Monday, Feb. 21, marks exactly one month until the NHL’s trade deadline, and the Tyler Toffoli-to-Calgary deal hasn’t opened the gates to further moves quite yet.
But you can bet some GMs are getting an itchy trigger finger.
In the next four weeks, the rumour mill will kick into high gear, names will be added and removed from trade lists and we’ll surely get a surprise or two. Who saw last year’s Anthony Mantha-Jakub Vrana deal four weeks before the Caps and Red Wings took that one to the wire?
Four Sportsnet staff writers – Sonny Sachdeva, Mike Johnston, Emily Sadler and Rory Boylen – share their thoughts on the trade landscape one month out, from teams to watch, big names of interest and one long-shot deal we can hope to see, just for the fun of it.
The team whose deadline moves I’m most interested in: Calgary Flames
Though they already made one of the bigger trade-market splashes of the season, I’ll have my eye on the Calgary Flames. The Tyler Toffoli deal was a fantastic one for them — the Flames have seemed for the past few seasons like a team in desperate need of one more bona fide top-six presence, someone who could take the club’s offence up one notch, and take a little bit of pressure off Johnny Gaudreau come playoff time.
What’s interesting is the recent reporting from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Eric Engels about Calgary wanting not only Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens, but defender Ben Chiarot, too. An injury to Chiarot likely threw a wrench into that side of the discussion, but with the 30-year-old set to rejoin the Canadiens at practice soon, does Calgary continue that conversation?
The key consideration here is the fact that this is the best the Flames have looked in years, meaning this is also their best shot at finally making some legit post-season noise. Gaudreau is playing at an MVP level, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm are having career years, and Jacob Markstrom already has a ridiculous eight shutouts to go along with his .927 save percentage. With Gaudreau headed to unrestricted free agency when this season wraps up, who knows how similar the Flames’ chances will look next year.
In the here and now, they’re one of the best teams in the West and look like they want to keep adding. The question is what more they can do, and whether they can find the balance between bolstering their group and disrupting what the team has going.
One player on the trade block I’m watching closely: Conor Garland
The spotlight’s shining brightest on marquee talents Claude Giroux and Jakob Chychrun, but elsewhere on the list of names we’ve heard are being discussed, there’s an interesting case in Conor Garland.
With the Canucks bringing in new management and slowing on their pace to reclaim a realistic shot at the playoffs, much has been made about the potential for subtractions from the roster, stretching all the way up to team scoring leader (and OT game-winner aficionado J.T. Miller). It would be a shock to see Vancouver part with Miller, their best forward from Day 1 this season, or one of their core trio up front (Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson). Moving Garland and his manageable $4.95-million cap hit might end up the more palatable deal, then.
If he does get moved, it could wind up being one of the wiser deals of the 2022 deadline. For one, that $4.95-million hit raises the calibre of team able to acquire him, with his cap hit an easier fit than a big-ticket target like Giroux. And given the way Garland plays, being surrounded by more talent could bring his game to another level. Beyond that, the winger’s raw numbers don’t tell the full story of where he’s at and how he can help a team.
Before the Canucks saw their season halted by two weeks of postponements in late December, Garland was thriving, on pace for a solid (and career-best) 60-point campaign. The tumultuous schedule and a bout with COVID-19 upended that progress, and he’s put up just five points in the 14 games since. With the chance to get rolling again — and the opportunity to line up with top-tier talent, should he be snagged by a deep contender — there’s no question Garland could become an impact player down the home stretch of the season and into the playoffs. Moreover, that’s exactly who he wants to be at this point in his career, and he’s hungry as ever to raise his game and find that level.
The brilliant Shayna Goldman broke down what exactly Garland can bring to the table in a recent piece, highlighting his elite zone exit and entry abilities, his affinity for dangerous passes to the slot and the space he creates for teammates by holding onto the puck. Could the Boston Bruins be interested? A run with his hometown club could be an excellent fit for both the team and the devoted Bostonian.
One long-shot deal I’m watching for on deadline day: Vladimir Tarasenko
Remember when Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade out of St. Louis? Might we see that situation come to a resolution earlier than expected?
According to St. Louis Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford, Tarasenko hasn’t changed his stance when it comes to wanting out of St. Louis, as he requested in the off-season. Of course, the situation has changed since, with the Russian winger returning to dominant form this season. Through 44 games, the 30-year-old’s put up 18 goals and 45 points, pacing the club on both counts. That resurgence has the Blues firmly in the thick of the West’s playoff race, with the club sitting third in the Central. Hence “long-shot.”
Does St. Louis opt to move their most dangerous scorer in a season that has them on track for the playoffs? No, probably not. But on the other hand, if the recent run of success still hasn’t changed Tarasenko’s mind, if the veteran is still going to push for a change of scenery in the off-season, is his value going to be higher than it is right now, when he’s piling up points at will?
The Blues-Tarasenko situation has always been a bit odd. When the club won the Cup, much was made of the fact that they were dead last in the league in January of that same year. Less was made of the fact that Tarasenko was one of the league’s leading goal-scorers from that January to the end of that season. Per Rutherford, the trade request stemmed from the fact that he was getting third-line minutes in St. Louis. Even now, as he leads the club in scoring, he’s still sitting behind three other Blues forwards in ice time.
If things aren’t quite patched up in St. Louis and a deal does come earlier than expected, that’s a game changer for the Western playoff picture, and for whoever brings in the five-time 30-goal scorer. How about a top line in Minnesota featuring Tarasenko on the right and Kirill Kaprizov on the left? Hashtag yikes.
The team whose deadline moves I’m most interested in: Arizona Coyotes
Has there ever been a team in sell mode more than these Yotes? This team is seemingly stuck in rebuild purgatory, not to mention arena hell, and only have seven players on their roster signed beyond this season.
A portion of Arizona’s growing stockpile of assets will presumably be used to acquire players who can help the team next season, but how many of those moves will be made before March 21? Arizona already has three 2022 first-round picks and five second-round picks with which to work. Phil Kessel is among the Coyotes who could be available on the rental market, but the most intriguing name to keep an eye on is Jakob Chychrun.
The 23-year-old blueliner has three years remaining on his team-friendly deal ($4.6-million salary cap hit) and has been mentioned in trade rumours for a while, although a Chychrun deal feels more like one that would happen before the draft as opposed to the deadline.
One player on the trade block I’m watching closely: Claude Giroux
It’s tough envisioning Claude Giroux in colours besides Flyers’ orange and black, but the pending UFA’s time with the team that selected him 22nd overall at the 2006 NHL Draft could be winding down. It was revealed last week that Giroux and Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher will speak ahead of the deadline to go over options.
“We have a lot of things to talk about, what’s best for the Flyers organization, what’s best for me, and we’ll just go from there,” Giroux, who has a no-movement clause, told media in Philadelphia last week.
He’s in the final year of the $66.2-million extension he inked in 2013. His AAV is $8.275 million but he was owed only $4 million in actual salary in 2021-22, so he comes at a cheap cash cost, relatively speaking. Seeing Giroux join a top-tier Cup contender such as Colorado or Florida would add spice to the post-season. Neither team has much to offer in terms of draft picks and adding Giroux’s cap hit could be tricky, more so for the Avs.
The Flyers have 12 games remaining before the deadline and Giroux has 11 games to go before he earns his silver stick for playing in his 1,000th career game. It would, in theory, be an ideal send-off of sorts for him to receive the full pre-game ceremony treatment at home – either against the Preds on March 17 or against the Islanders March 20 – and then join a new team in the following days.
One long-shot deal I’m watching for on deadline day: Reilly Smith
With Jack Eichel now in the picture, GM Kelly McCrimmon is in a salary cap predicament. Perhaps putting Mark Stone on LTIR ends up working out for Vegas how it worked out for Tampa Bay and Nikita Kucherov one year ago, and it’s as simple as that. Still, on the off-chance Stone returns earlier than expected or if Vegas is required to clear cap space for any other reason, would McCrimmon consider getting something in return for pending UFA Reilly Smith and his $5-million cap hit? Smith undoubtedly makes this team better when he’s in the lineup, but it’s unlikely the team will be able to re-sign him in the off-season.
The team whose deadline moves I’m most interested in: Vancouver Canucks
After bringing in a new, diverse leadership group to steer this ship in the right direction, we’re about to get a glimpse of, well, which direction that is, exactly.
President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has been known to make a splash or two on the trade market and isn’t afraid to take a big swing in the name of winning. But with first-time general manager Patrik Allvin at the helm now, and assistant GMs Emilie Castonguay, Cammi Granato and Derek Clancey bringing a wide array of expertise to the table, I’m really interested in seeing their collective approach.
With a few young pieces in place, this doesn’t have the feel of a full-on rebuild. But, with names such as J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser bandied about with increasing frequency of late, the intrigue is certainly building. Cap space is key, but as we know that comes at a cost.
One player on the trade block I’m watching closely: Marc-Andre Fleury
Surely there’s not a soul in sight who doesn’t want to see Marc-Andre Fleury win it all one more time. That’s obviously not happening in Chicago, and considering how many times we’ve seen Stanley Cups won on the hot glove of a goaltender, there should be a lineup for his services.
Washington makes a ton of sense, and according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, Vegas is interested in a reunion. Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon vehemently denied that report, and it’s hard to see those fences being mended after the way Fleury was so unceremoniously dealt out of town. Edmonton? Colorado? Toronto? … Pittsburgh? (There’s a reunion we could all get behind!)
Fleury’s got a sizeable cap hit, coming in at $7 million per year, so regardless of where he actually lands, this one has three-team deal with the Coyotes written all over it.
One long-shot deal I’m watching for on deadline day: Patrick Kane
This could never happen … right?
Last summer’s roster moves didn’t exactly scream rebuild, but this season’s performance sure has. This team should be headed toward a complete overhaul, in many senses, and parting with a franchise cornerstone like Kane — while extremely unlikely — would bring back quite a return to start building back up.
Kane will be a free agent in the summer of 2023 … what if he glimpses the direction of the club under the incoming GM and doesn’t like what he sees?
The team whose deadline moves I’m most interested in: Florida Panthers
They already have the biggest goal differential in the league, an MVP candidate and one of the deepest rosters throughout. Sergei Bobrovsky has rounded into form, The Two Sams have over-delivered, and no one plays from behind better than the Panthers. They’re still in the market to do something potentially big.
Heh. What’s that going to look like?
GM Bill Zito took a swing on Sam Bennett at last year’s deadline and, though he wound up getting a post-season suspension, he’s well on his way to a career year now. Zito has gained a reputation as being unafraid to take the plunge, and so Florida’s connection to all the big names available — from young defenceman Chychrun with term to older forward Giroux on an expiring deal — shouldn’t surprise us.
Aside from the usual trade currency of draft picks, the cost might be Spencer Knight, who’s been in the AHL after struggling on the big stage this season, or Anton Lundell, who has had a terrific rookie season. But would parting with him make the centre position a little more rickety? How deep are the Panthers willing to go, and for which player?
One player on the trade block I’m watching closely: Tomas Hertl
When you think of the term “rental market,” you’ll probably immediately envision an older, grizzled vet. It’s not all that often someone such as Hertl, a 28-year-old centre on pace for over 30 goals, gets added to that market.
The Sharks pivot is in the final year of his deal and definitely kept the door open to the possibility of leaving for free agency in the summer.
“I’m not like saying anything 100 per cent because nothing is ever 100 per cent,” Hertl said, according to Sharks reporter Sheng Peng. “I just say this is my team now when I’m playing and I’m doing all I can. We’ll see what happens in four weeks or the rest of the year. I want to just focus on playing.”
The Sharks are fading badly from the playoff picture, with six losses in a row and are second-last in the Pacific Division. They cannot afford to lose him for nothing and so, it would seem, if a contract hasn’t been signed by March 21, someone else will pick up an impact centre for the home stretch at least.
One long-shot deal I’m watching for on deadline day: Patrik Laine
Back at the end of January, I wrote about the difficult decision Columbus was going to face on Laine this season. He was in the middle of a second straight campaign struggling to produce for the Blue Jackets since being traded from Winnipeg, and was looking at arbitration again this summer and one more year until being a UFA. Signing him for big money and term with shaky recent production was risky, but so too was the idea of slow-playing his contract, or dealing him away at 23 years old with still so much potential.
In the eight games he’s played since, Laine has 10 goals and, finally, has broken out of the slump. If this continues, the contract discussion will become much easier to accept because we’re seeing something again. We’re talking long-shot trades here, though, so what if Laine’s hot streak inspires a huge, Pierre-Luc Dubois-like offer, and Columbus decides to move on from him anyway? We can dream for such theatre.