Top Landing Spots for NHL's Biggest Trade Deadline Targets

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2021

Top Landing Spots for NHL's Biggest Trade Deadline Targets

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The NHL's 2021 trade deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. ET. While the big day is fast approaching, the trade market isn't as busy compared to previous years for several reasons.

    This season's stagnant salary cap means most playoff contenders have limited cap space. Several teams assumed to be sellers, such as the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators, have recently surged into playoff contention. Teams must also give consideration to their protection lists for this summer's expansion draft if pursuing a player signed beyond this season.

    Nevertheless, a couple of notable deals recently took place. In late March, the Buffalo Sabres traded center Eric Staal to the Montreal Canadiens. On Wednesday, the New York Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. 

    Several quality players remain available in the trade market. Sabres left wing Taylor Hall, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and St. Louis Blues winger Mike Hoffman are among the noteworthy talents on TSN's NHL Trade Bait List.

    So where could the biggest remaining trade targets end up? Here are the top landing spots for this year's candidates.

Mattias Ekholm: Montreal Canadiens

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Mattias Ekholm resided atop TSN's trade bait list for most of March. With the Nashville Predators fading in the Discover Central Division standings, it seemed only a matter of time until the 30-year-old was traded. However, following their recent surge into playoff contention, TSN's latest update saw the defenseman tumbling to No. 11.

    His trade value could also be dampened by the Predators' asking price.

    On March 23, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported they sought three assets, including a first-round pick and a top prospect (stick tap to The Score's Brandon Maron). The remaining year on his contract could complicate some teams' expansion-draft protection lists. The acquiring club must protect him or lose him to the Seattle Kraken.

    The Predators' ongoing improvement could take Ekholm off the trade block. If he's still available, however, the Montreal Canadiens need an experienced top-four left-side defenseman. They have the assets to make a deal. PuckPedia indicates they have nine picks between the second and fifth rounds of this year's draft. On Feb. 5, The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked the Habs sixth in prospect depth.

    With winger Brendan Gallagher placed on long-term injury reserve, the Canadiens have $2.03 million in additional cap relief to put toward acquiring Ekholm, who has $1 million left to be paid on his $3.75 million cap hit this season. The Habs could also include a player such as winger Artturi Lehkonen ($2.4 million) in the deal.

Nick Foligno: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno remains a fixture on TSN's trade bait list as his club's playoff hopes fade. The 33-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, making him a prime trade-deadline candidate. He carries a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million but with only $1.47 million still to be paid. He also has a 10-team no-trade list.

    On Wednesday, The Athletic's Aaron Portzline reported Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he won't trade Foligno without the captain's approval. Portzline also included the Toronto Maple Leafs among the teams believed to have an interest in him.

    On March 16, TSN's Kristen Shilton reported Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas indicated most of his trade discussions at that time had to do with forwards. Foligno is a versatile, two-way, top-six forward who can play center or left wing. His experience and leadership would make him a solid fit on the left side of one of their top two forward lines.

    The Leafs have only $626,110 in trade-deadline cap space, but a deal could still be possible if the Jackets absorb half of Foligno's cap hit and if Dubas packages center Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million annually through 2022-23) with a prospect in return.

Taylor Hall: Florida Panthers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Buffalo Sabres left winger Taylor Hall is the top forward on TSN's NHL trade bait List. The 2017-18 Hart Memorial Trophy winner is having a difficult season with just 19 points in 37 games on the floundering Sabres. However, the 29-year-old winger could become rejuvenated on one of the better teams in the league.

    Hall could be a good fit with the Florida Panthers. They are enjoying their best season in years, jockeying for first place in the overall standings. General manager Bill Zito could seek a defenseman to replace sidelined blueliner Aaron Ekblad, but he could also use some offensive depth behind high-scoring left wing Jonathan Huberdeau.

    The Panthers have $18.4 million in trade-deadline cap space after trading winger Brett Connolly to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in a five-player deal. They have the room to acquire Hall and his $8 million salary and still bring in a defenseman. Zito could also ask the Sabres to pick up part of Hall's cap hit.

    TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported on March 26 that Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams sought a first-round pick for Hall. However, he doubted Adams would get one in this trade market.

    Zito could instead offer up a second-round pick and a prospect. He could also add in a depth forward like Lucas Carlsson or Lucas Wallmark, both of whom were acquired in that multiplayer deal with the Blackhawks.

Mike Hoffman: Boston Bruins

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    Joe Puetz/Associated Press

    Boston Hockey Now's Jimmy Murphy reported the Boston Bruins were among the teams interested in Kyle Palmieri before the New Jersey Devils traded the winger to the New York Islanders. With Palmieri off the market, the Bruins could look to another winger such as Mike Hoffman of the St. Louis Blues.

    Secondary scoring remains an issue for the Bruins this season. The bulk of their production comes from the Perfection Line of center Patrice Bergeron and wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Their goals-per-game average has slipped from ninth last season (3.24) to 17th (2.75) this year. They need a scoring winger to skate alongside playmaking center David Krejci on their second line.

    A six-time 20-goal scorer, Hoffman could be a worthwhile option. The 31-year-old has struggled at times with the Blues but could regain his form with a different club. On Monday, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculated Blues general manager Doug Armstrong could be a seller if his club doesn't reverse its fortunes soon.

    Hoffman is on a one-year, $4 million contract with $1.07 million remaining. With $6.9 million in trade-deadline cap space, the Bruins can afford him but could ask the Blues to retain part of his cap hit. They could offer up a second-round pick or perhaps young forward Anders Bjork ($1.6 million) if they need to make the dollars fit.

David Savard: Winnipeg Jets

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Columbus Blue Jackets' fading playoff hopes pushed David Savard to the top of TSN's trade bait list. Dropping seven of eight games between March 22 and April 4 sent the Jackets tumbling in the Discover Central Division.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen could become a seller leading up to deadline day. With Savard an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he could be the perfect rental option for the Winnipeg Jets.

    On April 5, Sportsnet's Ken Wiebe cited Savard as a good fit alongside Josh Morrissey on the Jets' top defense pairing. The 6'2", 233-pounder is a physical shutdown defenseman with a right-hand shot and playoff experience.

    The Jets are up against the $81.5 million salary cap but can exceed it by $3.5 million with Bryan Little on long-term injury reserve. Savard carries a $4.25 million cap hit but has $1.14 million in actual salary remaining on his contract. Perhaps Kekalainen will pick up part of that cap hit for the right price, which could be a second-round pick and a prospect.


    Stats and standings (as of April 8, 2021) via Salary info via CapFriendly