20 impactful NHL trade candidates you’ll hear about before the deadline

On this edition of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discuss the possible trade targets, this season's best valued contracts, Shane Wright's potential destination ahead of OHL deadline, and more.

In just over seven weeks we’ll be at the NHL’s March 3 trade deadline, which means it’s rumour season and that breeze you feel — those are the trade winds blowing, friend.

And even though most of the league is capped out and still feeling the economic pinch of the pandemic, once we get down to the wire you can bank on this trade deadline being a busy one yet again. The million dollar question is how many of the biggest rumoured names will actually change addresses?

Today we present 20 players whose names you’ll hear about in trade rumours over the next seven weeks. We’ll update this list as we go and situations change, to reflect injuries, news and other developments that may change the landscape.

All salary cap details from CapFriendly.

From the moment the 30-year-old Klingberg signed a one-year pact with rebuilding Anaheim last summer, we knew he’d be hitting a list like this during the season.

Klingberg doesn’t fit where the Ducks are at now and since he’s eligible to become a free agent again in 2023, the most likely outcome here is a trade for a pick or prospect. Klingberg is not having close to the kind of impact he had in Dallas, where he finished with 47 points last year. In Anaheim, Klingberg has just 13 points in 34 games and plays on the second PP unit behind Cam Fowler. But there is still surely a suitor out there who needs an offensive boost from the back end and will be interested in Klingberg.

A name that has been on the market dating back to last season, Chychrun got a late start on 2022-23 due to injury, but his numbers have been strong since returning. No Coyote has averaged more even-strength ice time and when he’s been on the ice at 5-on-5, Arizona has outscored its opponents 21-15 — the best goals-for percentage on the team.

The asking price is reportedly high, and why not? Chychrun isn’t just a rental or an underperforming player who needs a change of scenery. He’s a 24-year-old playing up to his prime and with a bargain of a contract that runs another two seasons. And while that could mean the Coyotes hold on to him again unless they get the exact haul they’re after, it’s worth noting that Chychrun gets a 10-team no-trade list added to his contract this summer.

A pure offensive blueliner, Gostisbehere leads the Coyotes in average power play time per game but has also produced a respectable 15 points at even strength — tied for 23rd among all NHL defencemen.

Gostisbehere is on an expiring contract, so the Coyotes may be able to grab a future or two from a contender looking for a boost from the secondary defence market.

There are two big questions with Kane: Does he want to get traded anywhere before his contract expires with the Blackhawks, and, what is his health status? There has been no indication that the 34-year-old has asked to move, and since he has full trade protection his preference is paramount.

But now we have a situation where Kane has missed two games in a row with a lower-body injury.

“There has been a rumour that Pat Kane has been dealing with something, some kind of nagging injury for some period of time and at some point, he’s going to need a clean up,” Elliotte Friedman said on Monday’s 32 Thoughts Podcast. “I don’t know what exactly the procedure would be so I don’t want to go too much farther into this, but the rumour is he would potentially need a clean-up.”

There is much more to consider beyond those two factors as well. Kane’s cap hit is $10.5 million, so the Hawks would have to retain some of that for the remainder of the season, but a trade partner may also need a third team to get involved. There’s also the matter of performance — this has not been the type of Patrick Kane season we’ve become used to, where plus-point-per-game production can be assumed. He’s slipped a little and now there’s an injury at play. But the upside of adding a player like Kane at the deadline is tantalizing.

At 34, Toews is no longer at the peak of his powers but comes with leadership and Cup-winning experience qualities. He still takes a pile of draws and has won 64 per cent of his draws this season. Don’t sleep on that skill in the playoffs. And, though he won’t be setting career highs in offensive categories anymore, he is already just one goal shy of what he scored all of last season. Most of them have come on the power play — he actually leads the Hawks in that regard with seven markers on the man advantage.

But, like Kane, Toews comes with a hefty cap hit and because his upside isn’t as high as his teammates, it may prove harder to get a trade done here. Again the Hawks would have to retain salary for the rest of the season and a third team may have to get involved. And at that point, what exactly is Toews worth in trade at this stage?

And does he even want to be traded? Toews also has full no-trade protection and there’s been no indication he’s asked out yet.

These are the type of defencemen often in demand at the trade deadline and the sort who, if you’re not a regular watcher, you might be surprised if a first-round pick ends up getting moved for him.

Gavrikov is a defensive defenceman who logs more shorthanded ice time per game than any other Blue Jacket, blocks a pile of shots, isn’t afraid of being physical and plays a top-pair role. On a contender, he might fit better on a second — or even third in some situations — pair role, but maintain his PK time. A UFA this summer, Gavrikov isn’t the biggest name available and won’t wow you, but he’ll be a nice piece of the pie for someone.

The Oilers have tried everything with Puljujarvi and it just hasn’t worked. Earlier in the season the player talked about his waning confidence and doubt he could hang in North America. The offensive numbers aren’t there, but depending on who you ask, some believe his underlying numbers still indicate a player who may just hit somewhere else.

And yes, it would stink for the Oilers if they traded the 2016 fourth-overall pick just to watch him excel elsewhere, but Edmonton has to worry more about the here and now. Puljujarvi just isn’t working here and so if the pending RFA is traded it likely won’t be for a great return. But his departure would open up a little cap space to use elsewhere.

It’s a yearly tradition for Dumba to show up on these lists, and yet he’s survived two expansion drafts and even more trade deadlines as a Wild. He may get past this year’s as well, but since he’ll be a UFA this summer the Wild will be hard-pressed to re-sign, they may elect to swap him out and get something in return that still helps them for the current season.

If he were to move, Dumba would be an attractive pick-up. He hits, blocks shots, and logs more even-strength ice time than any other Minnesota player. It’s just that his offensive upside isn’t what it once was (he doesn’t get PP time).

Big, physical, shot-blocking defensive defencemen like this are in high demand come trade deadline season, both because that type of game generally translates to the post-season, and because teams generally need depth on the blue line for the playoffs. No Canadiens player logs more PK time or blocks more shots than Edmundson, who will be linked to any team in need of a stay-at-home defender.

And the beauty here is that he’s not just a one-season rental — an acquiring team can run it back with Edmundson even next season at a reasonable cap hit.

Ekholm’s name popped up two trade deadlines ago when he was a year away from free agency and set to come off a bargain of a contract at a $3.75 million AAV. But the Preds kept him and later signed Ekholm to an extension. This is Year 1 of that new deal, but already he’s being talked about as a trade candidate again.

This time his trade candidacy has less to do with a contract situation and everything to do with the team situation. The Predators are hanging around the playoff picture, but do currently sit on the outside. They haven’t won a playoff round since 2018 and have a negative goal differential so far in 2022-23, so at some point, there needs to be an acknowledgement that this core just doesn’t have it.

Ekholm plays an all-situations role for the Predators and locks down the second pair. He could play a similar role elsewhere or even become a nice complementary add to a top pair. He has term on his contract, which will be as attractive to add in-season as it would be difficult coming with a $6.25 million AAV in a flat cap world.

Over a full season, van Riemsdyk is a pretty good bet to score between 20-25 goals and his pace so far in 2022-23 reflects that once again. JVR won’t be a game-breaker to add anywhere, but would be a target for a very specific team that needs to improve its power play before the playoffs.

It is rare to see a defenceman with the sort of upside and potential Provorov has — with term left on his contract — come up in trade talk. And the Flyers don’t have to make a decision on the player right now, but something will have to give on this team. GM Chuck Fletcher has tried banking on improvement from a young core, but it just isn’t working and now they’re staring down missing the playoffs three years in a row for the first time since the early-1990s.

There needs to be a real reaction to another failed season, and something drastic could get put on the table.

“There’s something going on here,” Friedman said on the 32 Thoughts Podcast. “I think it could be something as simple as the Flyers just realize that everything has to be on the table over the next six to 18 months to maybe it’s just time with this particular player. I don’t think this is anything imminent. I think it’s something that might develop over a little while, but I think you’re going to hear his name.”

It wasn’t that long ago Provorov was a sophomore scoring 17 goals and 41 points and being mentioned as someone who could win an award at the position in the years to come. The trajectory hasn’t been a simple incline since then. It’s been a bumpy road. But you can be sure there would be teams interested in betting on the 25-year-old finding it again in a different setting.

There aren’t a lot of avenues for the Sharks to shed salary. The rebuilding team could have elected to trade Tomas Hertl last season but re-signed him instead. That decision could leave the 26-year-old Meier as the odd man out before he becomes UFA-eligible in the summer.

Meier is having a strong season too, with 23 goals in 41 games, on pace to set a new career high. But since the Sharks have more than $34 million committed to four players on long-term contracts through at least 2025-26, the rebuilding team may have to lean more into…rebuilding.

There may be other ways to achieve this (see below) but Meier comes off as the easiest route to save future money while recouping some valuable assets to move forward with too.

Bonino has been a crucial piece of the puzzle to a Stanley Cup champion in the past and would be a decent depth option to look at even now at 34 years old. Bonino gets a good amount of PK time and blocks his share of shots; just don’t count on him to drive a line you need for offence in the post-season.

But, again, these are the type of forwards — veterans, proven winners, proficient on the draw — who get moved this time of year. He shouldn’t cost much to acquire, is on an expiring contract, and adds experienced depth to various departments.

In a reality where the cap hasn’t moved much in years, and still may only climb a little next season, it’s hard to see a trade for Karlsson happening in-season. Not only does he have an $11.5 million AAV, but there are still four more years remaining on it. It’s hard to see salary retention not having to be part of such a deal, but would the Sharks want to retain millions for four years?

But while we worry about the cap implications, especially for a player who has also had difficulty staying healthy in recent years, we can’t ignore how good Karlsson has looked this season. He’s seventh in scoring across the entire league with 54 points in 41 games and leads all NHLers with 40 even-strength points. He’s driving play. Karlsson is one of just four Sharks with a positive on-ice shot and goal differential.

If someone can make it work, Karlsson could be an absolute game-changer. But it would have to be a complex deal and one that still comes with immense long-term risk.

At one point the player requested a trade out of town, but that never came to fruition due to a combination of injury, and then the team suddenly needing his production once Tarasenko returned to form last season. Now that he’s proven he can contribute again following multiple shoulder surgeries — Tarasenko has 44 goals in his past 109 regular season games and scored six in 12 playoff games last spring — perhaps the Blues can squeeze some value out of the Russian sniper.

Tarasenko is a pending UFA and with the Blues just hanging on to the playoff picture instead of firmly inside it, GM Doug Armstrong could elect to make a few changes to help with the way forward. Tarasenko, however, is currently out with a hand injury but is expected back in February. Perhaps teams will want to see him perform again before diving into a trade.

Perhaps one of the more surprising names to see on this list, Ryan O’Reilly was the Conn Smythe winner for the Blues when they traded for him and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Now he could be the key piece for someone else’s run.

O’Reilly is an excellent defensive centreman who can comfortably play within a top-six. He’s not known for his offence, but historically approaches or goes over 20 goals and 60 points more often than not. While this season has been more of a struggle than usual for O’Reilly, he may be one of the more coveted players out there due to the position he plays, the style he plays, and his playoff history.

Like Tarasenko, though, O’Reilly is currently injured and is expected out until sometime in mid-February at least with a broken foot. It’s a situation to monitor as we get closer to the deadline on March 3.

It’s a head-scratcher how we got here. But here we are.

It appears the Canucks essentially made a choice last summer, inking J.T. Miller to a long-term extension before getting their captain’s deal done. And now, Miller is the one struggling and taking fans’ ire, while Horvat keeps trending towards a career year.

If you didn’t think the Canucks were cursed before, here’s yet another example.

The Canucks simply cannot let Horvat go past the deadline unsigned and risk losing him for nothing to the UFA market. And while there could be last-minute negotiations that keep the captain in Vancouver, this does appear far more likely to be a one-way track to Splitsville. And besides, the Canucks have to start doing something about this wildly inconsistent and often uncompetitive team of theirs.

Five short years ago Boeser arrived in the NHL with 29 goals in 62 games and it appeared the Canucks had a top-line sniper on their hands. But Boeser has not been able to equal those totals since, and now carries a $6.65 million AAV.

The past year or more hasn’t been easy on Boeser or his family, so there are other factors that could be at play here. We are rooting for the player to get back on track, but when you look at the situation in Vancouver — an underperforming roster with more than a few bloated contracts — the management team really has to figure out its own, new course.

Boeser is still just 25 and may find better success elsewhere. For Vancouver, moving a player like this would be all about future flexibility, and less about what the return looks like right now. But that may not be easy for some fans to accept. Perhaps this is a deal to be done in the off-season, but Boeser’s is one of many names you’ll hear in trade rumours coming out of Vancouver.

When the Canucks signed Kuzmenko as a free agent out of the KHL, they were dreaming of getting this kind of performance out of him. The player has been fantastic, one of the best stories of the year on the team and someone a frustrated fan base can see results from.

But now the fact is this: Kuzmenko is set up to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so he can take this breakout season and maybe turn it into a hefty payday with term. Should that come from the Canucks? Can that come from the Canucks? If not, they’ll really have no choice but to try and trade a player who was one of their best pickups from just last off-season.

It’s been that kind of year.

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