This all sounds good, but this year’s trading season is not typical because of the COVID-19 pandemic. American franchise players traded to Canadian teams must be quarantined for seven days. The fixed $81.5 million salary cap – for this season and beyond – has forced teams to keep salaries low in transactions or seek money in deals with other teams. The lack of ticket revenue last year forced teams to cut salaries, while other teams are reevaluating every dollar on their payroll.
At the same time, the Kraken in Seattle and the impending expansion project are also having an impact on the trading market.
With this comprehensive guide, you can learn about the players and their approach to the game in advance, as well as the limitations and possible plays for each NHL team. Who’s left? Who’s coming? Check it out below.
Statistics are collected on sites like Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.
Message: Emily Kaplan provides a guide to the eastern and central teams, and Greg Wyshynski covers the northern and western clubs.
Join the team:
ANA | ARI | BOS | BUF | CGY | CAR | CHI
COL | CBJ | DAL | DET | EDM | FLA
LA | MIN | MTL | NSH | NJ | NYI
NYR | OTT | PHI | PIT | SJ | STL
TB | TOR | VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG
Status: Selective additions are required
Players, pick a game: LW/RW Anders Bjork ($1.6 million, 2023 RFA), LW Jake DeBrusk ($3.675 million, 2022 RFA), 2021 first-round pick.
What to look for: The Bruins have been on the verge of another Stanley Cup win for a while now and need a fresh start before their core really ages. Boston general manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy have been pretty outspoken about their team’s biggest weakness, even though it’s obvious to everyone: 5-on-5 is a problem. The Bruins have not given up a single goal in their first five games against the Devils, the second-best team in the league, in a 5-on-5 contest. The Bruins hope to get more out of their center six and could offer the young but underperforming DeBrusk and Bjork as trade options. But the return may not be what the Bruins are hoping for.
There has been a lot of talk about the Bruins’ blue line turnover this season, particularly the departure of starters Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. But a young group led by Norris Trophy nominee Charlie McAvoy put up a good fight. However, the Bruins can quietly look for help along the four blue lines. They are specifically targeting left guard, and Matthias Ekholm’s name (along with the cap hit and the extra year remaining on his contract) will certainly be on the minds of Bruins management and fans. The wild card will be backed up in goal as Tuukka Rask suffers a long-term injury.
What they should do: With defenseman John Moore following hip surgery on the 22nd. If March is out for the rest of the season, Boston’s backup options are even smaller. But that’s not the Bruins’ most pressing need. The emphasis is on 12. April needs to focus on getting assists on the wing in the center six, which is what this team is all about. Taylor Hall could be pulled for a second-round pick, and if that’s what Buffalo ends up asking, the Bruins shouldn’t hesitate. Hall will be highly motivated, and at the moment he may be more comfortable in his role as second man. Kyle Palmieri and Nick Foligno are characterful players who fit well into the Bruins’ culture.
Status: Everyone can be in motion
Players, pick a game: LW Taylor Hall ($8 million, UFA 2021, buyout clause), C Casey Mittelstadt ($874,125, RFA 2021), RW/LW Tobias Rieder ($700,000, UFA 2021), D Colin Miller (3.)875 million, UFA 2022), D Brandon Montour ($3.85 million, UFA 2021), RW Sam Reinhart ($5.2 million, UFA 2021), D Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million, UFA 2022), LW/C Riley Sheahan ($700,000, UFA 2021).
What to look for: Everything is at stake for the Sabres, who are the worst team in the NHL this season. Brand new general manager Kevin Adams and his closest advisor, vice president of hockey administration Mark Jakubowski, must figure out a new start for this team after things got out of hand this season. With absolutely no playoff success, all of the incoming UFAs – yes, including their prized free agent find, Taylor Hall – should be on their way back. Unfortunately, Jake McCabe was immobilized by an injury that ended the season.
The Sabres started their business early, sending Eric Staal to the net in the 26th. March to the Canadiens for third and fifth place. Unfortunately, given his production, Hall can’t be a first choice.
The main question is what to do with players who have one or more years left on their contract. According to captain Jack Eichel, who is still absent with an upper-body injury, even if the team is considering a trade with the captain, it is much more agreeable to do so in the draft or later in the offseason.
What they should do: Let’s get to work. It’s about putting Buffalo in a better position to succeed in the future, and that means collecting draft picks. A player like Mittelstadt, who becomes an RFA this summer, would benefit from a change of scenery. He didn’t live up to his potential in Buffalo, and while it’s not easy to give up a top-10 pick so quickly (he was selected No. 8 in 2017), there’s nothing perfect about the situation.
Although Reinhart has been the Sabres’ most consistent offensive player this season, Buffalo should consider moving him, Miller, Montour and Sheehan; all would be better suited to play elsewhere in the playoffs this spring.
Status: The reshuffle continues
Players, pick a game: RW Nikita Gusev ($4.5 million, UFA 2021, eight-team non-trade), RW Kyle Palmieri ($4.65 million, UFA 2021, eight-team non-trade), Travis Zajac ($5.75 million, UFA 2021, non-trade), D. Connor Carrick ($1.5 million, 2021 UFA), D. Kulikov ($1.15 million, 2021 UFA), D. Ryan Murray ($4.6 million, 2021 UFA), D. Sami Vatanen ($2 million, 2021 UFA).
What to look for: GM Tom Fitzgerald said his team will be ready if the two central figures, Jack Hughes and Nico Hisher, are on top of it. We’re not there yet, so it will be another season of tough starts.
Of the Devils’ available defensemen, Kulikov and Murray are the most interesting to other teams. The two biggest decisions Fitzgerald has to make are what to do with Palmieri (the team’s most consistent outfielder over the past five seasons) and Zajac (currently the Devils’ longest-serving outfielder). Zajac’s no-trade clause means he has a say in what happens. The Devils and Palmieri have talked about the extension. In any case, there are plenty of contenders – including the Bruins and Islanders – interested in a veteran winger.
What they should do: The Devils are in no hurry to regroup. While they hope to be more competitive next season, they don’t expect a quick turnaround. They will also clear a lot of space for the 2022 season, and P.K. Subban’s contract ($9 million per year) will be terminated. Add in a few other picks and prospects and New Jersey is in a much better position.
Gusev, Zajac, Kulikov and Murray need to find a new home. The Devils can’t get rid of every defender they have at their disposal, or it would hurt development for the rest of the season. And as for Palmieri… he should probably go, too. Who knows, he could return to Free Agency at any time.
Status: I’m looking for a replacement for Anders Lee.
Players, picks in game: 2021 first round pick, left winger Kieffer Bellows (early career contract, RFA 2021), prospects Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Robin Salo.
What to look for: The Islanders have a strong team identity and hope that last year’s Eastern Conference Finals will serve as a springboard for even more success this postseason. New York had a good start before captain Anders Lee tore his ACL. Lee has led the team in scoring since being injured.
The Islanders can’t replace the intangibles, and Lee’s leadership has broken the ice, but they are looking to replace some of his offensive production. GM Lou Lamoriello doesn’t usually predict his chess moves, but all indications are that the team will play on the 12th. April has a purpose. However, it is important to remember that this is Lamoriello, one of the most mysterious GMs in the game. So it’s wise to expect the unexpected as well.
What they should do: The islanders have a clear need, so they must fulfill it. Taylor Hall is a natural candidate to take Lee’s place on the left wing alongside Mathew Barzal. Dustin Brown and Kyle Palmieri could also be useful. For the Islanders, it’s about finding the character that fits their team’s identity and culture. Therefore, another captain should be at the top of the Islanders’ dream list: Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Islanders have been preparing well lately, so they can afford to give up in the first round if necessary. Rookie Kieffer bellows rarely used promises, but could also be in the package.
Status: He’s probably looking for
Players, pick a game: Д. Tony DeAngelo ($4.8 million, UFA 2022), S. Colin Blackwell ($725,000, UFA 2022), Kevin Rooney ($750,000, UFA 2022) D. Brendan Smith ($4.35 million, UFA 2021).
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What to look for: It can be very quiet on the Rangers front. Management isn’t losing sight of the bigger picture – namely, a complete rebuild – and while New York is getting closer to competing, it’s not there yet. General manager Jeff Gorton has already made a move for the draft, sending rugged fourth-round winger Brendan Lemieux to the Kings. This was meant to free up some roster spots, as the Rangers signed their own trade deadline acquisition in Vitaly Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 draft, who was quarantined and ready to be inserted into the lineup.
The Rangers still have DeAngelo, but no team seems interested in the player who New York sent home due to character issues. More than likely, DeAngelo will be retained until this summer, move to Seattle for expansion, and then be bought out.
What they should do: Nothing. If Gorton can’t do much with an exciting young player under contract after this season, the Rangers don’t need to do much. If steps are needed, they can be done around the drawing.
Rooney and Smith could come in on average, but the Rangers would likely have to withhold some of Smith’s salary. Blackwell, 28, could attract interest because of his recent play. His increased playing time has come at the expense of younger players that Rangers are now keen to develop. Again, this is a long-term issue for New York.
Players, pick a game: D Eric Gustafsson ($3 million, UVA 2021), C Scott Laughton ($2.3 million, UVA 2021), LW Michael Raffle ($1.6 million, UVA 2021), D Justin Brown ($1.8 million, UVA 2022), a first-round pick in 2021.
What to look for: The Flyers were expected to be a contender in 2021, but their season fell apart after a brutal March. It is still possible to get back on track, but time is running out. The first thing we need to do is stop the bleeding, and there are a lot of problems on the blue line. Philadelphia may have been looking for defensive reinforcements; the Flyers never seemed to recover from the unexpected departure of Matt Niskanen in the offseason.
Philadelphia is also considering a backup goalie. Carter Hart has been struggling, and they don’t want to overload him with pressure (especially when the blue line is so leaky). It doesn’t look like Shane Gostisbehere has a trading partner – especially after he went unclaimed on his return – so it would be surprising to see any movement there. If Philadelphia wants to make a trade, they have to give up another player on the roster, or a selection of drafts and/or prospects.
What they should do: If the Predators decide to waive Mattias Ekholm, he could be a good fit for the Flyers. But the Flyers will likely give up their first round pick in 2021, which is a top prospect (as recently signed Cam York), and maybe something else. Ekholm is under contract until the end of next season, but Philly would like to sign him to an extension and make sure he is protected for the expansion draft. Too many things to navigate through.
Given the way this season has gone, perhaps it would have been better to play it safe and make big moves around the lineup. This means that Gustafsson and Raffl will be in the middle rounds. Laughton should stay; he’s too valuable for the first six and could be re-contracted in the off-season anyway.
Status: In search of depth
Players, choices in the game: Second round pick in 2022, third round pick in 2022, D Juuso Riikola ($1.15 million, UFA 2021), D Marcus Pettersson ($4,025,175, UFA 2025).
What to look for: Under former GM Jim Rutherford, they knew in advance what they were going to do. Rutherford often telegraphed his movements. He also had no problem offering picnics and organization opportunities, two things he did often.
The new regime of Brian Burke and Ron Hextall promised a more conservative approach, knowing they had to plan for life after Sidney Crosby. So don’t expect them to give up their second round pick for 2021 (they already have a first, third, fourth and sixth round pick for 2021). The team could use some reinforcement in the centre after the injuries to Teddy Bluger and Evgeni Malkin. But with the arrival of Frédéric Gaudreau, it is no longer so urgent.
What they should do: The Penguins need to look for depth in the future. Luke Glendening makes a lot of sense because of his versatility and affordability ($1.8 million per year). Mikael Granlund or Erik Haula of Nashville would also be good candidates. To make this work, the Penguins can send Pettersson or Riikola the other way. There’s a tight end on the left side, so it’s a strong area, although it seems Pittsburgh’s front office isn’t afraid to have depth options.
But no matter what the Penguins do, they can’t dip too far into their pool of draft picks. In 2022, they finally have a full arsenal of choices. Burke and Hextall were hired to go out with players to keep them.
Status: Another center would be nice
Players, pick a game: D Jonas Siegenthaler ($800,000, UFA in 2021).
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What to look for: Well, the Capitals would love to chalk up their second Stanley Cup in four years. Problem: They have no room to work. If they add a player, they will probably lose him.
It was long thought that the Capitals would be looking for an experienced goalie as insurance, as they have two youngsters on the roster with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. There’s a reason they contracted Henrik Lundqvist this season. However, Samsonov and Vanecek have played well enough lately that this is no longer necessary.
Adding a defender at the deadline has become something of an annual tradition for the Capitals, but that trend could end here. Washington should get some help on the blue line when Michal Kempny, skating with his back to the net, is activated by the LTIR.
What they should do: If the Capitals want to add to their lineup, it should be in the midfield. The recent failure of Lars Eller has exposed Washington’s vulnerability. Winger T.J. Oshie is a good backup, but that won’t work in the playoffs. You are one trauma away from disaster. Rangers center Colin Blackwell, with a cap hit of $750,000 and a contract through 2022, will be a smart target. A trade for one for Siegenthaler; who said no?
It would be nice to sign a goalkeeper, but it’s not worth sacrificing a player from the current squad for that, in terms of salary. Continue with the youngsters, they have shown enough promise.
Status: A little goes out, a little comes in ….
Players, pick a game: G Alex Nedeljkovic ($737,500, 2021 RFA), G James Reimer ($3.4 million, 2021 UFA), D Haydn Fleury ($1.3 million, 2022 RFA), 2021 first-round pick.
What to look for: After reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 but falling off the bubble in 2020, the Hurricanes are looking to take the next step and get over the playoff hump. It’s been a good 2021 so far. With Petr Mrazek back from injury (broken thumb), the Canes will have three goalkeepers on the team. It’s a luxury many teams would like to have, but it’s only a luxury. If Carolina wants to make an exchange, it makes sense to get one of their guards. It will likely be rookie Nedeljkovic or veteran Reimer on the field.
The Canes have a well-balanced and highly functional forward group. The blue line is also a strong area, but Carolina could try to add a right guard to balance things out. The Canes didn’t sit still at the deadline last year, acquiring one player (Sami Vatanen) and two players with remaining terms (Vincent Trocheck, Brady Skjei). This year, with Carolina active again, it would be surprising to see them hired.
What they should do: Given the thirst for guards in the league, Carolina should transfer one of its guards. This can make it easier to replace the defender on a shot to the right. At first glance, Carolina’s blue line looks good, although a bit unbalanced with so many lefties. A team can never have too much insurance behind it. The Canes will also struggle to protect defenders in the expansion draft, especially if they contract Dougie Hamilton this season. The addition of another person could help solve these problems. David Savard of Columbus would be a great acquisition, but the Canes can’t use players with expiring contracts.
Players, pick a game: Space available for weapons : C/LW Carl Soderberg ($1 million, UVA in 2021), C Lucas Wallmark ($950,000, RFA in 2021), C/LW Mattias Janmark ($2.25 million, UVA in 2021).
What to look for: The Blackhawks were one of the pleasant surprises of the season in the first half, but they came up short in March. They’ve been watching the recovery for the past few years, but finally admitted that this was the last season. This means that they keep the big picture in mind in everything they do. Of course, a playoff appearance would be welcome, but for Chicago, it’s all about getting back to winning ways.
That means the team won’t be in the market to acquire players with expiring contracts; the Blackhawks just aren’t interested in giving up draft picks or prospects. However, they could transfer their players with expiring contracts – such as Janmark, Walmark and Soderberg. The Blackhawks also have plenty of room on long-term injured reserve (Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Zach Smith) thanks to several top players. If one of the rival teams wants to add money, Chicago is the team to call – and the Blackhawks will be happy to listen, assuming the deal includes draft picks or young players they can lock into long-term plans. Oh, how the tables have changed.
What they should do: First, the Blackhawks should seriously consider making a bid for their two pending candidates, Janmark and Soderberg. Wallmark, which is awaiting an RFA decision, is also expected to move. Chicago isn’t protected enough in the standings to keep these players, and those roster spots could easily be used to give young players more experience.
Now comes the fun part: Arm this foraging chamber! After years where the cap forced a team to cut contracts, Chicago can now take advantage of teams in the same situation. We’ll see if anyone feels that desperation, but it wouldn’t hurt for the Blackhawks to take a shot.
Status: Return during operation
Players, pick a game: D David Savard ($4.25 million, UVA in 2021), LW Nick Foligno ($5.5 million, UVA in 2021, no trade list), C/RW Riley Nash ($2.75 mil. UVA in 2021), C/LW Max Domi ($5.3 million, UVA in 2022), D Michael Del Zotto ($700,000, UVA in 2021), G Elvis Merzlikins ($4 million, UVA in 2022).
What to look for: The Blue Jackets are trailing in the Central Division, and the question is whether General Jarmo Kekalainen believes his team has what it takes to finish the season. A place in the playoffs is still within reach, but if management is unsure of the direction the current group is going, it would make sense to trade a few players for expiring contracts.
Savard’s name has been dropped a number of times and in the absence of a good defender, many rival teams will be interested in him. The 30-year-old isn’t having his best season (his average ice time is down almost a minute per game), but he’s playing solid defense and could be revitalized on a new team.
The Blue Jackets have had major problems with their captain Foligno. If Columbus is thinking about the playoffs, they can’t let Foligno go. It’s too important. It sounds defensive, with more effort, even higher character. Yet that is why he will be the most coveted player on the Columbus team.
Domi has yet to live up to expectations in Columbus, so the Jackets may try to change his mind. The joker is Merzlikins. Organizationally, goaltending is a strength, so that’s where Columbus could benefit from some very determined teams.
What they should do: Columbus should look at this season as an opportunity to rebuild. Coach John Tortorella’s contract expires after this season, and it is unclear if he will return next season. It’s not encouraging that the team was unable to work with Pierre Luc-Dubois, who was drafted as the franchise’s No. 3 center in 2016. And no matter what they ask Patrick Laine to do, he can’t make contact with the player because he’s lost on this team.
The available player who can bring in the most money is Merzlikins, and when desperate teams call, Columbus shouldn’t hesitate to strike. As for Foligno, I would leave it up to the player to decide. If he wishes to leave, I will respect his wishes. If he wants to retire (and re-sign in the offseason), the captain deserves a chance to go all in.
Status: Listen to the proposals for the FMU
Players, pick a game: Jamie Oleksiak ($2.1375 million, 2021 UFA), Mark Pysyk ($750,000, 2021 UFA), AL Andrew Cogliano ($3.25 million, 2021 UFA, six-team no-trade list), AL/AL Blake Comeau ($2.4 million, 2021 UFA), G Anton Khudobin ($3.33 million, 2023 UFA, four-team no-trade list).
What to look for: Heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the Stars got off to a slower start than they would have liked. Dallas is still in the hunt for a playoff spot and has games in hand, but things should heat up soon. The Stars don’t have much room to work with Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin ready to leave LTIR. But it’s a good thing: These two players could be the team’s own acquisitions at the trade deadline. And the stars don’t have to deal with the usual scheduling problems: How will these players adapt and integrate into the team?
On the 12th. April, the stars are likely to take a humble stance and try to keep the group together as best they can. If Dallas wants to make a big move, they could sell Khudobin, the 2020 bubble hero, but only if someone offers them a package. Oleksyk, a big, physical defender, is attractive to many teams. But if the Stars think they can still secure a playoff spot, there’s no reason to leave him on the roster.
What they should do: Actually, the Stars should wait and see if they can work some magic in the late season. However, GM Jim Neill should keep calling for future UFAs (as he has). If teams want to take Cogliano, Comeau or Pysyk as a backup and add a couple of mid-round picks, it’s worth considering. Pysyk has failed to take the #6 goalie’s place, and the team seems comfortable with Joel Hanley. Cogliano and Comeau are the kind of struggling veterans that other teams would love to add at this point. They have the confidence of coach Rick Bowness, so it’s no surprise they’re both staying.
Status: Stay on Iserplan.
Players, pick a game: G Jonathan Bernier ($3 million, UVA in 2021), C/RW Sam Gagner ($850,000, UVA in 2021), C Luke Glendening ($1.8 million, UVA in 2021), RW Bobby Ryan ($1 million, UVA in 2021), D Mark Staal ($5.7 million, UVA in 2021, buyout clause), D John Merrill ($925,000, UVA in 2021).
– Who will be the best choice this summer?
– Early ranking of the top 32
prospects – The impact of COVID-19 on ranking.
What to look for: After a record 25 consecutive playoff seasons, the Red Wings missed the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. Detroit improved on its weakest 2019-20 season (in which it finished with 23 fewer points than everyone else and a minus-123 goal differential). Even better news: This may be the last season of pain. This summer, the Red Wings freed up a lot of space, which gave general manager Steve Yzerman the chance to shape the roster as he saw fit.
But Yzerman’s overall plan is to turn the Red Wings into winners via selection, and it’s selection and prospects he’s betting on the most right now. There are few untouchable players on this list – and several players with expiring contracts who are ideal candidates to help a contender. If Bernier is healthy, he’ll be one of the best guards this spring. Glendening, which is versatile and costs $2 million, is also attracting a lot of interest.
What they should do: Anyone who can run away, should run away. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But the Red Wings have plenty of players on their roster who won’t play a big role in a lost season, but could be very useful elsewhere.
If Bernier is healthy, send him away. Glendenning and Ryan have very low baseball scores for their strength levels. It’s like they disappeared. Even though Merrill was Detroit’s best defender this season, the Red Wings should say goodbye to him (if they really like him, they can always re-contract him in Free Agency).
The biggest win would be for Detroit to find a new home for Staal, who Detroit took this season in exchange for a second-round pick from New York. This would mean Yzerman would make a rare double player change. There is a reason why Yzerman is considered the best manager in the game.
Status: Do you want to add
Players, pick a game: G Chris Driedger ($850,000, UFA in 2021), C Henrik Borgstrom (unsigned, but the Panthers have NHL rights).
What to look for: This is the season of the Panthers’ renaissance. The team looks to be the best it has been in at least five years. Jaromir Jagr leads the team in points and Roberto Luongo keeps it close in goal.
However, the Panthers were dealt a blow last weekend when Aaron Ekblad, who was on a Norris Trophy season, suffered a serious leg fracture. The surgery will keep him sidelined for 12 weeks. New general manager Bill Zito has a long-term plan for the team, but he wants to reward the current squad for the good play in the first half of the season. This is the mystery he faces. The 2015-16 season was a great success. The Panthers have made the playoffs only twice in 18 years, and only once in the first round.
Putting all your eggs in one basket and risking important (future) prospects is not in keeping with the general picture of sustainable success. So they will try to improve without giving up too much.
What they should do: If Zito doesn’t want to give up a first-round pick or one of the top prospects – and Florida has a solid pool of talented prospects – the only option might be to see if another team is interested in a dryer. The 26-year-old was the star of the first game, but with Sergei Bobrovsky taking over the goal, Dryer’s presence can be considered redundant. Besides, the Panthers are threatening to lose him in Seattle’s expansion draft this summer, so getting something for him is probably better than losing him for nothing.
To replace Ekblad, the Panthers will likely try to lure Vince Dunn from St. Louis. Louis. He’s only 24 years old and free in the summer, which means Florida gets a player they can include in their future plans. Overall victory.
Status: Deadline Team
Players, pick a game: D Mattias Ekholm ($3.75 million, UFA 2022), C/RW Mikael Granlund ($3.75 million, UFA 2021), C Erik Haula ($1.75 million, UFA 2021), RW Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25 million, UFA 2024), LW Filip Forsberg ($6 million, UFA 2022), LW Kalle Jarnkrok ($2 million, UFA 2022).
What to look for: Two weeks ago, we would have told you that the Predators would be one of the biggest sellers in 2021. Then something unexpected happened: The soothsayers have begun to win. Nashville posted the most wins (eight) and the highest winning percentage (.889) in the final two weeks of March to return to the Central Division playoffs.
General Manager David Poile is in a tough spot. His team has been a bit stuck lately, missing the first round of the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. We need an influx of young people. How does the team manage to maintain a winning culture with a long-term perspective?
Ekholm remains one of the best defenders currently available, with an attractive cap hit – and, perhaps most importantly, one year left on his contract. It should be much harder for the Predators to part with other key players like Arvidsson and Forsberg, given their current situation.
What they should do: If the Predators meet this group, they can make the playoffs. But she will likely be seeded fourth in the Central Division, which means a matchup with the Lightning or Hurricanes in the first round. This is a tough series to win, and if Nashville gets hot again, they’ll start next season the way they started this one.
Poile should move Ekholm because he will make a big gain. He is also expected to cede two future UEFA strikers, Granlund and Howla, in exchange for draft picks and prospects. That’s what the team needs most right now. In addition, places in their team can be given to young players who need experience.
Status: Any minor adjustments.
Players, picks in game: 2021 first-round pick, Alex Barr-Boulet ($759,258, RFA in 2021), Tyler Johnson ($5 million, UFA in 2024, no-trade clause), Mathieu Joseph ($737,500, RFA in 2022).
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What to look for: GM Julien BriseBois has earned a trade deadline by 2020. It’s been a year, so we can say that with certainty. The Lightning have two underrated attackers back in Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, who were a key third line en route to the Stanley Cup. And more: Both attackers have years left on their contracts.
It’s the kind of move everyone is trying to emulate this year, and it won’t be as easy for the Lightning to do something similar in 2021.
If there’s one area of need, it’s help on the blue line, especially since the organization doesn’t want to overload newcomer Cal Foote. Philosophically, BreesBois has an aversion to players with expiring contracts, but he might make an exception if a player like Columbus’ David Savard is available. Don’t overlook Breezewood. Who is able to do something creative and unexpected.
What they should do: Status Pat. You don’t have to get cute or complicated if you don’t have to. Tampa has no room in the budget, so if they take a player, they have to lose someone to balance things out. And why remove anyone from that list? The Lightning looked like a defending Stanley Cup champion, hungry and ready for the next one. BreesBois has already had to move Alexander Volkov and may have to make more room when Mitchell Stevens is ready to return.
Besides, Lightning’s already expecting reinforcements: Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire season, should be back for the playoffs. (Thanks to a nice loophole, salary cap issues become null and void if you make the playoffs).
Player of choice: 2021 first-round pick Sam Bennett ($2.55 million, RFA 2021), C Derek Ryan ($3.125 million, UFA 2021), G David Rittich ($2.75 million, UFA 2021).
What to look for: On 1. In April, the Flames had a 10.7 percent chance of making the playoffs – for spit money. It’s probably high enough to keep them from selling too many players at the deadline – Calgary didn’t lure Darryl Sutter off the farm for a season. Is that enough to make the Flames a team you can improve on? Hopefully they have a more balanced view of their current position than giving up the future for a futile attempt at the postseason. But GM Brad Treliving has been there all season.
What they should do: If they find teams willing to trade for Bennett and Ryan, they will. The lack of goalies with expiring contracts could make Rittich valuable, and the Flames should listen. But the bulk of the work will clearly come in the offseason, when Calgary will scrutinize its core of players to see if it’s time – finally – to put the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau era behind them.
Status: The search for Connor and Leon will help
Players, pick a game: 2021 first round pick, 2022 second round pick, D Caleb Jones ($850,000, 2022 RFA), D William Lagesson ($725,000, 2022 RFA).
What to look for: The Oilers are reportedly targeting two forward positions. Firstly, we need a centre who can play on the back six, preferably a right half, and preferably one who can win faceoffs – Edmonton is 12th in the NHL with a 50.7 win rate, which is supported by the fact that Leon Draisaitl wins 56% of his faceoffs.
The second is the top-six left winger, so they won’t be able to use Kyle Turris’ two goals in 23 games at that position if Draisaitl moves to the McDavid line.
What they should do: Edmonton is another team that is in and out of money because of their salary cap. But they also lack a lot of choice and perspective: The Oilers don’t have a second, third or fifth pick this summer. Luke Glendening seems like the obvious solution to the faceoff problems, as general manager Ken Holland signed him as a free agent while he was still with the Red Wings.
As for the winger, we’d all love to see a reunion with Taylor Hall, right? The money doesn’t really work, and Hall has a nightmare season that may not justify the investment, but if we say that often enough, we may be able to imagine a deal that exists.
The Oilers will also wait until the offseason to revamp parts of the defense and goalies.
Status: Expect sculptures
Players, draw lots: Recruit 2021, left wing/back Paul Byron ($3.4 million, UFA 2023), left wing/back Artturi Lehkonen ($2.4 million, RFA 2021).
What to look for: Habs general manager Marc Bergevin is one of the most aggressive general managers in the NHL when it comes to strengthening the team – just ask former coach Claude Julien, who was fired after 18 games this season. Bergevin started early this deadline season and traded up at the 26th. Third and fifth round picks to the Sabres for veteran center Eric Staal.
The good news is that this is a pretty solid roster, and the holes probably won’t be repaired until the offseason. The bad news is that the Canadiens are closed and would do better to get rid of some salaries at the deadline.
What they should do: Byron has seen a lot of rejection. Lehkonen has been dropped several times. Taking over both of Montreal’s payrolls would take some pressure off of Montreal, though both could be valuable to the Canadiens in the postseason.
If space permits, the Canadiens would do well to add another defender to create depth. They still have plenty of picks this season – two second, two third, three fourth and two fifth – to use for a D-man whose contract is expiring.
Status: Construction continues
Players, pick a game: C/LW/RW Ryan Dzingel (3.375 million, UVA in 2021), Eric Gudbranson (4 million, UVA in 2021), D Mike Riley (1.5 million, UVA in 2021), Chris Tierney (3.5 million, UVA in 2022).
What to look for: What a strange feeling not to see Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion with one of the most coveted players. I would argue that this means the Senators are rebuilding and constantly selling their best players before leaving as free agents.
Unfortunately, this means Ottawa is short on top-level veterans after Jean-Gabriel Pago was traded to the Islanders in 2020.
What they should do: The Senators could have used a few more options this year, missing the fourth and fifth rounds and only having one option in the third round. Jingle can be traded for a high price or a mid-range player. Gudbranson and Riley would be interesting opponents, although the latter has increased his value more this season than the former.
Tierney, 26, could use a change of scenery after his point production and ice time declined this season. Is this additional contract year attractive to applicants or does it discourage future expansion?
Status: The engine of a large market
Players, choices in the game: Draft 2021, D Travis Dermott ($874,125, RFA in 2021), C Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million, UFA in 2023), D Timothy Liljegren ($1,263,333 AAV, RFA in 2022).
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What to look for: According to GM Kyle Dubas, everyone needs to pay attention. The Leafs will continue to improve their team this season by any means necessary. That meant trading for better prospects, trading for their first choice, trading for a veteran with a term like Kerfoot if it meant getting someone better in that role.
They have a particular need to attack, especially on the wing. But concerns about Frederik Andersen’s health could mean the Leafs also take out insurance on the goalie.
What they should do: Taylor Hall, if money can be had, would be a really intriguing addition to this team. This is an ideal situation for him because he can play a supportive role while others are in the spotlight.
But if they can’t find a way to trade Buffalo, Hall’s former New Jersey teammate Kyle Palmieri is a player the Leafs should be interested in.
On the goalie front, Dubas is expected to be on the phone with Florida general manager Bill Zito about what to add to goalie Michael Hutchinson to trade Chris Driedger.
Status: Many veterans may be on the move
Players, pick a game: D Jordy Benn ($2 million, UFA 2021), D Alexander Edler ($6 million, UFA 2021, buyout clause), C Adam Gaudette ($950,000, RFA 2021), AL Tanner Pearson ($3.75 million, RFA 2021), C Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million, RFA 2021, no-trade clause for 15 games), AL/AL Jake Virtanen ($2.55 million, RFA 2022, trade protection).
What to look for: What a difference a season makes. At the last trade deadline, the Canucks got Tyler Toffoli from the Kings, who helped them through a couple of rounds in the playoffs. But due to player relapses, injuries and poor decisions – like not contracting Tyler Toffoli – the Canucks are not in a position to make the playoffs and must try to build a pipeline this time around.
They have some desirable players, but some are limited by trade defenses: Edler’s motion clause and Sutter’s partial prohibition clause in the first place. (Then there’s the no-trade clause for Travis Hamonic, but we didn’t mention that here because he’s not giving it up for a team outside of Western Canada). Mud is also in the water from a health standpoint, as Tanner Pearson is currently out with an injury.
What they should do: Instead of making a draft pick, the Canucks should use the leverage of their players with expiring contracts to try to attract younger players with cheaper contracts who can help fill out their bottom six at the forward position.
Removing Sutter, Edler (if possible), Benn, Gaudet and/or Virtanen makes sense. But if there is a cheap deal to keep Pearson, GM Jim Benning should consider it.
Status: Do you want to D
Selected players : Draft 2021, LW Jansen Harkins ($725,000, RFA in 2022), D Sami Niku ($725,000, RFA in 2022).
What to look for: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has already made his presence felt this season with the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade to Patrick Len in Columbus. It’s hard to imagine him not playing with a very deep group of forwards anymore, and he doesn’t have to worry about the goalies with Connor Hellebuyck on the team.
This is a defensive corps that needs a stopper to unify the group. The Jets have their pick in the first three rounds. Harkins was cut, and Niku is unlikely to be included in his plans after this season, given his position on the depth chart.
What they should do: The 2021 class of defensive players could mean that players like Mattias Ekholm, David Savard and Alex Goligoski are on the Jets’ radar. Ekholm is the best of the bunch, but the Predators are back in the playoffs and he has a year left on his contract.
Goligoski is a possibility as a UFA, but Savard also has an expiring contract and is a better player. But if Lane is successful, will Columbus pick up the phone when Cheveldayoff calls back?
Status: Let’s get down to business.
Players, pick a game: LW/RW Danton Heinen ($2.8 million, RFA in 2021), D Ben Hutton ($950,000, UFA in 2021), S Adam Henrique ($5.825 million, UFA in 2024, no-trade 10-team), D. Josh Manson ($4.1 million, UFA in 2022, no-trade 12-team roster), AL/AL Rickard Rakell ($3,789,444, UFA in 2022), AL/AL Jacob Silfverberg ($5.25 million, UFA in 2024, no-trade 12-team roster).
What to look for: This is the third consecutive season Anaheim has missed the playoffs, and the youth movement continues.
Winger Trevor Zegras and defender Jamie Drysdale join Troy Terry, Sam Steele and Max Jones in the Ducks’ next group. GM Bob Murray can either retain some of his veterans to develop young talent in hopes of finding the right balance between rookies and veterans, as the Kings seem to have done. Or the Ducks could start replacing parts of the team as part of a larger overhaul, like (finally) cutting the defense, which has been better on paper than on the ice in recent years.
One player who has drawn a lot of attention is Rakell, the team’s top scorer at 27, who has two 30-point seasons to his credit. Many general managers were surprised to hear that Rakell could be available, as he is a contracted player in his prime. If Murray is looking for significant consideration – first rounder and more – Rakell could make that offer. The Ducks traded Bobby Ryan for the 25-year-old when the trade deadline for his contract had not yet passed. Same power here.
What they should do: The obvious answer is to keep telling Ryan Getzlaf how great Denver and Las Vegas are at this time of year, hoping the 35-year-old captain is willing to give up a non-movement point. But he has shown no interest in leaving his family in Anaheim to win (another) Stanley Cup, so we assume he’s gone.
Although his defense is prohibitive and the eviction draft complicates things, Manson is someone the Ducks should try to trade. The 29-year-old has value as a physical defender – a coveted type of player this season – and both the player and the team would benefit from a transfer.
Status: Only small movements
Players, pick a game: LW/RW Drake Caggiula ($700,000, UFA in 2021), D Alex Goligoski ($5.475 million, UFA in 2021, list of eight teams not making a trade), C Derick Brassard ($1 million, UFA in 2021), D Jason Demers ($3,937.500, UFA in 2021), C Christian Dvorak ($4.45 million, UFA in 2025), G Darcy Kuemper ($4.5 million, UFA in 2022), D Jordan Oesterle ($1.4 million, UFA in 2021), G Antti Raanta ($4.25 million, UFA in 2021).
What to look for: The Coyotes have two types of players that other teams will be interested in. They have experienced players with expiring contracts who are worth different amounts. Goligoski may have the most to offer in this category, as the defender is on the wish list of many teams.
Then there are the key players who are still under contract. Kemper, Dvorak and Garland are all on the radar of other teams. They probably won’t play this semester either, despite the win they could have had. Garland in particular, 25, seems to fall into the category where other general managers are asking for him, not the Coyotes.
What they should do: With the trade deadline approaching, the Coyotes’ final spot in the West Division is also in sight. This likely rules out dramatic moves by players in the long run. GM Bill Armstrong’s office is still in evaluation mode and wants to look at these key players under the pressure of a playoff run.
Their rivalry in the play-offs has also given UEFA food for thought. What kind of signal would a team send if they were in the playoff race and still used four players? It’s an understandable concept, but the Coyotes better get what they can for their UFAs – especially Goligoski, who will be a real headache for the right counterpart.
Status: Strengthen long playoff runs
Player of choice in game: 2021 first-round pick Dee Ryan Graves ($3,166,667, UFA 2023), C.J.T. Comfer ($3.5 million, UFA 2023).
What to look for: The Avalanche are one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup this season, but they still have some areas to improve. Firstly, reserve goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer was absolutely spectacular in his not-at-all contract year. Paul Fransuz has not played this season due to a long-term lower-body injury. Jonas Johansson, recently acquired from Buffalo, is a stopgap. Depending on Fransuz’ status, they should be in the market for a proven goalie who could be an insurance policy for Grubauer.
Colorado could also be looking to upgrade the center of the bottom six, as Compher has been replaced in all 26 games he has played this season (minus-1.7 goals). The Avalanche could also use a defender with playoff experience. You know, your man Ian Cole. What happened to that guy?
There’s always the possibility that they shoot for the moon and sign a veteran with an expiring contract – Kyle Palmieri would look good on this team – in exchange for hockey money.
What they should do: Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reports that the Avalanche have chosen James Reimer from a surplus of Hurricanes goaltenders. He’s an upcoming UFA, he’s a valued teammate, and he’s exactly the player they’re looking for.
We put Graves on the roster because he hasn’t been able to perform since last season, and because he has a very good contract. With some interesting defensive players on the market for tackles, there could be a chance for a hockey deal. But it would also be wise not to judge a 25-year-old for falling behind in a crazy season like this.
Status: A little goes out, a little comes in ….
Players, pick a game: AL/AL Dustin Brown ($5.875 million in 2022, non-trade list with seven teams), AL Alex Yafallo ($2.425 million, 2021 UFA), G Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million, 2023 UFA), Catcherspace
What to look for: The Kings are getting closer in the playoff race, while the Blues are opening the door for the last spot in the West Division. They’ve already traded Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux, who is under contract until 2022, and Ottawa defenseman Christian Wolanin.
GM Rob Blake is in an excellent position: Young players from the NHL’s deepest coaching staff are starting to fill out the squad, veterans are going through their best season, and Los Angeles is back to square one as a playoff contender. Although he has a long-standing relationship… Brown, quick… He also wants to develop this list in the long term.
There is speculation that Blake is looking for a young left back with a contract; for example, the Kings have the resources to bring in Zack Wierenski if Columbus thinks he is the next talent out the door in 2022. There was also more than a little NHL Cup matchup between the Kings and Sabres over a possible Jack Eichel trade.
What they should do: Iafallo is a 27-year-old forward who can thrive in a variety of roles and would certainly be a rental player, but the Kings are expected to extend him rather than trade him, and that’s the right move.
If they can find a contract soon, they should take that chance, considering how good Cal Petersen has been for them. Brown is a more complex business option. Yes, he could be interesting – just look at the needs of the Islanders and how Brown’s style would fit on a Barry Trotz team. But he was outstanding for the Kings (14 goals in 31 games) as the team stayed in the playoff hunt and is a key leader around the young players. If this isn’t an offer that allows Blake to cross a team off Brown’s list of accepted destinations, then L.A. should stay with him. At the very least, it will mean that the team has stepped on the gas pedal and is going into the competition with full force.
Status: I would wisely add
Players, pick a game: C/LW Marcus Johansson ($4.5 million, UFA in 2021, 10-team unavailable for sale), his own first-round pick, and Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2021.
What to look for: General manager Bill Guerin has stated unequivocally that he will not sacrifice the future of the Wild to competition this season. He’s not a fan of loans, but he’s not afraid to add to the team as long as the cost is low. It’s clear that he’s playing with the Wilds as long-term contenders. Sure, Guerin talked about Minnesota as a team that can beat anyone, but the reality is that if a veteran gets his first chance to win at the end of his contract, it won’t make the Wild any better than Colorado or Vegas.
What they should do: Of all the expiring contracts, Johansson has proven to be the most attractive option – that is, until the recent run of games in which teammate Kevin Fiala has shown some signs of his attacking potential. Guerin is right to play to his strengths – the Kirill Kaprizov era has just begun, after all – but if there’s one place where a trade could help immediately, it would be in the faceoff circle. The Wild rank 30th in the NHL in points (45.8%). What will it take to contract Detroit’s best offensive lineman Luke Glendening (and a free agent)?
Status: Let’s get down to business.
Players, pick a game: G Devan Dubnyk ($2,166,667, UFA in 2021, no-trade 10 teams), C Patrick Marleau ($700,000, UFA in 2021), LW/RW Matt Nieto ($700,000, UFA in 2021), cap space
What to look for: There are few NHL teams with contracts as unwavering as the Sharks’. As if the cap hits of Erik Karlsson and Mark-Edouard Vlasic weren’t disheartening enough, they also have full clauses with no movement. Brent Burns has trade protection and a cap hit of $8 million through 2025. Evander Kane is not for sale. Martin Jones earns $5.75 million on the cap through 2024, in case anyone else wants it. All this makes rebuilding or starting over a real challenge for general manager Doug Wilson, unless he wants to fall back on some of his starters like Logan Couture, Timo Meyer and Thomas Hertl. Instead, it will likely be traded from the bottom of the pack.
With so many teams looking for certainty in goal, Dubnyk needs to give something back, even though he hasn’t been much better than Jones this season. If Nieto is healthy, it might be worth looking for another pick-six. It’s hard to imagine Marleau going up against Gordie Howe, who always plays with something other than a pure wood jumper, and his play this season certainly hasn’t generated interest on the trade market. But there’s always the possibility that a contender wants a solid veteran and Marleau will go for the Stanley Cup one more time.
What they should do: Trade all the outstanding UFAs and check out Hertle’s chances as a free agent in 2022, and keep praying the Seattle Kraken take Brent Burns’ contract off their books in the expansion draft.
Status: Do you want to add
Players, pick a game: D Vince Dunn ($1.875 million, RFA 2021), RW Mike Hoffman ($4 million, UFA 2021), a first-round pick in 2021.
What to look for: The Blues’ dramatic fall in late March paved the way for a fourth-place finish in the West Division. St. John’s St. Louis already had to worry about the improvements needed to beat Colorado or Vegas in the playoffs. The Blues must now consider what steps they need to take to qualify for the post-season.
The two players on the roster getting the most attention from other teams are Hoffman and Dunn. Hoff has been cut from the roster lately, which seems more like an attempt to make him work than a harbinger of a possible deal. But given his contract, lack of trade protection and inability to score goals in a meaningful way at St. Louis, he’s a very good player. In the St. Louis area, he could find himself in a cash-for-cash transaction in a single move.
Dunn doesn’t have it easy, as the Blues have leaned heavily on him due to numerous injuries on their blue line. He has good skills and the defenders are at their best at the moment, but is it better for the Blues to stick with the 24-year-old Pucker?
What they should do: It’s the perfect spot to land Taylor Hall, if the Sabres winger was willing to put his… Oh, who are we kidding, of course he would waive his movement clause. The Blues have scored two goals or less in eight of their last ten games. Hall remains a great offensive talent, even if his production has declined in Buffalo. Trade Hoffman for Hall, and the Sabres keep Hall’s cap hit saturation and get picks or a prospect in the deal. General Manager Doug Armstrong has not hesitated to take aggressive steps to modernize his team. It would shake things up.
Status: You want another big splash?
Players, pick a game: LW William Carrier ($1.4 million, UVA 2024), D Nick Holden ($1.7 million, UVA 2022), RW Ryan Reeves ($1.75 million, UVA 2022), first-round pick in 2021, second-round pick in New Jersey 2021.
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What to look for: When the trade deadline arrives, the Golden Knights will be active. Their first season included a trade with Tartar, the blockbuster Mark Stone in year 2, and the acquisitions of Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner last season.
The difference is that the Golden Knights have virtually no room this season, both because of their mid-season commitments and their hard ceiling. This increases the likelihood that, if they switch, they will not only invest money but also spend money, which would eliminate otherwise attractive role players like Carrier and Reaves, who could potentially play.
What they should do: Vegas is an elite candidate for the Stanley Cup. They are also on the field for the Kong vs. Godzilla clash with the Avalanche, and may yet have to pass the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the championship. This path would be much easier to follow if the Golden Knights had another center with impact in their lineup. Given their roofs and the market situation, this is probably not an option. But we’ll never bet against Vegas at the deadline.
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