5 Young NHL Players Who Could Be Traded for a Star This Offseason

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2022

5 Young NHL Players Who Could Be Traded for a Star This Offseason

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    With the NHL's March 21 trade deadline now history, the focus shifts toward the remainder of the regular-season schedule. Playoff contenders are jockeying for the final positions in the standings while those outside the postseason picture begin to evaluate their rosters for next season.

    Once the offseason begins and general managers start making moves to improve their rosters, several younger players could find themselves the subject of trade rumors. One of them could be the New York Rangers winger Vitali Kravtsov, who spent this season playing in Russia awaiting a trade.

    Kravtsov could become a trade chip by the Rangers to address a potential roster need as they attempt to build upon this season's impressive development into a playoff club. Several rebuilding clubs, meanwhile, could attempt to speed up the process by dangling a promising young player as trade bait in hope of adding a talented veteran.

    Here's a look at five promising NHL youngsters who could be traded for a star this summer. You can weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.  

Erik Brannstrom, Ottawa Senators

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Erik Brannstrom was part of the return the Ottawa Senators received from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Mark Stone trade in February 2019. Selected 15th overall in the 2017 draft by the Golden Knights, he appeared on course for a promising future as a top-four NHL defenseman. However, it's taking longer than anticipated for him to reach his full potential, which could make him a trade candidate.

    At 5'9" and 181 pounds, the 22-year-old Brannstrom is part of the recent wave of smaller, but highly-skilled offensive blueliners making their way into NHL lineups. He's a superb skater with excellent playmaking abilities but has had difficulty with his defensive play. Brannstrom saw action in 30 games last season and has been a full-time part of the Senators' lineup since mid-January.

    On Dec. 9, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek wondered if the Senators might move Brannstrom as things hadn't gone as planned since acquiring him. That was before he started seeing regular ice time and second-line minutes over the second half of the season. With promising Jake Sanderson expected to join the Senators' roster next season, Brannstrom might not have a long-term future in Ottawa. 

    Brannstrom is completing his entry-level contract, lacks arbitration rights and won't be exempt from waivers next season. He could end up part of a package deal if the Senators feel they need more immediate help on their roster to turn them into a playoff club next season. A team trying to shed salary and add depth to their defense could give him a better opportunity to thrive within a different system.

Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Vitali Kravtsov spent this season playing in the KHL waiting for the New York Rangers to trade him. While a deal failed to materialize, the 22-year-old right winger could have his wish come true in the offseason if the Rangers end up in the market this summer for a second-line center.

    Chosen ninth overall in the 2018 draft, Kravtsov was projected as a potential top-six forward. He made his NHL debut last season, with four points in 20 games. The young winger had a chance to move up in the pecking order when the Rangers traded Pavel Buchnevich to St. Louis last summer. However, he was among their final round of training-camp cuts and refused to report to their AHL affiliate in Hartford. 

    A restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract, Kravtsov lacks arbitration rights this summer. He could be shopped by the Rangers if centers Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp depart via free agency. On April 4, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggested Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele could be a good fit with the Blueshirts.

    The Jets could seek a young NHL-ready player as part of the return if they decide to peddle Scheifele this summer. As a former top-10 first-round draft pick with some NHL experience, Kravtsov could fit the bill. Going to Winnipeg would provide him with a fresh start and an opportunity to establish himself as a scoring winger.

Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The 17th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Ty Smith showed potential as a top-four puck-moving defenseman last season in his NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils. He could also have value for the rebuilding club as a trade chip to land a scoring winger to skate alongside centers Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes on the Devils' top-two lines.

    At 5'11” and 180 pounds, Smith is among the recent trend toward small-but-skilled mobile defensemen epitomized by the Colorado Avalanche's Cale Makar and the Vancouver Canucks' Quinn Hughes. After tallying 23 points in 48 games last season, the 22-year-old Smith has struggled through his sophomore campaign with 18 points in 58 games.

    Despite his difficulties this season, Smith would garner interest from clubs seeking promising young defensemen in this summer's trade market. On March 7, The Athletic's Thomas Drance reported the Vancouver Canucks prioritized targeting such blueliners in their trade talks leading up to the March 21 trade deadline. He included Smith among his list of potential trade options.

    Vancouver winger Brock Boeser's contract status made him the subject of trade speculation this season. While there were rumors linking the Canucks to Devils center Pavel Zacha, perhaps an offer with Smith packaged with a first-round draft pick and a top prospect would bring Boeser to New Jersey.

Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blues Jackets

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    This was a difficult season for Alexandre Texier. The 22-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets forward missed four games in January to COVID-19, suffered a fractured finger on Jan. 27 and has been on an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons since March 10.

    Despite missing over half the season, Texier put up solid numbers with 11 goals and 20 points in 36 games. A speedy two-way player who can play center or either wing, he has the makings of an effective top-six forward. His abilities and affordable $1.5 million contract through 2022-23 could also make him an enticing target in this summer's trade market.

    Texier frequently surfaced in trade speculation before his leave of absence. On March 4, ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan considered him the most likely Blue Jacket to be moved before the trade deadline as his value had never been higher. Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli included Texier among his list of affordable depth players who could be of value to this season's Stanley Cup contenders.

    The Blue Jackets have been lacking a true first-line center since trading away Pierre-Luc Dubois last season for Patrik Laine. Texier on his own won't address that need. However, he could be a key piece in a package offer if Jackets management should go shopping this summer for someone to center their top line.

Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Detroit Red Wings are about to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season, and the third straight under general manager Steve Yzerman. While he's been patiently rebuilding with youth, Yzerman could consider moving a promising player for a talented veteran to help them end their postseason drought.

    Filip Zadina could become a trade candidate this summer. Selected sixth overall by Yzerman's predecessor in the 2018 draft, the young Russian's goal-scoring prowess had him projected to become a top-six winger. However, the 22-year-old winger has struggled to reach his potential with the Wings. Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli had Zadina at No. 22 on his top-50 trade targets heading into this season's trade deadline.

    A restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract, Zadina might benefit from a change of scenery. Yzerman could package him with a top prospect and the Wings' first-round pick in this year's draft to acquire Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes. Zadina would get a better opportunity for top-six minutes with the Coyotes, who began a significant rebuild last summer.

    Chychrun was a fixture in this season's rumor mill. The 23-year-old defenseman is signed through 2024-25 with an affordable $4.6 million annual salary-cap hit. He's the right age to fit in with the Wings' long-term plans. providing long-term stability and skill on the left side of the Wings' blue line.


    Stats (as of April 7, 2022) via NHL.com. Salary information via Cap Friendly