Rink Fries: 25 NHL trade candidates of interest to watch

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So, I thought for the first edition of Rink Fries (yes, this will be a regular blog for me now to keep everything that I come across for the 32 Thoughts podcast, the JM Show and Hockey Night in Canada in one place) I’d do a quick round-up of where the trade market is at around the league in advance of the March 21 trade deadline.

And while the old business saying has always been “deadlines make deals” as the seasons go on, fewer and fewer teams are letting the official deadline act as a magnet for getting things done.

Tweaks are made at the last minute, big moves are done before that. There are exceptions (quick show of hands here – how many saw the Anthony Mantha-Jakub Vrana deal coming?) but this is basically how it works now.

This list is a combination of players I’ve heard mentioned in trade talk and other players whose future with their current team I wonder about.

So maybe let’s just call this the Players of Interest list.

How’s that?

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Let’s start with:

Mark Giordano: With Seattle looking more and more like a traditional expansion team, I think we’re all wondering what the play is for Giordano here. The believed ask by GM Ron Francis to stay away from him at the expansion draft was a first and a third. Too rich for Calgary. But you wonder if Giordano’s thinking about a shot at the Stanley Cup and the Kraken are looking at their roster and wondering who they had to flip to lurch their program ahead.

Ben Chiarot: At this point the only question is, can Montreal get a first-round pick for the blueliner? For a team looking for a deep run in the playoffs, the answer is probably yes.

Brendan Gallagher: Gallagher has mused openly about not being interested in sticking around for a rebuild. He’s a heart-and-soul player (with great underlying numbers, so both camps go home happy here), would be tough to part with, but teams dream about having this type of player in the mix.

Tyler Toffoli: Much like Gallagher, if the Habs go the teardown and rebuild model, does Toffoli want to be part of it at this stage of his career? This is not what he signed up for when he joined the Habs.

Filip Forsberg: For me, so much of Nashville’s future is about the decision GM David Poile makes on Forsberg. Trade him and we’re looking at some type of rebuild (competitive or otherwise), keep him and they’re going for it again.

Anton Khudobin: We’ve reported that Dallas has had conversations with at least one other team (Buffalo) about the veteran goaltender and moving him seems to many as the plan all along after they acquired Braden Holtby in the off-season. You’d have to think GM Jim Nill is after a forward here.

John Klingberg: He’s poised to become a free agent, looking for an eight-year deal in the mid-60s to stay with Dallas. Teams, including Carolina, have already called but Dallas may keep him for a playoff run, figuring they have a potential replacement waiting in Thomas Harley next season. Personally, I think Dallas keeps Klingberg, even if they can’t arrive at an extension — the expectation for this team is a good run in the playoffs. You hurt your chances if you move this skilled blueliner. If he walks at the end of the season, he walks. This team is all in.

Jake DeBrusk: Hands up who can see DeBrusk getting moved to another team and start piling up goals? It’s obvious to everyone that this player needs a new situation, but Boston’s not just going to give him away. As Elliotte Friedman has reported the Bruins won’t move DeBrusk until they get the best possible player or players back as they can find.

Reilly Smith: I think we’re all trying to figure out how the Golden Knights are going to fit Jack Eichel under the salary cap when he returns.

J.T. Miller: We’ve all wondered about this one a lot. The Vancouver Canucks are looking to change direction and may do a few things that surprise people. A move involving J.T. Miller could be one of them.

Evander Kane: I don’t think anyone sees a scenario where Kane returns to the Sharks. He is an excellent player, but we all know the issues. San Jose will have to eat salary to make this happen.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Fleury is far and away the most intriguing goalie name on the market. Nobody expected it to go this way, but here we are. And if you’re a team, maybe based in Alberta, with Stanley Cup aspirations and you see a goalie who wants one more shot at it …

Vladislav Namestnikov: I hope people have noticed that the Red Wings are fun to watch again, and they’re also well positioned for growth with a crop of young talent and desirable vets who can be used at the deadline to buy more lottery tickets at the draft. Namestnikov is versatile, affordable and can fetch GM Steve Yzerman more building blocks.

Nick Leddy: Look, Moritz Seider is already the best defenceman on the Red Wings. He’s the building block on the back end. That much is obvious to anyone who even casually glances at this team. Leddy is on an expiring contract and if things get goofy around defencemen at the deadline, who knows how much Yzerman can get?

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Chris Tierney: I’m still surprised Seattle didn’t take Tierney in the expansion draft, but that’s a whole other issue. Tierney is a good NHLer who gives you depth up front at centre. The Senators are Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle and Shane Pinto down the middle for the future, and so it’s probably time to see what’s available for the 27-year-old Tierney.

Erik Brannstrom: Safe to say things have not gone as planned for Brannstrom and the Sens since the deal that brought him from Vegas. But would they move him? He’s only 22 or, as someone in another team’s analytics department said to me recently, “It’s not that he’s only 22, he’s already 22.” Man, you gotta grow up fast in this league now.

Nick Holden: Depth D; how many times you heard that around the deadline?

Joonas Korpisalo: A couple of things here: Elvis Merzlikins is the No. 1 goalie in Columbus and Korpisalo’s deal expires at the end of the season. The Blue Jackets also have high hopes for 22-year-old Daniil Tarasov. All of this points to a deal for Korpisalo by the deadline.

Vladimir Tarasenko: We know he’s previously asked for a trade (and one team who was interested was scared off after seeing x-rays, and also couldn’t make his salary fit), and although at times he’s looked inspired and productive, it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t working in St. Louis. And if you watched the Blues-Panthers game last Saturday afternoon, you can sense that things are frosty between the player and his coach, Craig Berube.

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Vitali Kravtsov: He requested a trade early this season after refusing an assignment to AHL Hartford, and GM Chris Drury has made it clear he wants something of quality in return and won’t budge until he gets it. This is still an interesting story to follow.

Alexandar Georgiev: His name has been out there for a while now with the emergence of Igor Shesterkin in the nets for the Rangers.

Phil Kessel: The Arizona Coyotes are not done dealing big-ticket players as pretty much anything not named Jakob Chychrun could be had.

Bryan Rust: Tough to see him sticking with the Pens long-term, and if that’s the case, how can this team let him skate to free agency without anything to show for it? Rust is going to get paid with his next contract; we all know that the Penguins need to start stocking their prospect cupboards after Jim Rutherford spent years tossing around firsts to fellow GMs like Oprah handing out cars to her studio audience. The Penguins have had only one first-round pick in the past seven drafts.

Evgeni Malkin + Kris Letang: First, much of what happens with Malkin is about his health, so let’s maybe park his name here for a while. But Letang is interesting. We know what defencemen on the open market are fetching these days, but we also know how much Letang likes it in Pittsburgh. Is there a magic number both sides are comfortable with to bring him back? He’s on an expiring contract.

Edmonton’s first-round pick: The Oilers have two skaters playing out of their minds this season, and GM Ken Holland has holes to fill if he wants to get his squad into the Cup conversation. And it’s not like Holland hasn’t moved firsts before with his previous team to give some steam to a playoff push.

Buffalo first-round pick: Buffalo has three picks in the first round (two have conditions attached to them), and I wonder if GM Kevyn Adams would use one to address an organizational need.


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