NHL Trade Block Big Board Entering November 2021
The puck dropped on the 2021-22 NHL season on Oct. 12. While we're only three weeks into the schedule, there's already been plenty of speculation bubbling in the trade rumor mill.
Most of the conjecture stems from the long-running impasse between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel over which medical procedure the 25-year-old center will undergo to repair a herniated disk in his neck. The futures of pending unrestricted free agents, such as San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl, have also become staples of trade chatter.
Early-season trades involving notable NHL talent are rarities in the salary-cap world. It could take weeks for the players on this list to be moved as teams continue to jockey for position in the standings.
The following is our evaluation of the NHL's top 10 trade candidates as the calendar flips to November. Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section.
The Selection Process
This list comprises 15 names based on media speculation since training camps opened in September through the end of October. Our top 10 will be chosen and ranked according to their level of talent, potential trade value and the likelihood of getting traded.
Entering November, our initial group is as follows in no particular order:
- Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
- Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
- Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
- Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
- Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
- Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks
- Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
- Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks
- Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
- Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
- John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
- Erik Brannstrom, Ottawa Senators
- Travis Hamonic, Vancouver Canucks
- Libor Hajek, New York Rangers
10. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
The rebuilding Anaheim Ducks could shop their pending unrestricted free agents, such as Hampus Lindholm, if they haven't re-signed them by the March 21 trade deadline. Lindholm lacks no-trade protection in his contract and carries a $5.25 million annual cap hit, though his actual salary for this season ($6.75 million) could make him difficult to move until later in the season.
A skillful all-around defenseman, the 6'4", 216-pound Lindholm reached or exceeded 20 points in each of his first seven NHL seasons. He can log big minutes in all situations and is as adept in a shutdown role as he is as a puck-moving blueliner.
Lindholm's skills have made him a topic of trade conjecture. On Oct. 12, The Athletic's Arthur Staple reported the 27-year-old was among a couple of defensemen New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello may have looked into acquiring during the summer. Lindholm could draw further interest from the Islanders or other clubs as the season progresses.
9. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
An unrestricted free agent next summer, Tomas Hertl's future with the San Jose Sharks was the subject of trade rumors before this season began. Depending on his performance and that of the Sharks, the 27-year-old center could remain in the rumor mill as the schedule rolls along.
Hertl is a skillful two-way forward who can play center or on the wing. He's reached or exceeded 43 points in four of his eight NHL seasons, including a career-best 74-point output in 2018-19. He also has a long history of knee injuries, but that isn't likely to dampen his value in this season's trade market if he remains healthy.
On Sept. 24, The Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka reported Hertl wasn't ruling out the possibility of accepting a hometown discount to remain with the Sharks. However, playing for a winning club remains his priority at this stage of his career. On Oct 24, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz indicated Hertl is optimistic about meeting with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson at some point to discuss a new contract.
After missing the playoffs in the past two seasons, the Sharks were an encouraging 5-3-0 record through October, with Hertl netting four points. Reaching the postseason, however, is not the sure thing it once was for this former Western Conference powerhouse. Hertl remains their best trade chip for rebuilding their roster if they should fall out of the playoff chase later in the season.
8. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
Playoff contenders in the market for a rental goaltender could be contacting the Columbus Blue Jackets about Joonas Korpisalo. The Jackets' recent signing of Elvis Merzlikins to a five-year contract extension suggests the Finn is likely in his final season in Columbus. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July, the Jackets could shop him rather than lose him next summer for nothing.
Korpisalo has already been pushed into a backup role this season behind Merzlikins, losing his only two starts with a 3.54 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He did put up good numbers in the 2020 playoffs, finishing with a 1.90 GAA, a .941 SP and two shutouts in nine games.
Those stats could make Korpisalo enticing for contenders seeking some insurance between the pipes. An improvement in his stats over the course of this season could also bolster his trade value. His affordable $2.8 million cap hit could also be attractive to cap-strapped clubs in need of early-season goaltending help.
7. Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to last season's trade deadline. While he wasn't moved, the 28-year-old's status as an impending unrestricted free agent could make him the subject of further conjecture this season.
Rakell's production suffered over the pass three seasons, but that could be related more to the Ducks' declining offensive punch during that period. Before that, he tallied 33 goals and 51 points in 2016-17 and a career-best 34 goals and 69 points the following season. He carries an affordable $3.79 million cap hit and lacks no-trade protection.
On Oct. 1, The Athletic's Eric Duhatschek speculated a solid bounce-back performance could improve Rakell's value in the trade market. He had four goals in the Ducks' first eight games until he was sidelined by an upper-body injury. How that affects his production over the remainder of the season remains to be seen.
6. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko regularly popped up in trade rumors during the offseason. The 29-year-old right winger requested a trade over his unhappiness with two shoulder surgeries conducted by the St. Louis Blues' doctors, consequent treatment by the medical staff and his reduced role last season.
A skillful scorer with five consecutive 32-plus goal seasons on his resume from 2014-15 to 2018-19, Tarasenko's three shoulder surgeries limited him to 34 games over the past two seasons. Now healthy, he seems to have regained his form with four goals and nine points in the Blues' seven games in October.
On Oct. 16, The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford shared his belief that Tarasenko will play the entire season with the Blues among his season predictions for the club. Interest in the winger could increase if he plays well, but Rutherford doubted general manager Doug Armstrong would move him.
Teams with an interest in Tarasenko during the summer could continue monitoring his performance as this season unfolds. Whether he gets moved before the March 21 trade deadline depends on which clubs can afford his $7.5 million cap hit through 2022-23 and what Armstrong sets for an asking price. It's doubtful he will be going anywhere if the Blues are a playoff contender by deadline day.
5. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Filip Forsberg has spent his entire 10-season NHL career with the Nashville Predators and is in the final season of a six-year, $36 million contract. On Oct. 15, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun speculated the Predators could shop the 27-year-old left winger if the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by the March 21 trade deadline.
Predators general manager David Poile said in July his club was engaged in a "competitive rebuild" following its decline since winning the Presidents' Trophy in 2018. That involved shipping out longtime Predators like Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson. On Sept. 28, Forsberg told Robby Stanley of 102.5 The Game in Nashville he would prefer to play out the final season of his contract before discussing a new deal.
Forsberg has tallied 21 or more goals and 48-plus points six times since 2014-15. He's off to a good start to this season, tallying six points in the Predators' eight games in October. His two-way abilities and postseason experience would draw the interest of playoff contenders looking for top-six forward depth.
4. Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks
Strome has been the subject of trade speculation since the season began. He tallied a career-high 57 points in 2018-19 but injuries and inconsistent play over the past two seasons sent the 24-year-old tumbling down the Blackhawks' depth chart. Despite a strong training camp, the forward was a healthy scratch in seven of their 10 games in October.
On Oct. 20, Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that the struggling Blackhawks weren't doing themselves or Strome any favors by keeping him out of the lineup. He suggested the Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild as clubs in need of centers.
As the calendar turns to November, there's no indication the Blackhawks are any closer to moving Strome. His performance over the past two years and limited playing time this season may have negatively affected his trade value. Perhaps he will draw more interest as the season wears on and injuries or slumps among other clubs take their toll.
3. Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
A promising young forward with the New York Rangers, Vitali Kravtsov recently returned to Russia to await a trade. He refused to report to the team's AHL affiliate in Hartford after being among the final round of training-camp cuts. On Oct. 12, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Rangers gave the 21-year-old winger's agent permission to speak with other clubs.
Selected ninth overall in the 2018 NHL draft, Kravtsov has been unhappy with his role on the Rangers. On Oct. 19, The Athletic's Arthur Staple cited sources who claimed that the youngster clashed with general manager Chris Drury when the latter was GM of their AHL club. The next day, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported Kravtsov believes the Rangers' depth means he will have difficulty becoming a top-six forward for the team.
Friedman also reported Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant reached out to Kravtsov to convince him to return. The youngster, however, has his mind made up. Sportsnet 590 The FAN's Nick Kypreos said on Oct 20 that up to 15 teams had inquired about Kravtsov. However, the Rangers' asking price of a top prospect may have cooled interest.
2. Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
It appears Phil Kessel is destined to part company with the Arizona Coyotes this season. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the 34-year-old winger is a likely candidate to be moved before the March 21 trade deadline.
On Oct. 5, TSN's Darren Dreger reported it's doubtful Kessel fits into the long-term plans of Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong. Dreger believed the veteran winger would like a fresh start with another club and a chance to earn a new NHL contract. Ten days later, PHNX's Craig Morgan reported Kessel wanted to be traded and that the club was trying to grant his wish.
Kessel's best seasons are behind him, but he has offensive experience and two Stanley Cup rings on his resume. He remains a durable and effective scorer, leading the Coyotes last season with 20 goals and 53 points in 56 games. With the Coyotes carrying $6.8 million of his $8 million cap hit, he might have to wait until closer to the trade deadline to move so that a contender can afford to acquire him.
1. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
The standoff between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel over which medical procedure he will undergo to repair the herniated disk in his neck remains among this season's biggest storylines. When healthy, the 25-year-old among the NHL's elite centers, making him the most desirable target in the trade market.
On Thursday, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talked about Eichel's possible suitors. They listed the Vegas Golden Knights, Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins.
The following day, Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli reported discussions between the Sabres and Golden Knights had picked up. He also indicated Eichel could soon file a grievance through the NHLPA if there was no sign of progress in reaching a resolution to this situation.
Seravalli believes the Golden Knights could be waiting for clarity on sidelined captain Mark Stone, who carries a $9.5 million annual cap hit. If Stone is out long term, it could provide them with some cap flexibility to make a deal.
Three days later, Friedman also reported that talks between the Sabres and Golden Knights had heated up. He believes the Golden Knights have done their homework on Eichel's condition and would allow him to undergo disk replacement surgery if they were to acquire him.
Uncertainty over Eichel's health, his $10 million annual salary-cap hit through 2025-26 and the Sabres' expensive asking price remain stumbling blocks in the path toward a trade. Those factors could ensure he remains in the rumor mill throughout November.
Cap information according to CapFriendly.