Buyers or Sellers? 10 NHL Teams That Should Make Deals at the Trade Deadline

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2022

Buyers or Sellers? 10 NHL Teams That Should Make Deals at the Trade Deadline

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The NHL's March 21 trade deadline is two months away, but speculation is already brewing over which players could be on the move. Such notables as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Dallas Stars blueliner John Klingberg have surfaced in the rumor mill as potential trade candidates.

    Given their position near the bottom of the standings, the Coyotes, Blackhawks and Stars could become sellers by deadline day. Such clubs tend to ship out impending free agents they don't intend to re-sign or veterans on long-term contracts who no longer fit into their plans.

    Some of those players might end up with contenders seeking depth for the long postseason grind. The Florida Panthers could be among this season's buyers. On Jan. 9, Florida Hockey Now's George Richards reported the Panthers are expected to be busy in the trade market.

    Here's our look at five teams that should be buyers and five that should be sellers by the NHL trade deadline. Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section.

Buyer: Boston Bruins

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    It's been an interesting season for the Boston Bruins. At the time they played their final game of 2021 on Dec. 16, they were sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff standings and seemed in danger of tumbling further out of contention. After winning 10 of 13 games since Jan. 1, they have a firm hold on the final wild-card spot and seem poised to rise up the Eastern Conference standings.

    The Bruins had been among the NHL's top teams over the past four seasons, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 and winning the Presidents' Trophy in 2020. With stars such as Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask aging and slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer, this might be the last best opportunity for this Bruins core to pursue a Stanley Cup.

    General manager Don Sweeney could get into the trade market to address his club's need for an experienced left-side defenseman. On Jan. 20, Boston Hockey Now's Jimmy Murphy suggested Montreal Canadiens blueliner Ben Chiarot as a trade option. He still hasn't found a suitable replacement for the departed David Krejci as their second-line center. Perhaps he'll put in a bid for San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl.

    Sweeney could be reluctant to part with his first-rounder in this year's draft or top prospect Fabian Lysell. He does, however, have a trade chip in winger Jake DeBrusk, who requested a trade in November. The 25-year-old winger has struggled to establish himself as a scoring forward and might benefit from a change of scenery.

Seller: Arizona Coyotes

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    Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong was a seller last summer, shipping out veterans such Darcy Kuemper, Christian Dvorak and Oliver Ekman-Larsson for draft picks and prospects. With his rebuilding club near the bottom of the standings, there's little reason to doubt Armstrong could be a seller at the deadline.

    With just six players under contract for 2022-23, the Coyotes have a large number of players slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Most of them probably won't be back, giving Armstrong plenty of rental assets to dangle in the trade market.

    Phil Kessel is the best of this bunch. A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 34-year-old isn't the high-scoring right winger he was in his heyday. Nevertheless, he's second among the low-scoring Coyotes with 27 points in 40 games. He could draw interest at the deadline because the Coyotes will have paid most of his $6.8 million cap hit by that point.

    A more tantalizing option, however, is Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old mobile defenseman is signed through 2024-25 with an affordable $4.6 million cap hit and is rumored to be drawing considerable interest from other clubs. Armstrong isn't under pressure to move him before the trade deadline, but he could ship him out for a package of a good young NHL players, a top prospect and a first-round pick.

Buyer: Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes are among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. However, they could face some stiff competition reaching the Stanley Cup Final from the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers or the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. That could spur general manager Don Waddell to go shopping before the trade deadline.

    Waddell has made some bold moves in recent years. Last summer, he successfully signed away Jesperi Kotkaniemi from the Montreal Canadiens and made a worthwhile gamble on Rangers castoff Tony DeAngelo. He acquired roster players Vincent Trochek and Brady Skjei at the 2020 NHL trade deadline.

    The Hurricanes still need to find a suitable replacement for departed mobile defenseman Dougie Hamilton. One target could be the Dallas Stars' John Klingberg. On Nov. 27, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reported they contacted the Stars to inquire about the 29-year-old blueliner.

    Klingberg's trade status has since become a hot topic. If Waddell remains interested, he might have to strike soon or risk losing out in a bidding war with other clubs.

Seller: Chicago Blackhawks

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Lurching out of the gate with one win, nine losses and two overtime losses, the Chicago Blackhawks replaced Jeremy Colliton as head coach with Derek King on Nov. 7. They have since gone 14-11-5, but their struggles in the early weeks of the season have hamstrung their efforts to climb back into the playoff race in the Western Conference.

    Appearing on Jan. 21 on NHL Network, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported hearing their list of protected players was small. Their biggest bargaining chip could be Marc-Andre Fleury. The 37-year-old goaltender is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He endured a difficult start to this season but under King has regained the form that won him the Vezina Trophy last season.

    The Athletic's Scott Powers reported a team source indicated there have been no contract extension talks with Fleury. He also cited two league sources speculating the three-time Stanley Cup champion could fetch a first-round pick. That's something the Blackhawks will need as they could give up their first-rounder to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the conditions of last summer's Seth Jones trade.

    Fleury carries a $7 million cap hit this season and has a 10-team no-trade clause. The Blackhawks could be forced to retain up to half of his cap hit depending on the cap space of the team that trades for him. It would be worthwhile in the short term, however, if the return is a first-rounder in this year's draft.

Buyer: Calgary Flames

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    The Calgary Flames are in a tight race with five other clubs for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. After getting bounced from the first round of the 2019 and 2020 playoffs and failing to qualify last season, general manager Brad Treliving could be feeling the pressure to reach the 2022 postseason. Perhaps he'll swing a significant move that helps his team stage a deep playoff run.

    With just four wins since Dec. 5, the Flames need some kind of boost to regain the form that had them jockeying for first place in the Western Conference in early December. That could force Treliving into the trade market. Otherwise, they could end up moving from buyers to sellers if they don't reverse their fortunes soon.

    Boosting the blue line could be Treliving's priority. On Dec. 27, Sportsnet's Eric Francis cited head coach Darryl Sutter lamenting the lack of a skilled puck-mover on his defense corps.

    Treliving failed to find a suitable replacement for longtime captain Mark Giordano after he was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in last summer's expansion draft. Francis predicted the Flames could attempt to bring back Giordano or acquire a defenseman of comparable skill.

Seller: Montreal Canadiens

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Over six months after staging an underdog run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens sit dead last in the overall standings. With former New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton installed as their executive vice-president of hockey operations and former player agent Kent Hughes recently hired as general manager, the Canadiens could commence rebuilding by the trade deadline.

    Gorton and Hughes could attempt to peddle core players such as goaltender Carey Price and right winger Brendan Gallagher. However, they both carry expensive long-term contracts, as well as lengthy injury histories. Shopping either player might have to wait until the offseason, when teams have more cap space and a willingness to swing big trades.

    The Canadiens' new management could look instead at moving out unrestricted free agents who could opt to sign elsewhere this summer. Defenseman Ben Chiarot falls into that category, sitting third on our January NHL trade block big board. A restricted free agent such as Artturi Lehkonen could also hit the trade block if he's only interested in a one-year deal that takes him up to UFA status next year.

    Players with a year remaining on their contracts, such as Jake Allen and Jonathan Drouin, could also become available for the right price. Gorton and Hughes could seek promising young players or draft picks if they intend to commence a full-scale roster rebuild this summer.

Buyer: Florida Panthers

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Jockeying with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the overall standings, the Florida Panthers must be considered serious Stanley Cup contenders this season. As we indicated in our intro, they are expected to be buyers leading up to the March trade deadline.

    Panthers general manager Bill Zito has shown a willingness to make deals during his 16 months on the job. He acquired top-six forward Sam Bennett at last year's trade deadline, so there's little reason to doubt he'll be active this time around.

    Florida Hockey Now's George Richards believes Zito will put his focus on bolstering his defense corps. He listed the Arizona Coyotes' Jakob Chychrun, Dallas Stars' John Klingberg, Seattle Kraken's Mark Giordano, Detroit Red Wings' Nick Leddy and Montreal Canadiens' Ben Chiarot as possible trade targets.

    Zito could attempt to add a stay-at-home left-side defender such as Chiarot to bring more grit to his lineup for the playoffs. However, a skilled puck-mover such as Chychrun or Klingberg would help take some of the offensive burdens off Aaron Ekblad.

Seller: Philadelphia Flyers

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    Jim McIsaac/Associated Press

    After missing the 2021 playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher made a series of offseason moves designed to get his club back on track. Out went Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, Philippe Myers, Nolan Patrick and Robert Hagg. In came Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen and Martin Jones.

    The Flyers got off to a decent start (8-4-2) to this season before going winless (0-8-2) in 10 games from Nov. 18 to Dec. 8, replacing head coach Alain Vigneault with Mike Yeo on Dec. 6. After winning five of their next six, they have endured a 12-game winless skid (0-9-3) and tumbled toward the bottom of the standings.

    Fletcher won't have much choice but to start shipping out veterans for picks and prospects if his club doesn't rally soon. That could include meeting with team captain Claude Giroux to decide the 34-year-old center's future. He's slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer but carries a full no-movement clause. Giroux would draw considerable interest if he agrees to be shopped to a contender.

    Ristolainen and fellow defensemen Keith Yandle and Justin Braun are also due to become unrestricted free agents this summer. While they won't fetch as much as Giroux, Fletcher should be able to get some draft picks for them from playoffs clubs seeking experienced blueliners.

Buyer: New York Rangers

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    For the first time since 2014-15, the New York Rangers are battling for first place in the Eastern Conference. After missing the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, they look to be on the verge of becoming a Stanley Cup contender this year. That could prompt general manager Chris Drury to make one or two acquisitions before the trade deadline.

    Drury's Rangers are well-positioned to become buyers this season. With $14.2 million in salary-cap space, they have plenty of room to acquire a playoff rental player or one with term remaining on their contract. Well-stocked with young talent already in the lineup and within their prospect pipeline, the Blueshirts can afford to draw upon some of their future assets to pursue more immediate help in the trade market.

    Perhaps Drury will seek a rental shutdown defenseman like the Montreal Canadiens' Ben Chiarot. Maybe he would prefer a young offensive blueliner with an affordable contract such as the Arizona Coyotes' Jakob Chychrun. Both players feature prominently on our January NHL trade block big board.

    With a knee injury sidelining Sammy Blais for the season, Drury could also look into bringing in a skillful second- or third-line winger. Options could include the Boston Bruins' Jake DeBrusk or the Coyotes' Phil Kessel. He could also pursue a bigger target such as versatile San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl.

Seller: Seattle Kraken

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    It's apparent the Seattle Kraken won't have the same on-ice success in their inaugural season as the Vegas Golden Knights did in theirs four years ago. Before the trade deadline, general manager Ron Francis could be fielding calls from playoff contenders willing to offer up draft picks and prospects for some short-term depth.

    Francis must build up his prospect pipeline if he intends to turn the Kraken into a playoff club within the next three or four seasons. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler has them sitting 32nd overall in his midseason prospect pool rankings. That's no fault of Francis' given his club's short existence, but he must add more promising talent to his system after this season.

    The Kraken have several veterans slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. Most of them might not fit into Francis' long-term plans and could decide to test the market this summer.

    Mark Giordano is the most enticing trade chip. The 38-year-old defenseman remains a well-respect puck-moving rearguard and leader. He could fetch a first-round pick from a contender desperate for blue-line depth. Other options include forwards Calle Jarnkrok, Marcus Johansson and Riley Sheahan.

                     

    Stats and standings (as of Jan. 24, 2022) via NHL.com, salary info and depth charts via CapFriendly with additional info via Hockey Reference.

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