The NHL trade deadline lands three weeks from Monday, so — if it’s not the case already — expect to be bombarded with talk draft picks, prospects and, of course, pending-unrestricted free agents being on the move.
That final class of player is interesting not only because we know many guys on expiring contracts will being moved, but because even the ones who stick with their clubs through the season are quite possibly writing the final chapter of their time with a given organization.
From long-serving players who are central to their team’s identity to over-35 guys in search of one last deal this summer to those hoping a well-timed productive season could be adding zeroes to their next contract, this week’s power rankings explore an intriguing UFA-to-be on every squad.
1. Colorado Avalanche (37-10-4)
Nazem Kadri figures to be one of the biggest names hitting the open market this summer. That said, he’s not the only point of UFA intrigue on Colorado; Winger Andre Burakovsky — who’s basically been a 65-point player in two-plus years in Denver — can walk, as can the team’s two puck stoppers, Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (35-11-4)
Vincent Trocheck was himself a deadline acquisition by Carolina — and a very good one — two years ago. It’s hard to imagine Jesperi Kotkaniemi being the offensive guy Trocheck is but inking the former to an offer sheet last summer was likely a partial hedge against the latter moving on in 2022.
3. Florida Panthers (35-11-5)
What do you pay a guy who had 11 points in 37 career NHL games prior to this season, is scoring at a point-per-game pace now and will be 27 on July 13 (the first day of free agency this year)? That’s the conundrum the Florida Panthers face with breakout man Mason Marchment.
4. Calgary Flames (30-13-6)
Flames fans are surely praying Johnny Gaudreau re-ups with the team, but you have to figure the New Jersey-neighbouring Philadelphia Flyers — who swear they’re coming back strong next year — would make a huge push for a guy from their neck of the woods should Gaudreau’s services become available to the highest bidder.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (33-11-6)
What a seventh-round find Ondrej Palat was for Tampa in the 2011 draft. He’s as productive this season as he’s ever been and given his two-way game and incredible playoff experience, who wouldn’t want this guy on their squad?
6. New York Rangers (32-13-5)
Ryan Strome really found himself with the Rangers when he was traded there from Edmonton in 2018 and has really found his game offensively since the move. He’ll turn 29 just days before free agency opens.
7. St. Louis Blues (30-14-6)
If Ville Husso keeps playing the way he has, he might wind up being the biggest wild card on the open market. Husso, who just turned 27, has a .936 save percentage in 19 games as an NHL sophomore this season.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-13-8)
It’s hard to imagine both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang bolting Steeltown this summer. That said, can Pittsburgh really keep both? Oh, by the way, top-line right winger Bryan Rust could walk following what’s been a career year for him, too.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs (32-14-4)
Perhaps you’ve heard something about Jack Campbell’s recent struggles? The Leafs may have a doozy of a decision on their hands.
10. Minnesota Wild (31-14-3)
Alex Goligoski was a great UFA signing last summer by Minny, so maybe the two parties can come to an agreement again when his one-year contract expires in a few months. The big news for the Wild will be seeing Viktor Rask come off the books.
11. Los Angeles Kings (27-17-7)
Dustin Brown has done it all for the Kings; he’s played at the top of the lineup, he’s played at the bottom of the lineup, he’s worn the ‘C’ on Cup-winning teams, he’s ceded the captaincy to another player, he’s seen his name in trade rumours and found a way to become a more productive player in his mid-30s than he was in his early-30s. He made his debut with the team nearly 19 years ago and the relationship could finally end this summer.
12. Washington Capitals (28-15-9)
Remember when Justin Schultz was one of the most talked about NCAA UFAs to hit the open market back in 2012? This summer he’ll be a 32-year-old free agent 10 years after the Oilers swooped in and signed him.
13. Boston Bruins (29-17-4)
What does the future hold for Patrice Bergeron? No. 37 turns 37 in July and there are so many hard miles on that body.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets (26-23-1)
Max Domi has a 9-15-24 statline in 40 games this year, which — number for number — matches his output in 54 contests last season. It will be very interesting to see how teams value him this summer. Joonas Korpisalo — who’s never come close to matching the .920 save percentage he put up in his rookie season of 2015-16 — could be moved before the deadline to a team in search of goaltending depth.
15. Dallas Stars (28-20-2)
We all know the relationship between John Klingberg and Dallas is ending either in the form of a pre-March 21 trade or this summer when he can walk. Stars GM Jim Nill has said his actions will be determined by where the team sits in the standings leading up to the deadline. Right now, Dallas is right in the thick of the wild card chase; should the Stars stumble in the next two weeks, though, contenders would be calling all day about pending-UFA Joe Pavelski.
16. Vegas Golden Knights (29-18-4)
Trivia time: How many players on Vegas’s roster right now were originally selected in the 2017 expansion draft? Four. One of them, Reilly Smith, could leave this summer as the team has to figure out some non-IR way to get under the cap.
17. Nashville Predators (29-18-4)
The hockey world has been aflutter with Filip Forsberg rumours this week. It will be fascinating to see if the Predators — who, despite a recent skid, remain inside the West playoffs — pull the trigger.
18. Edmonton Oilers (28-20-3)
It’s safe to assume Mikko Koskinen is playing his final games with Edmonton. Is there long-term potential with Evander Kane, though?
19. Anaheim Ducks (25-19-9)
If the Ducks move Hampus Lindholm before the deadline, he’d be a monster acquisition for a club in search of a deep run. Given Josh Manson is also a pending-UFA, the Ducks ‘D’ could look a lot different next October. And what about captain Ryan Getzlaf? Could he ink another one-year deal, as he did last summer, to return to Orange County for an 18th season?
20. Vancouver Canucks (24-22-6)
The Canucks will be in search of a backup for Thatcher Demko as 36-year-old Jaroslav Halak is almost certain to be one-and-done with the club.
21. Winnipeg Jets (22-20-9)
Paul Stastny continues to be a solid citizen for this team, so you wonder if they could replicate last summer’s business and agree on another one-year deal. Andrew Copp, though, might finally be on the move after some tough RFA negotiations in the past.
22. Detroit Red Wings (23-23-6)
Nick Leddy could be moved to help another team’s defence corps. Either way, expect some blue line turnover in the Motor City because vets Marc Staal and Danny DeKeyser are also UFAs.
23. New York Islanders (19-20-7)
Fourth-line favourite Cal Clutterbuck could be coming to the end of his time on Long Island. As for Zdeno Chara, might a playoff team come calling for the man who turns 45 three days before the deadline?
24. Ottawa Senators (19-26-5)
You could see things going either way with Nick Paul because he’s still just 26, but he’s got the kind of big body a playoff team would really value come spring.
25. San Jose Sharks (22-22-6)
Let’s face it, if Tomas Hertl didn’t ply his trade in such a wonderful part of the world, we’d assume this marriage was all but done. It would certainly surprise nobody if San Jose pulled the trigger on a trade in the coming weeks, but it also wouldn’t be shocking to see the parties continue the relationship even though the Sharks figure to be treading water for a while.
26. Chicago Blackhawks (18-26-8)
Marc-Andre Fleury could be on the move pre-deadline. Regardless, might ‘Flower’ simply hang ’em up this summer when his contract expires?
27. New Jersey Devils (17-28-5)
It will be really interesting to see how teams approach P.K. Subban this summer. Before you completely write him off, remember, he’s still a right-shot guy who’s been on a bad team the past three years.
28. Buffalo Sabres (16-28-8)
Righty D-man Colin Miller — expected to return from surgery in early March — figures to be in demand before the deadline. In all, the Sabres have 15 guys who’ve played at least one game for them this year who are UFA-eligible this summer.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (15-26-10)
Claude Giroux has put up a brave front in the face of his time with the only team he’s known coming to an end. Go get your Cup, Claude. The Flyers will also have to figure out a future for Rasmus Ristolainen, who they traded for last summer when they thought they’d be a competitive team this season.
30. Montreal Canadiens (12-33-7)
Everyone knows — and covets — what defenceman Ben Chiarot can do when the hockey gets heavy in the playoffs. Expect a deal any day now.
31. Arizona Coyotes (13-34-4)
C’mon, admit it; you want to see Phil Kessel go to a contender and have a nice little scoring run in the post-season, don’t you?
32. Seattle Kraken (16-33-4)
We’ve basically been talking about the possibility of Seattle trading Mark Giordano since the moment the team took him in the expansion draft.