The 5 NHL Players Likeliest to Be Traded Next

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2022

The 5 NHL Players Likeliest to Be Traded Next

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    It's beginning to look a lot like crunch time.

    Even though the 2021-22 season is just short of halfway complete for most teams, general managers around the NHL are already feeling the stress needle move as postseason races begin to take early shape.

    Which means the boundary line between buyers and sellers is beginning to become clear, too.

    And that March 21 is becoming a particularly important date in the future.

    Given that the trade deadline is a mere 63 days away, there's no doubt that the deals that will take place in the final hours leading up to it are already in the discussion stage here in mid-January.

    Some will happen because of player demands. Some will happen because of onerous contracts.

    And some will happen because executives are simply looking to save their jobs.

    The B/R hockey team got together to discuss the transactional landscape and assemble a list of the five players most likely to become the next dominoes to on the league's trade table.

    Click through to see what we came up with, and let us know how we did with a comment or two.

5. Phil Kessel, RW, Arizona Coyotes

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Phil Kessel has done it all, or at least most of it when it comes to the NHL.

    He's won a Masterton Trophy for individual exploits, been on two Stanley Cup championship teams, scored 20 goals or more in 12 seasons and scored 34 goals across 96 playoff games.

    This means—even at age 34 and in the homestretch of a 16-year career—he's got a lot to offer to a team looking for an experienced, clutch forward that can produce in the clutch.

    But something else is just as evident.

    His Arizona Coyotes, whose eight wins in 36 games were second-fewest in the league entering Sunday, won't have a whole lot of use for a clutch player anytime soon.

    Kessel's desire to play for a contender has been a topic of chatter since the start of this season. Now that the deadline is nearing, it's getting closer to a lock that Arizona GM Bill Armstrong will survey the market and take the best offer he can get for an expiring asset while continuing a desert rebuild.

4. Mark Giordano, D, Seattle Kraken

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    Joe Puetz/Associated Press

    Where some may be moved out of salary-cap necessity, it's possible Seattle defenseman Mark Giordano could have his tenure with the first-year Kraken cut short by the promise of a strong return.

    The 38-year-old was a veteran of nearly 950 games across parts of 15 seasons with the Calgary Flames before the Kraken plucked him in last summer's expansion draft. And he's been a sturdy asset during a difficult season in Seattle, contributing 12 points in 31 games while averaging better than 21 minutes per game.

    Still, as valuable as his skill set is to a team trying to establish itself, it's even more coveted by teams hoping to add a final piece or two on the way to a prolonged postseason run in a few months.

    Giordano will be an unrestricted free agent after finishing a six-year, $40.5 million deal this season. He'll be an attractive rental to some GMs and a potential target for a multi-year pact for others—perhaps even opening the door for a return to Calgary as the Flames gird themselves for the second half.

    Either way, the haul of draft picks and/or players he could bring in a trade has got to be too much for Seattle's Ron Francis to turn down as he continues building a competitive roster for the future.

3. Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    There are rentals. And then there are longer-term purchases.

    File Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun among the latter propositions.

    The 23-year-old Floridian was a first-round pick of the Coyotes in 2016 and has been an NHL regular since, logging 50 or more games in each of last five seasons. He had 18 goals and 41 points in 56 games in 2020-2021's abbreviated schedule, and earned 19 top-five votes in taking 10th in Norris Trophy balloting.

    This season hasn't been so prolific, but the fact that he's still a mobile defender who stands 6'2" and weighs 220 pounds—not to mention he's signed through 2024-25 at $4.6 million annually—may make him a prime target for teams looking to add a proven, left-shot blueliner with some term remaining.

    It'll likely take a significant haul of draft picks and young players to get it done, which eliminates as many teams as not, but that doesn't lessen the probability that at least one general manager will ring up Arizona's Armstrong with an offer he can't refuse.

2. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in inaugural season before losing to the Washington Capitals and have spent every moment since attempting to return to the brink of an NHL title.

    And make no mistake, Reilly Smith is a guy who can help that process.

    He's scored 82 goals in four full seasons with the team and has 11 goals and 29 points in 39 games this season as coach Peter DeBoer attempts to find the right mix to compete in the Pacific Division.

    But given the imminent arrival of Jack Eichel and his $10 million annual contract following surgery after a trade with Buffalo in early November, something is going to have to change to maintain salary cap comfort.

    The team is about $5.7 million under the cap at the moment, which means it'll take another $4.3 million or so heading out the door to allow for Eichel's addition to the active roster.

    That makes Smith, who's in the final year of a deal paying him $5 million per year, expendable.

1. Ben Chiarot, D, Montreal Canadiens

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Another defenseman. Another player in the final year of a deal.

    And another current team whose standings position indicates little reason to stick around.

    So add Ben Chiarot to the list of blueliners most likely to end 2021-22 in a new locale.

    The 6'3", 234-pounder is in his third season with Montreal after parts of six seasons in Winnipeg and has scored exactly 100 points in 448 games. He also played 20 minutes or more in 21 of 22 games (surpassing 30 twice) during the Canadiens' unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Final last summer against Tampa Bay.

    Fiscally speaking, he's on the final year of a $10.5 million deal and will become a free agent at season's end.  That makes him another attractive rental for another team looking for a steady commodity with proven postseason street cred—a situation he's comfortable playing through.

    Will he fetch a first-round pick to provide the final piece for a contender?

    The guess here is yes.