5 Win-Win Trades That Should Happen at the NHL Trade Deadline

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2021

5 Win-Win Trades That Should Happen at the NHL Trade Deadline

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Buyers. Sellers.

    Teams hoping make a run. Executives looking to save a job.

    It must be the NHL trade deadline, 2021 style.

    The transactional ceasefire arrives April 12 in a season that was delayed and truncated thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been stopped and started in several cities by players moving in and out of protocols.

    A mandatory quarantine for players crossing international borders will have an impact on would-be deals, as will a presumably flat $81.5 million salary cap heading into next season. And speaking of next season, teams will have to leave players exposed for a July expansion draft that will stock the Seattle Kraken.

    Got all that? Good.

    The B/R hockey team gathered amid the impending tumult to look at the players most likely to be dealt and to come up with sensible deals for several of them that would benefit both teams involved.

    A win-win list, if you will.

    Click through to take a look at the swaps we suggested, and drop in a viewpoint of your own in the comments.

Mattias Ekholm to Philadelphia for Shayne Gostisbehere

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    The wheels are turning in Philadelphia.

    The Flyers were the top seed in the Eastern Conference heading into last season's playoffs but have struggled this year and find themselves out of the postseason loop as 2020-21's penultimate month begins.

    General manager Chuck Fletcher already pulled the trigger on a surprise transaction Tuesday, waiving former top-pairing defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The 27-year-old was not claimed by any of the league's 30 other teams and will be placed on the Flyers' taxi squad for the time being, though the vibe around the city is that the move was simply a precursor to a larger blue line-centric deal on the horizon.

    Given his comparative youth at 30 and the one year remaining on a contract paying him $3.75 million per season, Nashville's Mattias Ekholm has emerged as an attractive trade target—he's sixth on Wednesday's TSN Hockey Trade Bait board—for any team seeking a big, talented rearguard at a reasonable price point.

    He's 6'4" and 215 pounds with a left-side shot that's netted him eight or more goals in four of the past five seasons, including a career-high 10 across 81 games in 2017-18.

    The two men's salary numbers are close enough that the teams could conceivably pull off the deal straight up, but it's far more likely the Flyers would have to add premium draft picks—presumably a first-rounder and more—to allow the Predators to propel a rebuild while Philadelphia gets a proven NHLer on Day 1.

Nick Foligno to Toronto for Alexander Kerfoot

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The Toronto Maple Leafs see an opening.

    They have been atop the North Division nearly all season, and similar success through the first two playoff rounds would mean a final-four berth and a chance to end a title drought that reaches back 54 years.

    They have scoring aplenty. But they need the sort of skilled physical presence that will matter come late spring.

    Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno provides that in a 6'0", 200-pound frame that's seen nearly 1,000 NHL games and more than four dozen more in the playoffs.

    Problem is, he won't come cheap. And the Leafs are already up against the salary cap as it is, meaning an all-in investment toward a first Stanley Cup since 1967 would cost some worthwhile talent to balance the books.

    We suggest a trio of younger, less established players, led by 26-year-old forward Alexander Kerfoot, who's never quite regained the form that saw him score 19 and 15 goals in his two NHL seasons in Colorado.

    He's scored 15 times in his first 101 games with Toronto, and he could head to Ohio with 21-year-old defenseman Timothy Liljegren and 19-year-old winger Nicholas Robertson. The former was a second-round pick in 2019 who scored 55 goals with Peterborough of the OHL, while Liljegren was a first-rounder in 2017 and played 11 NHL games last season.

    A significant price to pay for an aging free agent-to-be? Absolutely.

    Think it will matter if GM Kyle Dubas is riding shotgun in a Cup parade? No chance.

Luke Glendening to Edmonton for Draft Picks

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    This is where Ken Holland can earn his money.

    The Edmonton Oilers GM made his name and hung Stanley Cup banners while serving in the same role with the Detroit Red Wings, and he was an executive with that franchise when he plucked Luke Glendening from the University of Michigan as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

    The ex-Wolverine has since established himself as one of the league's most effective but least celebrated defensive forwards with a particular expertise in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill—areas where the Oilers have struggled in 2020-21.

    Holland's biggest problem is salary-cap room. He doesn't have any to speak of, per CapFriendly, which means he would have to get the Red Wings to eat the remainder of Glendening's contract (he's a free agent after this season) or convince them to take on an expiring pact in addition to draft picks in 2021 (they have fourth-, sixth- and seventh-rounders) or a more premium pick in 2022.

    Quite simply, this one will boil down to a relationship.

    If Holland can hit a sentimental nerve with former protege and current Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, it could get done. The Oilers would get a quality player with the skill set that they will need in the playoffs, and the Wings will add to a bounty of future picks.

Taylor Hall to Boston for Jake DeBrusk

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Now and then, there's one that makes sense for everyone.

    In our view, sending Taylor Hall to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Jake DeBrusk fits the bill.

    For those who have been living under a Wi-Fi-disconnected rock, former league MVP Hall took the short-term payday and ran to the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason, signing an $8 million deal for a year in competitive oblivion while he waited to see how the long-term market would shake out.

    It hasn't been that great an experience.

    With would-be running mate Jack Eichel sidelined, Hall has become the spotlight player on a historically bad team that defeated the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday to avoid going 0-for-March.

    He has two goals and 18 points in 35 games, is a minus-21 and, barring a move, has zero chance to reach the playoffs for the third time in 11 seasons.

    Fortunately, though, there may be an out.

    The 29-year-old has an oblivion soulmate in the form of DeBrusk, who has fallen off the radar in Boston with three goals in 21 games after posting 16, 27 and 19 in the three previous seasons.

    A change of scenery would presumably boost both men. Hall would get a chance to prove himself worthy of a long-term deal on a team with a chance to make a playoff run. Meanwhile, DeBrusk, still just 24, would automatically become a focal point with the Sabres with one more full year remaining on his contract. 

    Both teams have more than enough cap room to get it done—and the sooner the better for both players.

Kyle Palmieri to the New York Islanders for Kieffer Bellows

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    This one might have happened anyway.

    But the moment New York Islanders captain Anders Lee went down with a knee injury, it became incumbent upon GM Lou Lamoriello to make a move to add scoring pop.

    New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri certainly provides that, as evidenced by four seasons with 20 or more goals alongside a career-high 30 in his first season with the Devils in 2015-16.

    Meanwhile, winger Kieffer Bellows would add to an arsenal of young talent being stockpiled in the Garden State, and unlike a draft pick, his 22 AHL goals last season and three in 13 NHL games this year prove he will be capable of playing NHL minutes from Day 1.

    Like others before them, the Islanders are up against the salary cap as well, per CapFriendly, which would necessitate the Devils holding on to some salary and making some other creative moves too. Fortunately, that's one of Lamoriello's favorite pastimes, so there's a decent chance that if it starts, it will get finished.