teams are under the impression that it won’t be cheap,” Friedman said on a recent Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “It will probably cost you a forward who’s either as young and either ready to play or close to it — but they won’t listen to anything that doesn’t impress them beneath that.”

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Friedman noted in a recent 31 Thoughts column that “there will be interest” in Saad, who has been a second-unit PK player for the Hawks this season and a regular in the top six at even strength. He’s fourth on the Hawks in goals scored per 60 minutes of play and makes $6 million against the cap this season and next.

Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
We’re all wondering what the Edmonton Oilers will do. They’re still very much in the playoff race and have a clear need to add some scoring help on the wings. But at the same time, they’re not really in a position to go all-in, so floating their first-round pick or top prospect Evan Bouchard in a trade doesn’t seem like a likely path for GM Ken Holland.

But we do expect him to do something.

“The next eight or 10 games will really impact my thinking. I would say to you today, I don’t anticipate being a seller,” GM Ken Holland told Sportsnet’s Mark Spector in a recent Q&A.

Outside of later draft picks, there’s one player in particular who stands out as a tradable asset. Puljujarvi asked out of Edmonton and, when a trade didn’t happen in time for this season, he decided to go back to Finland to play for Karpat in the Liiga. He’s their top scorer, but questions linger about how that will translate in the NHL, and if he’s improving any as a two-way player capable of effectively playing within an NHL system while playing against competition that is lesser than what he’d see in the NHL.

The deadline has passed for Puljujarvi to return to the NHL this season, so any acquiring team couldn’t use him right away. Still, he was the fourth overall pick in 2016 and while he doesn’t carry that same value anymore, there are probably some teams out there willing to take a shot on him.

Zach Bogosian, Buffalo Sabres
December brought reports that Bogosian had requested a trade out of Buffalo, but the next defenceman who was dealt was Marco Scandella (to Montreal). Since that was revealed, Bogosian’s played more than 16 minutes in a game just once. Past his peak, injuries have limited him to just 18 games this season, and his shots for percentage at 5-on-5 is second-worst among Sabres defencemen, ahead of just Colin Miller. Bogosian is a pending UFA and, especially if the Sabres retain some of his salary for the remainder of the season, is a decent depth defender with penalty kill capabilities.

TJ Brodie, Calgary Flames
In the thick of the Pacific Division, trading Brodie out would probably only happen in a bigger trade in which the Flames get at least one, if not more, significant pieces back. Brodie, while a pending UFA, is an important part of the blue line and they’re trying to take a run. Still, they’ve tried to trade him in the past and the defence position is a strength for Calgary and the hope is injured Juuso Valimaki can return this season.

Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild
Dumba led all defencemen in goals last year when an injury ended his season 32 games in, but he hasn’t been able to get anywhere close to that level of offence in 2019-20. With just three goals and 16 points in 50 games Dumba is tracking towards his worst season in five years. That may mean GM Bill Guerin would be selling low, but we wouldn’t assume that a Dumba trade would happen unless Minnesota got a substantial return. He’s a right-shot, 25-year-old with another three years beyond this one on his contract at a $6 million cap hit. Regardless of being in a down season, he’s the type of player many teams would covet and chase if he were to become available.

So why would the Wild deal him?

They’re in a tough spot, with already more than $40 million committed towards their 2022-23 cap and a roster that seems stuck in that mushy middle part of the standings. At some point they’ll have to create cap space to make roster moves and Dumba may be the most value asset they have to do it.

Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens
Another talented, right shot defenceman the Habs have a decision to make on Petry. He has another seaosn beyond this left on his contract, but will be 33 at the time of a potential extension. Montreal, meantime, will have to weigh the value of extending a player in his mid-30s against what he could bring back in a trade right now. Think first-round pick, AHL prospect and a junior-aged player, similar to what Toronto gave up for Jake Muzzin. But Petry brings even more than Muzzin does, so maybe we should be expecting a bigger return.

Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Outside of a wild card spot at the break, the Leafs have an uphill battle ahead of them and can’t afford another bad stretch. We know Dubas values Kapanen highly, but the fact is the 23-year-old has had trouble fitting into the top-six. What if his upside is 20 goals and 50 points? That’s not bad in any way, but the Leafs are stacked with forwards who can do that and more, but have a clear need for defencemen and a backup goalie. Kapanen is coveted by certain teams around the league who have reportedly expressed interest in the past, so the time may come where Dubas has to move Kapanen.

Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens
With one more season beyond this left on his contract, Tatar has been a great pickup for Montreal and leads them in scoring at the break. But again, GM Marc Bergevin has to decide what to move forward with next season and what to move ahead of pending unrestricted free agency to maximize return. He was a sort of throw-in with Nick Suzuki in the Max Pacioretty trade, so if Bergevin decided to trade Tatar by this year’s deadline he’d come out way ahead. But the real question is, if Bergevin trades Tatar, can he bring back more than Vegas gave up to get him in the first place (a first, second and third)?

Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks
A 29-year-old pending UFA, Dillon won’t put up flashy point totals, but for any team looking to acquire a traditional “stay at home” defencemen to complement a more freelancing style, Dillon is the guy. With the Sharks well off the playoff pace and needing to re-adjust in hopes of a bounce back next season, it’s all but certain Dillon will be shipped off by the deadline — and there’s all sorts of teams that will be after him.

Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks
It’s not that the Ducks are hunting for a trade here, but for the second year in a row they won’t even sniff the post-season so you’d think just about anything could be on the table. Celebrated in the analytics community for years, Manson is excellent in his own end, defending the line and is a big-minute eater on Anaheim’s PK. He has a $4.1 million cap hit for another two years beyond this one, so it would take a pretty substantial deal to pry him out of California. But term and value is what every team is after these days, so while the Ducks need to start thinking about how they get out of the mess they’re in, GM Bob Murray may have to consider what he could get for this 28-year-old.

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
As the Kings struggle through another season, Martinez is being mentioned in the rumour mill more and more. And Los Angeles would be wise to do it now, and send him to a team that can use him both this year and next before he becomes UFA eligible. Second on the Kings in even strength, shorthanded and power play time, Martinez is valued in every situation and though a new team may depend on him a little less in some areas, he’s still a solid top-four just about anywhere.

When the Kings traded Jake Muzzin a year before he was UFA eligible, they did it weeks before the deadline. If they take the same approach with Martinez, this deal could start to set the market for blueliners in 2020.

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
In this week’s Rumour Roundup we got into the Devils a bit. After making a change behind the bench and then ousting GM Ray Shero, this team first needs to figure out how it wants to proceed from here. In Palmieri the Devils have a consistent goal scorer who can approach or reach 30 in a given year, and is under contract for another season. They also have a valuable trade asset.

Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks
A pending UFA defenceman, Gustafsson is a wild card in more than one sense. First, he’s also a pending UFA and it’s hard to measure what his next AAV could be. Second, he’s best used as a modern day rover, not afraid to pinch in from the blue line or jump up into a rush. the 60 points he had last year may end up being the most of his career, but he’s still on about a 40-point pace now and would at least be an interesting power play addition for a contender.

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