NHL Scout's Analysis: Bargain depth forwards to target at NHL trade deadline

On this edition of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discuss the possibility of a new women's professional hockey league, players to watch as the NHL trade deadline approaches, and whether Edmonton could be the next Heritage Classic host.

As we continue our march towards the NHL trade deadline it’s time to take a look at forwards who could add more than just depth to contending teams, and could maybe be had in a value trade.

We are starting to see trends develop with teams who are in and out of playoff contention.

The games are getting harder. Defensive detail is being scrutinized. The transition speed of teams going on offence is being identified as an area of strength or weakness. General managers and coaches are having healthy conversations about the vision of what the team needs to add (or subtract) as they try to position themselves for immediate or long-term success.

Sometimes, the biggest names are what teams chase at the deadline to try and put them over the top. But it’s also important to address the subtleties and maybe find someone who brings a very specific element to your team that’s missing. These players could have bigger impacts than we realize and won’t cost as much to acquire as the marquee players.

With that part of the market in mind, here are some options for teams to consider in the build up to trade deadline 2022:

Austin Watson: Ottawa Senators

Average time on ice is only a hair above 12 minutes. Don’t be misled. When this player is on the ice he creates a distraction. Highly competitive. One of the top shot blocking forwards in the league. He sacrifices his body in his zone. If you’re looking for a player who will get in the opponents’ grill this spring, consider Watson. He will provide a hard-nosed checking role and be used on the PK. One more year on his contract with a $1.5 million AAV. Worth making a call to investigate.

Brandon Hagel: Chicago Blackhawks

Full disclosure: It’s a mystery to me why this player’s name is making the rounds. I’m not sure there is a sub-170-pound forward in the league who plays harder than this kid right now. He plays quick, produces offence, is a thorn in the side of opponents and has a fantastic contract ($1.5 million AAV through 2023-24). If he is truly available he can instantly slide into the middle six of a forward group and is capable of moving up into top six in a pinch.

Lawson Crouse: Arizona Coyotes

He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. Solid skater. Physical. On pace for 20 goals. Can be used in all situations. Battles in the hard areas. Power forward. He’s hard to play against. Everything you want in the playoffs -- enough said! Averages 17:31 of ice time a game and is on an expiring contract, to be an RFA this summer where he’ll get a raise on his $1.533 million AAV.

Calle Jarnkrok: Seattle Kraken

An active player who can create chaos. He works for his results. When he doesn’t have the puck he competes to get it back. If a team is looking for a three-zone effort player who can contribute secondary offence in the middle of the lineup and is reliable enough to be used in all situations, he should be a target. Averages 16:45 with an AAV of $2 million on an expiring deal.

Vitali Kravtsov: New York Rangers

For whatever reason(s) the marriage between the player and the organization doesn’t seem to be a fit. The Rangers will listen, but they aren’t giving him away for free. He could, potentially, be a piece of a bigger deal the team makes at the deadline. His game has looked strong in the KHL, averaging 16:34 of ice time playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk. He is being used at even strength and on the first power play unit. Looks comfortable and confident. Playing to the ID he displayed his draft year. Scoring off the rush and around the net. Battling along the wall. He also fits into the category or “future building block” for the team acquiring him. We won’t see him until next season, so this isn’t a play for 2022. Still, an interesting name to watch.

Nicolas Deslauriers: Anaheim Ducks

Role player to be sure, but if I’m running a team that looks like it might match up against someone like Calgary in the first round, he is the piece I might need to add to my lineup. He’s not just a hammer. He chips in with some offence at times. His 11 minutes of ice time are hard fought, determined, and heavy. If a team needs some muscle for their run this player is a consideration. He makes $1 million on an expiring contract.

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