10 NHL Players on Bad Teams Who Could Help Contenders at the Trade Deadline

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2021

10 NHL Players on Bad Teams Who Could Help Contenders at the Trade Deadline

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The NHL announced its 2022 trade deadline is set for March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. Fans can expect the usual flurry of activity leading up to that date. Playoff contenders will attempt to bolster their rosters while the non-playoff clubs attempt to shed free agents they can't or won't re-sign.

    With the NHL still amid preseason activity, it's far too early to know which teams will be buyers or sellers by deadline day. Based on the NHL's fantasy hockey team power rankings as of Oct. 1, we can get some idea as to which clubs could end up near the bottom of this season's overall standings. We can also determine which of their pending free agents could become trade bait.

    Teams in need of scoring punch could covet a forward such as the San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl. An experienced puck-moving defenseman like the Detroit Red Wings' Nick Leddy could be an enticing trade target for a contender. Clubs seeking goaltending depth could contact the Columbus Blue Jackets about Joonas Korpisalo.

    Of course, a lot can happen between now and next March. This list could require updating once the calendar flips to 2022 and we get a clearer picture of the standings and which players could become trade bait.

    For now, here's our very early look at 10 NHL players from 10 potentially bad teams who could help contenders at the trade deadline. If you agree or disagree with our take, drop a line or two in the comments section.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

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    Four years after reaching the Stanley Cup Final and three years after winning the Presidents' Trophy, the Nashville Predators could be heading toward the bottom of the 2021-22 standings. General manager David Poile spent this summer engaging in what he called a "competitive rebuild," trading away Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson. He could do the same with Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm.

    Forsberg and Ekholm are both slated to become unrestricted free agents next July. They could become valuable trade chips for Poile if he cannot get them under contract before the March trade deadline.

    Of the two, Forsberg could draw the most interest. A talented two-way forward, the 27-year-old left winger tallied 21-plus goals and 48 or more points in six straight seasons from 2014-15 to 2019-20. Injuries and a schedule shortened by COVID-19 prevented him from reaching those numbers last season.

    Forsberg also has plenty of playoff experience, including skating in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He's tallied 28 goals and 52 points in 71 postseason contests. Those stats could attract the attention of playoff clubs in need of a top-six left winger.

Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken

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    After spending 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Mark Giordano was selected by the Seattle Kraken during their expansion draft in July. His time with the NHL's newest franchise could be short, however, if they're near the bottom of the standings by the trade deadline.

    Selecting Giordano was a no-brainer for Kraken management. Winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2018-19 and former captain of the Flames, the 38-year-old's considerable experience, leadership and two-way skills should provide a measure of stability to their defense corps.

    Those attributes will also make Giordano an attractive trade target for contenders attempting to bolster their rosters for a deep playoff run. Most of his $6.75 million cap hit will be paid out by the Kraken before the trade deadline. His modified no-trade clause allows the Kraken to peddle him to 19 teams of his choosing.

    Giordano has never played for a team that has gone beyond the second round of the playoffs. The opportunity to play for a potential Stanley Cup contender, even as a rental player, could prove tempting.

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks

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    Once a Western Conference powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks failed to qualify for the playoffs over the last two seasons. With a roster featuring expensive veterans such as Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Logan Couture whose best days appear behind them, they could miss the cut again this season. That could turn Tomas Hertl into a bargaining chip near the trade deadline.

    A versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing, the 27-year-old's pending UFA status has already made him the subject of trade speculation. If he and the Sharks fail to reach an agreement on a contract extension, he could hit the trade block before the March deadline.

    Despite a history of knee injuries, Hertl has tallied 43-plus points in four of his eight NHL seasons entering 2021-22. That includes a career-high 74 points in 2018-19. He also tallied 24 goals and 42 points in 62 playoff games, appearing with the Sharks in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

    Hertl also carries a modified no-trade clause listing just three teams as preferred trade destinations. That will put a strict limit on where the Sharks could ship him. Nevertheless, it shouldn't quell interest from contenders looking for a reliable two-way, top-six center.

Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes

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    Phil Kessel has accomplished a lot over his 15 NHL seasons. He's tallied 391 goals and 904 points in 1,122 career games and won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. That resume could make him enticing for teams seeking an experienced postseason scorer.

    Now 34, Kessel's best years are behind him. His production tumbled after being traded to the Coyotes in 2019, netting just 14 goals and 38 points in 70 games in 2019-20. However, his stats improved last season, tallying a team-leading 20 goals and 43 points in 56 contests.

    Kessel might not be capable of full-time first-line minutes at this stage of his career. However, he'd make a fine complementary second-line forward with the right playoff contender. He's a proven postseason producer, with 34 goals and 81 points in 96 games.

    With a modified no-trade clause listing eight trade destinations and the Coyotes carrying $6.8 million of his $8 million annual cap hit, Kessel might not be easy to move. Still, Coyotes management could be willing to absorb part of their share of his cap hit for perhaps a couple of draft picks or a pick and a prospect. 

Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Sam Hodde/Associated Press

    The Blue Jackets signing goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year, $27 million contract extension likely spells the end of Joonas Korpisalo's tenure in Columbus. An unrestricted free agent next summer, the 27-year-old netminder could hit the trade block in March if the Jackets are near the bottom of the standings by then.

    Korpisalo was expected to replace Sergei Bobrovsky following the latter's departure to the Florida Panthers in 2019. But after four seasons as Bobrovsky's backup, he found himself jockeying with Merzlikins for the starter's job.

    Despite his uneven regular-season stats, Korpisalo put up solid numbers during the Jackets' appearance in the 2020 playoffs. While he won just three of nine starts, he finished with a 1.90 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and two shutouts. He allowed more than three goals just once during that run.

    Korpisalo could have something to prove as he enters his contract year. A solid performance in the regular season combined with his stellar 2020 postseason stats could make him the focus of clubs seeking goaltending insurance.

Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The New York Islanders traded Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings rather than risk losing him to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Depending on how things shake out in Motown for the 30-year-old defenseman, he could be on the move before the March trade deadline.

    A smooth-skating offensive blueliner, Leddy reached or exceeded 31 points in seven of his 11 previous NHL campaigns. He also has 121 postseason games on his resume, won a Stanley Cup in 2013 with the Chicago Blackhawks and helped the Islanders reach the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and the 2021 semifinal.

    The Red Wings could be reluctant to part with Leddy if they're within striking distance of a playoff berth by deadline day. If they're once again near the bottom of the standings, however, they could shop him if unable to reach an agreement on a new contract.

    Leddy's puck-moving abilities and playoff experience would make him a welcome left-side addition to any blue line. His lack of no-trade protection also provides the Wings with plenty of leeway over where to peddle him.

Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks

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    The rebuilding Anaheim Ducks could be sellers at this season's March trade deadline. Three veterans— defensemen Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm and winger Rickard Rakell—are likely to become trade candidates because of their UFA status in July.

    Of the three, the 29-year-old Manson's could draw the most interest. As teams tend to tighten up defensively during the postseason, his style of game would make him a solid addition for clubs in the market for an experienced shutdown blueliner.

    Injuries limited Manson to 73 games over the last two seasons. When healthy, however, the 6'3", 224-pounder is a physical defensive rearguard. During 74 games in 2018-19, Manson led the Ducks with 184 hits and was fourth in blocked shots with 90. He also logged a team-leading 3:11 in short-handed ice time per game.

    Manson's 12-team no-trade list will limit the number of potential trade partners for the Ducks. However, there should be enough suitable playoff contenders not on that list keen to add him to their defense corps.

Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres

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    The only player on our list not due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, Victor Olofsson is instead slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. However, that doesn't mean the 26-year-old Buffalo Sabres winger won't become a trade candidate by the March deadline.

    Olofsson will be only a year away from UFA eligibility at the end of this season. The Sabres faced a similar situation at the end of last season with Sam Reinhart and traded him on July 24 to the Florida Panthers. They could consider moving Olofsson if unable to secure his signature on a long-term extension.

    A scoring winger with a hard shot, Olofsson has been among the few bright spots for the sad-sack Sabres over the past two seasons. Making his full-time NHL debut in 2019-20, he tallied 20 goals and 42 points in 54 games and followed up with 13 goals and 32 points in 56 contests last season. He could put up better numbers on a deeper club.

    Sabres management could wait until next summer to put Olofsson on the trade block if it can't agree to a long-term deal. Still, the organization could be open to offers from playoff contenders seeking more than a postseason rental player.

P.K. Subban, New Jersey Devils

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    With the offseason additions of Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves and Tomas Tatar to a roster containing talented young center Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, the New Jersey Devils are among the clubs that could take a big leap forward this season. If they remain among the bottom feeders, however, P.K. Subban could become a prime trade candidate.

    Winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2012-13 and a finalist in 2017-18, the 32-year-old's production has declined over the past three seasons, tallying just 19 points in 44 games in 2020-21. Part of that could be the result of playing for a rebuilding team in New Jersey.

    Subban's offensive stats could improve if he joined a playoff contender seeking an experienced top-four defenseman. He averaged 22:22 of ice time per game last season and still possesses a big shot that can be deadly on the power play. Subban also has plenty of postseason experience with 62 points in 96 games, including a trip to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final with the Nashville Predators.

    A potential sticking point is Subban's contract. He lacks no-trade protection but carries a hefty $9 million cap hit, earning $8 million in actual salary this season. A cap-strapped playoff club seeking a puck-moving defenseman could attempt to entice the Devils into retaining part of his annual average value by offering up an extra draft pick or prospect.

Chris Tierney, Ottawa Senators

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    Peter Power/Associated Press

    Joining the Ottawa Senators as part of the return in the 2018 trade that sent Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, Chris Tierney could be on the move by the 2022 deadline. Teams in the market for a checking-line center could show interest in his services.

    A two-way forward, Tierney has two 40-plus-point seasons on his resume and might have had a third had the 2019-20 season not been prematurely shortened by COVID-19. His production declined last season as he played more of a defensive role.

    With promising young centers such as Josh Norris, Colin White and Shane Pinto likely to garner more playing time on the rebuilding Senators, Tierney could be coming to the end of his tenure in Ottawa. The Senators could attempt to move him by the March trade deadline if he doesn't fit into their long-term plans.

    Tierney's contract could also make him enticing for cap-strapped contenders seeking affordable depth at the deadline. His cap hit for this season is $3.5 million, and he lacks no-trade protection.


    Stats via NHL.com. Salary info via CapFriendly.


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