The Ideal Trade Targets for Each Western Conference Playoff Team
With a little over a month remaining until the 2022 NHL trade deadline, teams are beginning to home in on what areas they hope to address and who might match their needs. The Calgary Flames already made the first big move of this period, acquiring Tyler Toffoli from Montreal on Monday.
The eight Western Conference teams currently in playoff position each have not only different roster needs but also different salary cap availability, true assets and objectives for this season. Every team would love to make a massive move at the deadline, but some have to be more realistic about their expectations this season and what types of moves they can afford.
Last week we published ideal trade targets for the eight Eastern Conference teams in playoff positioning. Here are our choices for the Western Conference.
The Avalanche are a great team; arguably the best in the league. Don't mistake that for being a complete team, though. Their top players are doing a disproportionate amount of the pulling, with lots of room for improvement toward the end of the depth chart. The team could win the Stanley Cup as is, but executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic is going to do everything possible to stack the deck further with a big swing at the deadline.
Colorado's third defensive pairing is underwhelming with Bowen Byram still recovering from concussion issues, and the bottom-six forward group is nothing special. If a top goaltender unexpectedly hit the market, the Avs would have to at least do some homework too. There are upgrades to make all over the roster, and it won't be a surprise if Sakic makes multiple additions.
The one ideal target has to be Claude Giroux, who was linked to Colorado by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman during an appearance on NHL Network (h/t the Denver Post). The Philadelphia Flyers captain is still a high-end player, with 37 points in 45 games this season. Head coach Jared Bednar could either play Giroux at center to give the Avalanche an elite third-line pivot or use him as a top-six winger.
He would also be another option for the 20th-ranked penalty kill, and his veteran presence would be a welcome addition to what is a fairly young locker room. Sakic would have to make accommodations to open up cap space, but this is an all-in season in Colorado, so he'll do whatever it takes.
Ideal Deadline Target: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Are the Minnesota Wild anyone's idea of a true contender? Probably not, but they could justifiably make a statement at the trading deadline that indicates they're going for it. The Central Division is weak, so they'll have a favorable first-round matchup. They're top-10 in expected goals percentage, per Evolving Hockey, and have a loaded prospect pool to deal from. The Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts will hinder their roster building the next few seasons, too. Life is short, so why not take a chance? Maybe a big deadline addition pushes them into contender status.
There are no secrets about where Minnesota should make a move. This is a team desperate for help at center. Joel Eriksson Ek is a very good player and Ryan Hartman is having a career year, but neither is playing like a true No. 1 center.
Claude Giroux and J.T. Miller are options, but if Minnesota is really gunning for a game-changer, the best-case scenario would be a deal with the San Jose Sharks for Tomas Hertl. The 28-year-old is flirting with a 40-goal pace this season and has the skill necessary to complement fellow creatives Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello on the top line. His defensive game isn't stellar, but the Wild are a well-structured team already loaded with shutdown centers capable of playing in those situations. The Sharks are likely to miss the playoffs and will have to consider dealing Hertl soon if they're unable to agree to terms with the free-agent-to-be.
Ideal Deadline Target: Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
Few would have predicted in September that the Predators might be on a potential buyers list at the trading deadline. Stuck with no meaningful direction, Nashville GM David Poile started to dismantle the roster, trading long-tenured stars Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis for future pieces and somewhat committing to what sure looked like a rebuild.
Unexpectedly, the Preds find themselves in a wild-card spot and within striking distance of the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division. Rather than being sellers, is it possible Nashville could be looking to add ahead of the trading deadline?
It’s possible, but they probably should not. This is a team playing above its means, largely riding the excellent play of goaltender Juuse Saros. Their path toward contention is still unclear, both in the short- and long-term. The Predators need to run out the clock on a few suboptimal contracts, and their prospect pool is average at best.
If Poile makes a small move to add a depth player for a sixth-round pick, nobody should grab pitchforks, but the Predators should be looking to keep their trade assets for the future and consider this season a chance to gamble with house money. In fact, if leading goal scorer Filip Forsberg is not signed to a new contract soon, they might have to consider trading him and become deadline sellers after all.
Ideal Deadline Target: Nobody
St. Louis Blues
After an extremely disappointing 2020-21 season in which they hobbled into the playoffs before suffering a humiliating sweep against the Avs, the Blues are faring better this season. Vladimir Tarasenko has recovered some of his offensive form, Pavel Buchnevich has been a brilliant addition and Jordan Kyrou is finally developing into the All-Star player he has always shown the potential to become. While Jordan Binnington is struggling in net, Ville Husso has stepped up in a big way.
The Blues are still a ways off from the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2020. There are multiple reasons for that, with the biggest being a weak left side of their defense. Torey Krug is a great puck-mover but has never been adept defensively. Niko Mikkola has been serviceable but is nobody's idea of a top-four minute-eater for a playoff run. And with rookie Scott Perunovich hurt, St. Louis is using a rotation of struggling depth players on the third pairing.
The Blues are going to make a trade but should also be realistic about their place in the league. This is not a year to push all the chips to the middle of the table but instead make a more measured addition. Chicago's Calvin de Haan would be a really good left-handed defenseman to add without selling the farm.
When healthy, De Haan is one of the better shutdown defensemen in the NHL and could either slot alongside Colton Parayko for a staunch shutdown pairing or as a defensive complement to the offensive-minded Justin Faulk. De Haan, a pending free agent, could bring in varied returns depending on how the trade market develops, but the Blues could acquire him while keeping their first-round pick.
Ideal Deadline Target: Calvin de Haan, Chicago Blackhawks
Vegas Golden Knights
Never count out the Golden Knights, who always find creative ways to slip out of salary-cap trouble, but GM Kelly McCrimmon made his big splash in November when he acquired superstar center Jack Eichel. Eichel makes his debut Wednesday against Colorado and will effectively count as their deadline addition. Eichel was the ideal target for just about any team. Vegas got him. Job done.
The dilemma the Golden Knights now face is not necessarily about whom they could acquire but rather whom they might have to move out. Eichel coming off long-term injured reserve was going to put Vegas over the salary cap. An injury to Mark Stone, which has put him on long-term injured reserve, has bailed out the team for now.
Robin Lehner is undergoing injury evaluation, and the Knights would be in the market for a goaltender if he's forced to shut down. Absent that, the best Vegas can hope for is some salary cap sleight of hand, similarly employed by Tampa Bay last season, allowing them to keep Stone on LTIR until activating him during the playoffs. If that does not happen, then they will be forced to trade a player—likely winger Reilly Smith or defenseman Alec Martinez. For Vegas, a deadline win would be keeping everyone.
Ideal Deadline Target: Avoiding a cap casualty
The Flames made the first significant move of the trading period, acquiring winger Tyler Toffoli from Montreal in return for package including a first-round pick and prospect Emil Heineman. The Flames have three top offensive contributors in Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, but they have received little secondary scoring this season. Toffoli, under contract through 2024, scored 28 goals in 52 games last season and already scored in his Calgary debut. In the eyes of GM Brad Treliving, the Flames likely already got their ideal target.
If they were to make another move, however, what could that be? Even with the addition of Toffoli, there's still a lack of depth at forward. Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis are at the ends of their NHL careers and have run out of steam. Calgary could use a new fourth-line forward, preferably on right wing. This is a wide net to cast and could result in the acquisition of many different players.
Let's focus on Seattle's Mason Appleton. The 6'2" winger plays the heavy forechecking game that suits Flames head coach Darryl Sutter and, with a career average of one goal roughly every five games, has the finishing ability to give the Flames fourth line more offense.
Ideal Deadline Target: Mason Appleton, Seattle Kraken
Where do we even begin here? The Oilers have improved their record since firing head coach Dave Tippett, but that's not going to be enough to convince anyone that this team is headed in the right direction. New coaching staff, new players, it doesn't matter. The Oilers are still dependent on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to drag them across the finish line.
Where do the Oilers need to add? Everywhere and nowhere. The defense is porous, although increased minutes for Evan Bouchard might help. They still somehow lack wing depth even after signing Zach Hyman and trading for Warren Foegele in the summer and signing Evander Kane midseason. This team is so fundamentally broken that it's fair to question whether it even makes sense to further invest in it. Yet GM Ken Holland has little choice. Another underwhelming season for Edmonton is going to send everyone to DEFCON 1, with mass firings at minimum and a McDavid trade request serving as worst-case scenario.
Few playoff teams need anything more than the Oilers need a goaltender. Mike Smith is 39 and injury-prone, while Mikko Koskinen has not looked the part of NHL goaltender for years. Really, any semi-competent goaltender would be an improvement, but the Oilers need someone who can help them go deep in the playoffs. Given the current market, there's really only one serious option available.
Marc-Andre Fleury isn't having his best season in Chicago, but he won the Vezina Trophy last season and has the experience to withstand the pressure in Edmonton. If he's willing to waive his no-trade clause, the Oilers almost have to make a trade happen. Jobs might depend on it.
Ideal trade Target: Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
Los Angeles Kings
GM Rob Blake might make a massive addition in the coming weeks, but the deadline is almost incidental to that. The organization is overflowing with young talent, and there is not space for everyone. The Kings are a fringe playoff team and are unlikely to throw away prospects and picks for a rental, but they are in the hunt for NHL-ready talent to expedite their rebuild. The trading deadline is conducive to that kind of transaction.
While the Kings have some quality defensive prospects, their group largely consists of players who are close to NHL-ready but lack high-end upside or who have a lot of development ahead of them to reach a high-end upside. And Drew Doughty (32) is on the backside of his career. If L.A. is going to package its prospects surplus, the most logical target will be a young defenseman who could soon or even immediately step into a top-pairing role.
There's no better choice than Jakob Chychrun. The Arizona Coyotes defenseman turns 24 in March and is signed to a $4.6 million annual cap hit through 2025. He's having an off year for a Coyotes team that has been stripped to the bone, but in prior seasons he has shown he can be a No. 1 defenseman. He is a strong defender in his own end, a quality puck mover and has scored 30 goals over the previous two (shortened!) seasons. Forget about the playoffs. Chychrun would be a building block for the Kings over the coming years, and if they're determined, nobody can match them in a bidding war.
Ideal Deadline Target: Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes