Top forward candidates to be moved ahead of NHL trade deadline

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joins Lead Off to discuss the latest in any Taylor Hall trade rumours, why he thinks it will be hard for them to get a first round pick in return, and why he believes the Bruins might be a good fit.

On Wednesday night, the New York Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac in a deal with the New Jersey Devils, breaking the silence of what had been a quiet market considering how close we are to Monday's trade deadline.

So, that's two forwards off the board just a few days before Monday's 3 p.m. ET deadline — three if you include the Montreal Canadiens' acquisition of Eric Staal from Buffalo last month.

Who's up next?

These nine forwards could find themselves with a new club in the days to come.

All contract information can be sourced to

Mike Hoffman, St. Louis Blues

Age: 31
Cap hit: $4 million (pending UFA)

Landing Hoffman on a one-year deal (with the creativity of a PTO, first) looked like a sneaky-strong signing with great upside. Nine goals in 36 games later, it’s clear that this experiment simply hasn’t worked. Now with the Blues struggling in the standings and toeing the line between contending and not, Hoffman is very likely on the move as St. Louis GM Doug Armstong looks to give his team a bit of a jolt before the stretch run.

Hoffman’s just one year removed from a 29-goal shortened season with the Panthers, and if he lands in the right situation could be a really great weapon for an offence-needy contender.

Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators

Age: 29
Cap hit: $3.75 million (pending UFA)

The Predators' win streak thrust them back into contention, meaning there's a really strong chance Granlund isn't available after all. But it's worth wondering if GM David Poile still pulls the trigger on a deal for Granlund.

After the team let him walk in free agency last fall, it was a bit surprising to see Poile circle back and sign Granlund to a one-year deal for this season. The versatile forward hasn’t been able to produce the kinds of strong offensive numbers he had in Minnesota, and has struggled to score with any kind of consistency in Nashville. Granlund has registered 10 goals and 17 points in 37 games so far this season.

Another Predators forward to watch: Erik Haula. Like Granlund, Haula was a late off-season addition on a one-year deal and is an appealing option for anyone looking for depth scoring.

Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers

Age: 26
Cap hit: $2.3 million (pending UFA)

He’s young, he’s tough, he’s defensively responsible, and he can bring bottom-six depth to a contender at an affordable cap hit.

But… is he available? The Flyers’ recent struggles have them currently sitting outside of the playoff picture, but not far enough that they should be sellers. Laughton’s style of play is Philly through and through, but his expiring contract makes him an enticing piece to move considering how much interest he’d garner from contenders.

Elliotte Friedman summed up the situation in Tuesday's edition of 31 Thoughts:

I could see Pittsburgh with interest in Scott Laughton. Remember: Philadelphia sent Mark Streit to Tampa in 2016, where he was flipped to the Penguins. (That’s awesome — the league needs teams who hate each other so much they refuse to make trades.) My sense on the Flyers is they’ve tested the market on Laughton. These things can change quickly, but the last time I checked, there hadn’t been much extension talk. I’m a huge Laughton fan, and the tough thing about Philly potentially losing him is that he loves being a Flyer.

Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames

Age: 24
Cap hit: $2.55 million (pending RFA)

Bennett's documented desire for a change of scenery, though recently rescinded after embracing his role under new head coach Daryl Sutter, makes Calgary an interesting team to watch. So, too, does the club's current predicament. Sitting outside the playoffs after spending in free agency, things simply still aren't working.

Change is coming to this core, but will GM Brad Treliving wait until summer to make his moves?

As he told Sportsnet's Eric Francis earlier this week, he's "not a big deadline guy."

"I think you do a lot of building of your team in the summer. There’s certainly times you look to add people and we have. We’re approaching the deadline here that it’s another opportunity to improve your team," Treliving told Francis. "Having said that, as we sit here today we’re probably not going to be chasing rental players or expiring contracts or anything like that, but it still gives you an opportunity to improve your team."

Bennett's status as a pending RFA makes him particularly interesting to watch right now in case Treliving gets a deadline offer he can't turn down, as does the allure of seeing what a gritty ‘Playoff Sam Bennett’ can do on a serious contender.

Another Flames forward to follow: Centreman Derek Ryan, who’s been linked to Edmonton.

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

Age: 27
Cap hit: $3.789 million (under contract for 2021-22)

Anaheim’s willingness to ship out Rakell (a top-three point producer for the Ducks for five straight years) shows how serious it is about this youth movement it's embarking on. It also shows the Ducks know Rakell’s value on the trade market — he can fetch a strong return, and is one of their best chances at accruing more young assets via the trade market considering his age, skill level, and affordable cap hit that still applies to next season.

The 27-year-old has been nursing an upper-body injury that’s held him out of the lineup since March 28 when he was part of a scary-looking open-ice collision, but the Ducks say he’s close to returning:

Luke Glendening, Detroit Red Wings

Age: 31
Cap hit: $1.8 million (pending UFA)

He’s not going to provide much of an offensive boost, but if it’s depth down the middle you’re looking for, Glendening is an option who’s likely to move. His faceoff prowess and inexpensive cap hit make him an appealing option. His name has pretty consistently been linked to Edmonton.

Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa Senators

Age: 29
Cap hit: $3.375 million (pending UFA)

His return to Ottawa in February brought an instant boost to his stat line after struggling to produce much offence during his tour through Columbus and Carolina. Since landing back with the Senators, the 29-year-old has already tallied six goals and eight points in 15 games. Clearly, he feels right at home in Ottawa. His inability to put up numbers elsewhere won't do Ottawa any favours as they look to sell.


Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Age: 33
Cap hit: $5.5 million (pending UFA)

Foligno was traded to Toronto on Sunday.

Taylor Hall, Buffalo Sabres

Age: 29
Cap hit: $8 million (pending UFA)

Hall was traded to Boston on Sunday night.

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