NHL Trade Block Big Board Entering January 2022

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2022

NHL Trade Block Big Board Entering January 2022

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    NHL fans hoping for a December blockbuster trade like November's Jack Eichel deal were left disappointed. Activity slowed considerably in the weeks leading up to the holiday roster freeze from Dec. 19 to 27.

    Three trades took place before the freeze, starting with the Buffalo Sabres acquiring goaltender Malcolm Subban on Dec. 2 from the Chicago Blackhawks. Seven days later, the Blackhawks landed winger Kurtis Gabriel from the Toronto Maple Leafs for minor leaguer Chad Krys. On Dec. 15, the St. Louis Blues shipped goalie Jon Gillies to the New Jersey Devils.

    Once the freeze lifted, the only trade that took place saw a swap of minor league forwards. On Dec. 29, the Minnesota Wild acquired Nolan Stevens from the St. Louis Blues for William Bitten.

    With the calendar flipped to January 2022, trade activity might pick up. The March 21 trade deadline remains over two months away, but some non-playoff clubs could start aggressively shopping potential free agents they cannot or will not re-sign during the offseason.

    Our January listing contains some new names such as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Meanwhile, several notables such as San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane remain on our trade board.

    Here are our top-10 trade candidates for January. Feel free to weigh in with our thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

The Selection Process

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    This listing is made up of 15 players based on media speculation throughout December 2021. The top 10 are chosen and ranked based on their level of talent, trade value and the possibility of getting dealt.

    Several players have dropped out of the top 10 for various reasons. For example, the Vancouver Canucks' front-office changes in early December have brought an end to the trade rumors involving players such as center J.T. Miller. He'll remain in our bottom five, as he could resurface in the rumor mill if the Canucks fail to become playoff contenders before the March deadline.

    Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala is another who slides out of the top 10. Linked to Miller in the November trade rumors, Fiala faded from the rumor mill as December rolled along. We've also dropped New York Rangers winger Vitali Kravtsov from the ranking. On loan to KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk, he cannot return to the NHL until this KHL season is over.

    The updated list is as follows, in no particular order:

    • J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
    • Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
    • Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens
    • Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
    • Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
    • Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild
    • Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
    • Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars
    • Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights
    • Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
    • Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs
    • Gabriel Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings
    • John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
    • Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings
    • Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken

10. Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings

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    The Detroit Red Wings acquired Nick Leddy from the cap-strapped New York Islanders in July. While he's brought stability and experience to their improving blue line, it's possible he'll be on the move again before the March trade deadline.

    On Dec. 3, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press praised Leddy's performance. She pointed out he's been a good defensive partner and mentor for rookie star Moritz Seider while logging roughly 22 minutes per game.

    St. James also suggested Leddy might not finish the season with the Wings. The 30-year-old blueliner is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He collected 30 assists in three straight seasons from 2015-16 to 2017-18 and had 29 last season with the Islanders. St. James believes he'll appeal to Stanley Cup contenders.

    The Wings, however, are also jockeying for a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. They could keep Leddy as an "own rental" if they're still in contention at the deadline. Nevertheless, the possibility he'll be available by March earns him a spot among our top 10.

9. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars rode Anton Khudobin's goaltending to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final after starter Ben Bishop was sidelined by what proved to be a career-ending knee injury. By December 2021, the 35-year-old found himself in the minors.

    Khudobin's 2020 playoff heroics earned him a three-year contract extension, which carries a $3.33 million annual cap hit. However, his performance suffered this season, and he dropped to third on the Stars' goalie depth chart behind offseason acquisition Braden Holtby and the promising Jake Oettinger. He'd been a healthy scratch since his last NHL game on Nov. 18.

    The Stars attempted to find a trade partner for Khudobin. On Dec. 4, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek said they were speaking with the Buffalo Sabres. Khudobin passed unclaimed through waivers and was loaned to their AHL affiliate on Dec. 14.

    On the same day, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported there was some interest in Khudobin, but those clubs would prefer the Stars retain part of his cap hit. If he plays well on the farm and regains his form, he could draw more attention from teams seeking experienced playoff depth between the pipes.

8. Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken

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    The Seattle Kraken are experiencing lots of firsts in their inaugural NHL season, including naming Mark Giordano as their first team captain. Over the next couple of months, they'll also have to endure trade rumors regarding the 38-year-old defenseman.

    Selected last summer from the Calgary Flames during the expansion draft, Giordano brings considerable experience and leadership. However, his eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July made him a bit of a gamble on the Kraken's part, as there's no certainty he'll re-sign.

    Giordano has fit in well with the Kraken, but he's at the stage in his career when his opportunities to win a Stanley Cup are dwindling. He won't get that chance this season in Seattle. In a Dec. 1 profile of Giordano, The Athletic's Dan Robson and Hailey Salvian indicated there's widespread speculation he'll be shipped to a contender by deadline.

    Teams with Stanley Cup aspirations seeking a top-four defenseman could cast their eye upon the Kraken captain in the coming weeks. There's a good possibility Giordano will be shopped if he and general manager Ron Francis fail to reach an agreement on a new contract.

7. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Sitting at No. 8 on our November trade board, Joonas Korpisalo dropped off our December listing as rumors about his future faded. However, the Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender is back on the board after ESPN's Emily Kaplan mentioned him on Dec. 8 among several netminders who could be available.

    Korpisalo's eligibility for unrestricted free-agent status this summer combined with Elvis Merzlikins' inking a five-year contract extension were among the factors that put him on our November board. The Jackets, however, seemed content to keep their goalie tandem intact.

    But with both goalies sidelined in early December by a non-COVID-related illness, the Jackets called up Daniil Tarasov on Dec. 2. The promising 22-year-old appeared in three games, including two starts. While he didn't win those contests, he finished with a solid 2.22 GAA and a .936 save percentage.

    Tarasov's performance could make the Jackets willing to entertain offers for Korpisalo. Kaplan wrote everyone she's spoken with believes they will part ways with him. He could draw attention from contenders seeking a backup goalie for the playoffs.

6. Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes

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    Phil Kessel continues to slide down our trade board since debuting in second place in our November rankings. Nevertheless, the 34-year-old winger remains among this season's top-10 trade candidates.

    As he's an impending unrestricted free agent on one of the league's worst teams, it's not a stretch to assume the rebuilding Coyotes will attempt to get something back for him rather than lose him for nothing to free agency in July.

    The Coyotes' $6.8 million share of Kessel's $8 million salary-cap hit remains an issue. Playoff contenders seeking experienced scoring depth could wait until the trade deadline to acquire him when they'll have more projected cap room to absorb his contract. They could also press the Coyotes to retain part of his cap hit.

    Kessel is no longer among the NHL's elite scorers, but he enters the New Year with a respectable 21 points in 30 games with the low-scoring Coyotes. His stats could improve on a deeper roster. On Dec. 8, Kaplan wrote his playoff experience is of interest to contenders. On Dec. 22, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggested Kessel could be a fit with the Oilers.

5. Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

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    Reports in late November claimed several clubs had expressed to Evander Kane's agent some level of interest in the left winger. On Nov. 27, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported an Eastern Conference team was focused on him.

    After serving his 21-game suspension for violating NHL COVID protocols, Kane was sent to the Sharks' AHL affiliate on Nov. 30.

    The trade conjecture elevated the 30-year-old Kane to No. 2 on our December trade board. On Dec. 11, Sheng Peng of San Jose Hockey Now reported the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maples Leafs had scouts in attendance when Kane made his debut with the San Jose Barracuda. However, he pointed out their trips were planned well before Kane's demotion.

    Things have since gone quiet on the Kane front.

    He remains in the AHL with no indication a trade could be close. His hefty contract remains a sticking point. He's earning an annual cap hit of $7 million through 2024-25. On Dec. 10, Kaplan reported the interested clubs were seeking another team to act as a third-party broker to retain part of Kane's cap hit.

    Despite his contract and several off-ice issues, he still has value as a power forward. Trading him remains difficult but not impossible if a three-team deal can be hammered out to make the dollars work. Still, a deal no longer seems as close as it did a month ago.

4. Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury overcame a rough start to this season to regain the form that earned him the Vezina Trophy last season. It's also pushed the 37-year-old on to our trade board for the first time.

    Like most on this list, Fleury is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. With the Blackhawks rebuilding and 10 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, he could attract interest from Stanley Cup contenders.

    On Dec. 8, Kaplan speculated the Blackhawks could be open to trade offers for Fleury. Perhaps those offers will come from the Colorado Avalanche or Edmonton Oilers. Both clubs are sitting among the bottom third in goals against per game.

    Fleury's 10-team no-trade clause and $7 million salary-cap hit could complicate efforts to move him if the Blackhawks decide to peddle him before the deadline. Still, his considerable postseason experience (including three Stanley Cup rings) would make him an attractive commodity.

3. Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens

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    The ongoing woes of the Montreal Canadiens cost general manager Marc Bergevin his job on Nov. 28, leading to a search for his replacement led by Jeff Gorton, their new executive vice president of hockey operations. Among the main orders of business for the Canadiens' new GM could be finding a new home for Ben Chiarot before the deadline.

    We had the 30-year-old defenseman among our top 10 on our November big board because of the Canadiens' poor performance and his status as an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 6'3", 234-pound shutdown blueliner is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Habs.

    Chiarot's style of play could draw interest from playoff contenders seeking a physical stay-at-home rearguard for the postseason. On Dec. 2, LeBrun said he believed Chiarot could fetch a first-round pick given the lack of rental defensemen available in the trade market.

    Interest in Chiarot could grow as the season progresses. He has a 10-team no-trade clause, but that might not be much of an impediment to finding a suitable trade partner. On Dec. 17, The Athletic's Marc Antoine Godin speculated contenders such as the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals could come calling.

2. Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins

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    Jake DeBrusk's trade request on Nov. 29 shot the 25-year-old winger to the top of our December big board. There was talk of as many as a dozen teams showing interest in the young forward, making it seem as though a deal could take place at some point in December.

    That trade, however, has yet to materialize. One reason was the Bruins had a shortage of players earlier in the month and couldn't part with DeBrusk. The other, however, appears to be management taking its time finding the right deal.

    On Dec. 4, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Bruins had let teams know they were going to work on their own timeline to move DeBrusk. He indicated they were seeking a forward or defenseman of equal value.

    That value is likely based on DeBrusk's promising back-to-back 40-plus-point performances in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Bruins management might be concerned that the winger could blossom with his new club, which would explain the asking price.

1. Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes

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    Jakob Chychrun seemed like an invaluable part of the Arizona Coyotes' rebuilding process. That no longer appears to be the case after Friedman reported on Dec. 15 that the Coyotes appear to be testing the market on the 23-year-old defenseman. The asking price is said to be "massive," but Friedman indicated it's not scaring off suitors. That's vaulted Chychrun atop our trade board.

    Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong declined to comment when Friedman asked him if he was entertaining offers for Chychrun. That he didn't outright dismiss the speculation suggests Armstrong is at least willing to see if there's a team that would meet his price. Friedman didn't indicate what that price was, but Sportsnet 590 The Fan's Nick Kypreos believes it would be "four pieces."

    Those could include at least one good young NHL player, a top prospect and a couple of draft picks, one of those being a first-rounder. That sounds expensive for Chychrun, whose stats have suffered this season with the depleted Coyotes. However, he finished with 41 points in 56 games last season, leading all defensemen with 18 goals. Chychrun also carries an affordable $4.6 million annual cap hit through 2024-25.

    A good, young puck-moving defenseman with an affordable contract will draw attention in the trade market. Kypreos believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested. On Dec. 20, Boston Hockey Now's Joe Haggerty suggested Chychrun would be a good fit with the Bruins.


    Stats are accurate as of Dec. 31 and are via NHL.com, with salary information via CapFriendly.