Updated: NHL trade candidates to watch ahead of the deadline

Gene Principe and Luke Fox break down Kyle Dubas' recent moves to improve the Maple Leafs' roster, where their most significant advantage lies post-trades, and whether we can expect any additional moves from Dubas.

Trade deadline day has turned into trade deadline week this year, with another flurry of activity on Wednesday and a Tyler Bertuzzi trade Thursday morning that has put a dent in our trade board.

Storylines to watch today? There are many.

• The Toronto Maple Leafs have been the most active team so far, but with nine defencemen on the roster and an injured backup goalie, will Kyle Dubas consider more?

• The Calgary Flames are five points out of the playoffs and in a tough spot. Could GM Brad Treliving turn into a seller?

• After Edmonton and LA, will any other Western Conference teams step up? We’re looking at you Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Seattle and, as always, Vegas.

• What will many of the fringe buyers/sellers do? Will Buffalo reward its young core? Will the Penguins bolster their old group?

• Will any of the sellers become a buyer for a player with term? The likes of St. Louis, Columbus and Washington have been selling so far, but could quickly turn around and add someone for the coming years.

Even though a lot of big names have already been dealt, there are still many things to consider and look forward to ahead of Friday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

Here, once again, is our list of the top trade candidates — with players already dealt crossed out (with their destination in brackets).

John Klingberg, D, Anaheim Ducks

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Klingberg signed a one-year UFA contract in Anaheim to try and re-establish his value, with the expectation he’d be dealt to a playoff team by the trade deadline. And while a trade is still what we’re all looking for here, Klingberg’s season has been less than ideal. On a leaky Ducks team, Klingberg has scored a respectable amount of goals (eight), though his overall points mark is down this season (24 in 50 games). His defensive game has also been exposed, even though Klingberg is used heavily in the offensive end. Still, he’s a big body (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) who can move the puck and help someone’s power play.

Dmitry Kulikov, D, Anaheim Ducks (Traded to Pittsburgh)

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The opposite of Klingberg, Kulikov will be a target for teams searching for a defensive presence on the blue line. Kulikov is Anaheim’s leader in blocked shots and shorthanded ice time per game, and he isn’t shy to get physical. Kulikov logs over 20 minutes a night, but would be more of a depth target for contenders. Kulikov may not be the primary target for most teams, but as we see other blueliners come off the board, Kulikov’s market will come into focus.

Maxime Comtois, LW, Anaheim Ducks

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Two years ago, Comtois was a 16-goal scorer on the rise at 22 years of age, but now he has become one of Anaheim’s more confounding players. A second-round pick in 2017, Comtois is set to become an RFA, due a $2.445 million qualifying offer this summer, and the Ducks — after a disaster of a season — may be wise to see what they can get for him and shake up some of what is clearly not working. If teams are looking to take a second chance on the likes of Vitali Kravtsov (Vancouver) or Shane Bowers (Boston) or Jesse Puljujarvi (Carolina), Comtois may be worth a look. He has just a single point in his past 11 games.

Karel Vejmelka, G, Arizona Coyotes

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His age, 26, and manageable AAV with term make him an attractive asset, and Vejmelka has performed relatively well behind Arizona’s leaky defence, for the most part. In Year 2 as the Coyotes’ starter, Vejmelka has a 16-18-5 record with a .904 save percentage and 3.32 GAA. But, by goals saved above expected via Money Puck, Vejmelka’s 12.5 ranks ninth in the league. The hope would be that behind a better blue line, Vejmelka would shine brighter. Likely a target for a team looking for a 1B or some assurance at the position past this season, Vejmelka has two years left on his contract and so could still be kept in Arizona. He played Tuesday night and defeated the Blackhawks 4-1.

Nick Bjugstad, C, Arizona Coyotes (Traded to Edmonton)

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There is usually a market for big centremen at the deadline and Bjugstad (six-foot-six, 209 pounds) fits the bill. He is averaging 16:59 of ice time per game, including over two minutes on the PK. He isn’t winning a ton of faceoffs this season (47.3 per cent), but is a physical presence with reach, strong in the corners and in front of the net and difficult to knock off the puck. Bjugstad is also having one of his better offensive seasons in a while with 13 goals and 23 points in 59 games. He was sat out of Tuesday’s game for “trade-related reasons.”

Nick Schmaltz, RW, Arizona Coyotes

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Aside from the pending UFAs above, one interesting player the Coyotes may sell is Schmaltz, a 27-year-old, near point-per-game scorer who is signed through another three years. Among Coyotes forwards, Schmaltz ranks the best in 5-on-5 shots for percentage (47.74), second in expected goals for percentage (48.05) and third in actual goals for percentage (53.73). He’s a front-line player averaging 16:11 of ice time per game and has 41 points (18 goals) in 44 games. Does he fit with Arizona’s window to start competing again, or will they consider selling high on an impact player with term?

Tyler Toffoli, RW, Calgary Flames

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Another tough loss Tuesday, in a game they controlled against Boston, puts the Flames five points out of the playoffs with one more game against the Maple Leafs before Friday’s deadline. GM Brad Treliving is probably in a place he never expected to be with this team, facing decisions he might not have contemplated.

For pending UFAs the Flames have Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis, but things really get interesting when you look at the list of veterans they have with one more year left on their contracts. Those players would all hold plenty of value for playoff teams who’d get two runs with them, so could Treliving turn out to be at least a partial seller?

If so, Toffoli would be a name to watch. Calgary’s leading scorer with 25 goals who they acquired just last year in a package that included a first-round pick.

Max Domi, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (Traded to Dallas)

Domi has said he wouldn’t mind re-signing and staying in Chicago, but when a scorched earth rebuilding team has a pending UFA on its roster, we have to consider the possibility for trade. Domi is a complementary playmaker having a nice little offensive season for the Hawks, scoring 18 goals, 31 assists and 49 points in 60 games. His defensive detail can be lacking at times, but plenty of teams may desire his offensive tendencies for a bottom-six spot. Chicago has one more slot available to retain salary, and Domi’s $3 million could be a candidate for it.

Jonathan Quick, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (Traded to Vegas)

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Weird, right? In case you missed it, Quick was traded to Columbus unofficially in the middle of the night Tuesday, returning Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo to the Kings (the deal was announced Wednesday morning). But it came as a shock to the goalie, who has been with the organization for 15 years and won two Stanley Cups. Now at the end of his career on an expiring contract, word is that Quick was caught off guard by the deal, and not very happy with it.

“I think most people felt that when you have a guy who’s been in an organization for 15 years and he’s accomplished what he’s accomplished, he should have known for longer there was a possibility this could happen,” Elliotte Friedman said on The Jeff Marek Show Wednesday. “I think from a personal point of view considering how important Quick was to the Kings and how valuable he was, there’s certainly a feeling out there that if he was in this process he should have known about it.”

Though Quick could very well retire at the end of the season and is carrying a miserable .876 save percentage, he could still be traded again. Whether it’s in a deal just to make the money work, or as a target for a playoff backup, we’ll see.

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Jakub Vrana, LW, Detroit Red Wings (Traded to St. Louis)

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Earlier this season Vrana entered the league’s player assistance program and then, upon returning, he was assigned to the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins in December and started with one point in his first eight games. For a time, it seemed as though he’d never suit up for the Red Wings again. But Vrana got going, scored 10 points in his next nine AHL games and then was recalled to the Red Wings for what was believed to be a trade showcase. In three games back in the NHL, Vrana has averaged just over 12 minutes of ice time, but hasn’t scored a point yet.

This is an intriguing situation to watch. Vrana could be moved regardless of how the Wings feel about their playoff push. The 26-year-old is still a promising scorer who always had great per-minute rates in Washington with limited ice time, and then scored 30 points in his first 37 games after being traded to Detroit. But, given the off-ice considerations with the player and the fact he has one more year on his contract with a not-insignificant $5.25-million cap hit, will the Wings be able to find someone willing to buy in to Vrana’s upside now?

Radko Gudas, D, Florida Panthers

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Mistakes may have been made at last year’s deadline by the Panthers, and now three points out of the playoffs (12th in the East by points percentage), they may have to try and recoup some of those assets. Gudas, a hammer of a defenceman with 207 hits and 93 blocked shots who skirts the line of legality on occasion, has an expiring contract and the tools you look for in a playoff depth defenceman. Florida has had no first-round pick for three years and just two second-rounders after going all-in last season, so they may have to think about re-tooling a bit.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild

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After years of trade rumours and expansion draft exposure, Matt Dumba’s time in Minnesota does seem to be winding down for good this time — though it’s not clear whether he’ll run out his contract there this season or be moved elsewhere by Friday. The Wild are still very much in the playoff race, holding down second place in the Central Division and 7-1-2 in their past 10. So, Wild GM Bill Guerin will not be eagerly selling Dumba off as a rental. If Dumba is to go, it will have to be in a hockey trade that helps Minnesota in its bid to do some damage in 2023. The team’s need is for some scoring, specifically a centre.

Jordan Greenway, LW, Minnesota Wild

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While Greenway’s size and physicality might be of value to Minnesota in its quest for a playoff spot, he’s probably a luxury they can’t afford right now. The incoming cap crunch — with the Parise/Suter buyouts counting for $14.7 million against next year’s cap — might force the $3-million Greenway out the door now. An energy player and bottom-six presence, the 6-foot-6, 231-pound Greenway will surely generate a market, especially since he’s under contract for another two seasons. He’s struggled to just two goals and seven points this season, but scored 10 times and had 27 points last season. Someone is bound to buy into that depth.

Joel Edmundson, D, Montreal Canadiens

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Out with an injury since late January, the positive on Edmundson is that he has another year on his contract so you will get two runs out of him. And he is the type of physical depth defenceman that’s popular to add around the deadline. However, that back injury is complicating his trade candidacy. While previously he seemed a surefire piece to move, there may not be enough of a market for the Habs to deal him before Friday.

Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators

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If Ekholm was the big fish out of Nashville, Fabbro is the “might just need a fresh start” guy. The 17th overall pick in 2016, Fabbro has just not taken off yet in his fourth full NHL season, averaging 14:37 of even-strength ice time per game on the bottom pair. The six-foot Fabbro is third on the Preds in blocked shots and when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5, the Preds have more shot opportunities than their opponents.

Cam Talbot, G, Ottawa Senators

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In his first game back since a pre-all-star injury, Talbot allowed three goals on 29 shots in a 4-0 loss to Carolina, and then on Monday he turned aside 22 of 24 shots in a 6-2 win over the Red Wings. Two weeks ago GM Pierre Dorion talked about how an upcoming seven-game window would affect Ottawa’s trade deadline approach — those seven games are now complete, with Ottawa going 4-2-1. Meantime, the Sens are five points out of a playoff spot. So the question becomes, do they keep Talbot as an own-rental for an outside shot at the post-season, or flip him, go with Kevin Mandolese and Mads Sogaard in goal, and perhaps focus on “buying” at another position?

James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia Flyers

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As things go off the rails in Philadelphia right now, JvR is quietly hanging out as a likely trade candidate for a team looking to add to its power play. The veteran is on an expiring contract but still has 20-plus goal potential. However, it is worth noting that van Riemsdyk has just two goals in his past 17 games, was scratched from Saturday’s game for non-trade-related reasons and is expected back Wednesday night.

“Philly has made the decision they are indeed moving him and have let teams know he is available. We watch teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg has been around JvR, not sure if the Niederreiter situation changes that,” Jeff Marek reported last Saturday. “I think Philadelphia is expecting other teams to jump in this week as well.”

Nick Seeler, D, Philadelphia Flyers

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A 29-year-old on a very cheap contract that carries into next season, Seeler reportedly has a market and, if so, the struggling Flyers shouldn’t hesitate to move the third-pair blueliner for an asset. Seeler is third on the Flyers in blocked shots and averages 14:35 of ice time per game.

Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers

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Earlier in his career, Provorov was on the trajectory of being a future Norris contender, but in recent times his play has plateaued. He’s still Philadelphia’s leader in even strength and shorthanded ice time, blocks loads of shots (136), is fairly physical (73 hits) and has scored nine times this season. He’s still a top-four defenceman, just 26 years old, and his $6.75 million cap hit runs through the 2024-25 season. The Flyers are struggling again and well out of the playoff race, leaving GM Chuck Fletcher left to consider how to change over his roster in a positive way.

There’s an off-ice angle to Provorov’s trade candidacy, too. In January Provorov decided to abandon his team and sit out a pre-game warmup over wearing a Pride jersey, citing his religious beliefs. Any acquiring team must consider the effect Provorov’s arrival would have on their fan base.

Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues

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The Blues are a tough team to get a handle on now. After trading away rentals Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly and Ivan Barbashev (who all were previously on this list), GM Doug Armstrong now may be straddling the line between buyer and seller. Because while St. Louis has moved some players and added a couple of first-round picks, no one believes they’re going to rebuild, and may instead look to reshape the roster to bounce back as soon as next season.

Parayko is in the first year of an eight-year contract with St. Louis he signed in September 2021, and since he has a no-trade clause as part of the deal, this wouldn’t be an easy move to make. But if the Blues are looking to create cap space to make other trades, Parayko — or perhaps Torey Krug and his long-term contract — could be the asset that helps them get to their goal.

The thing about Parayko, however, is that he’s been trending the wrong way in his production and impact. A 10-goal scorer in back-to-back seasons just three and four years ago, Parayko has struggled to just three goals in 2022-23 and he’s also pacing to a career low in points per game (19 points in 57 games). Still, he averages over 23 minutes a night for the Blues, plays against the toughest competition, and brings plenty of size and reach.

Robert Bortuzzo, D, St. Louis Blues

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Re-signed just 13 months ago, Bortuzzo becomes an interesting trade possibility for the selling Blues given how cheap his contract is for both this season and next. If Parayko is a longer shot possibility to go, Bortuzzo is one who could have a bigger market. He’s a big body (6-foot-4, 216 pounds) and a physical penalty killer filling a third-pair role.

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks

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After all the speculation — and hope — that we could get a whopper of a trade for Karlsson in-season, it’s feeling more and more like this is a deal that will come in the summer…if at all.

“It’s never been raised to me, and I think it would be weird if (GM Mike Grier) comes now with three days left to ask me to waive my no-move,” Karlsson told Eric Engels this week. “We’ve had plenty of time for that. If that was the case, I’m not too worried about anything. I’m just here to play hockey and enjoy my time.”

Still, after the bonkers few days of trades we’ve seen, including some surprises, we have to keep Karlsson on the list. There’s no telling where the market could go from here, though his $11.5 million cap hit that runs another four years will always be a massive hurdle here.

Karlsson’s on-ice performance makes an in-season move an eyebrow-raising proposition, though. He’s the Norris Trophy favourite to date, the NHL leader in even-strength points with 58 and his 1.26-points-per-game rate gives him a shot to be the first 100-point scoring blueliner since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. Karlsson already has the 13th-best even-strength scoring season by a defenceman in NHL history, with a quarter of the schedule remaining.

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Nick Bonino, C, San Jose Sharks (Traded to Pittsburgh)

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A playoff veteran, Nick Bonino Bonino Bonino(!) can bring some depth still at 34 years old, with 10 goals in 58 games this season. But he’s also San Jose’s forward leader in shorthanded ice time per game and blocked shots with 73. Bonino can play any situation and is a versatile asset.

James Reimer, G, San Jose Sharks

It wouldn’t be a huge return of course, but Reimer is a pending UFA and after seeing a few teams needing to go three (or four) goalies deep in last year’s playoffs, he might be attractive for a franchise just looking for depth and experience at the position. Not the strongest season with an .895 save percentage, but Reimer could spell a starter down the stretch and at least give you a chance in a pinch.

Carson Soucy, D, Seattle Kraken

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After Edmonton and Los Angeles opened for business, if another Western Conference team is going to take the plunge as a buyer this deadline, the Kraken are one possibility. Pushing for their first playoff spot in Year 2, Seattle may look to acquire another scorer. But in Soucy, the Kraken have a useful defenceman on an expiring contract — it’s not someone a “buyer” would tend to move, but if GM Ron Francis can find a hockey deal, it may make sense to swap. Soucy has 10 points this season, is fourth on the Kraken with 110 hits and fourth with 68 blocked shots all while averaging 16:16 per game with some second PK time.

Alex Kerfoot, C/W, Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Leafs are certainly no seller, but with Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Sam Lafferty, Jake McCabe, Erik Gustafsson and Luke Schenn all coming in, the roster and the cap situation are getting tight. There’s still a strong belief Kyle Dubas isn’t done, but any further move is going to require a player off the roster to be involved. Kerfoot is versatile, but he also makes $3.5 million against the cap on an expiring deal. If Toronto seeks another forward upgrade, Kerfoot’s contract could help make it work.

Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks

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In the first year of a three-year deal, Boeser’s $6.65 million cap hit is a lot to take on for a winger on an 18-goal pace. But just four years ago, Boeser scored 26 times in 69 games, and five years ago he tallied 29 goals. It could be that after a rough few years on and off the ice in Vancouver, a fresh start reignites Boeser’s goal-scoring potential. The Minnesota Wild, Boeser’s hometown team, continue to be connected here, though his contract could be tough for them to fit under a looming cap crunch. The Pittsburgh Penguins are another team that’s reportedly been swirling as they try to keep a narrow window open. Boeser could become a target for other scoring-needy teams who’ve missed out on another player.

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks

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Demko won’t go away in trade speculation. He returned to the net this week for the first time since Dec. 1 and stopped 34 of 38 shots to defeat the Dallas Stars 5-4 in OT. The 27-year-old has shown an ability to steal a playoff series and be a difference-making No. 1 netminder in the past — in a three-year window from 2019-20 through last season, Demko’s .913 save percentage ranked 12th among 40 goalies with minimum 80 appearances.

He could be a target for either a team that needs the position addressed right away or for a team looking for a more long-term solution in net. But will that come to pass before Friday’s deadline? Demko wasn’t particularly great in the 15 appearances he made earlier this season (3-10-2, .883SV%, 3.93GAA), but his potential is obvious.

Conor Sheary, LW, Washington Capitals

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With Dmitry Orlov, Lars Eller, Erik Gustafsson, Marcus Johansson and Garnet Hathaway out the door, the Capitals have turned to seller mode. They don’t have many pending UFAs left, so we look to Sheary next because he’s cheap at a $1.5 million cap hit and has been a useful complementary player his whole career, capable of playing anywhere in a lineup. This season Sheary has 12 goals and 30 points.

Logan Stanley, D, Winnipeg Jets

Already with Nino Niederreiter acquired, the Winnipeg Jets are still expected to be buyers at the deadline, if they can. They have cooled of late with four losses in a row, but still hold the second wild card spot. It’s believed they want to acquire a defenceman, and Ken Wiebe writes they still may go after another forward as well.

Still, Stanley’s name has popped up of late as a potential trade candidate. The 6-foot-7 defenceman has had trouble staying healthy since the Jets picked him in the first round of the 2016 draft. Wiebe notes that the organization has invested a lot in Stanley’s development, so they wouldn’t be looking to unload him for cheap. A buyer could be a seller in this case.

“Someone told me they were surprised he didn’t go to Nashville in the Niederreiter trade, but I’ve heard there’s been a little talk about Stanley as the Jets look to do some things,” Friedman said on the Marek Show Tuesday.

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