8 NHL Players Who Need a Change of Scenery in 2022-23
The 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs are well underway, but we are weeks away from when we can expect significant offseason trade activity to begin. As more clubs fall by the wayside, however, we can anticipate an increase in trade speculation.
That chatter will likely involve some noteworthy players who might benefit from a summer swap.
Some, such as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, are at risk of wasting several years of their prime on a rebuilding team. Others, such as New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, could be keen to move on to a club where they'll get a better opportunity for more playing time and responsibilities.
The offseason trade market could provide the eight players below with their best opportunity to move on to other clubs. We'll examine the reasons a change of scenery could be beneficial to their respective careers.
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings
Chosen sixth in the 2018 draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Filip Zadina has had difficulty establishing himself as a scoring forward. It might be worthwhile for both sides to part company and allow the 22-year-old right winger the chance to realize his potential elsewhere.
The Red Wings developed Zadina carefully, having him spend part of two seasons with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids before he joined their lineup full time in 2020-21. He showed some promise with 19 points in 49 games but managed only marginal improvement with 24 points in 74 contests this season.
Zadina is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights this summer. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman could ink him to an affordable two-year bridge contract to evaluate if the winger can improve into the goal scorer he was projected to become.
With a roster filled with promising talent, Yzerman could also bundle Zadina with a quality draft pick or prospect in hope of landing an established player who can help the Red Wings become a playoff contender. On March 2, Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli had Zadina at No. 12 on his list of the top-35 trade targets.
The chance to play with veteran stars on a contender could do wonders for Zadina's career. He could play sheltered minutes on a deeper club, gaining confidence away from the Red Wings' slow rebuild.
Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers
This season was a difficult one for Alexandar Georgiev. The subject of trade rumors last summer, the 26-year-old New York Rangers goaltender struggled early in this season before playing well while filling in for the sidelined Igor Shesterkin last December. He went on to finish the season with a record of 15 wins, 10 losses and two overtime losses with a 2.92 goals-against average.
Georgiev is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who's a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. It will continue to be difficult for him to establish any consistency while getting infrequent starts behind a Vezina Trophy finalist in Shesterkin.
Moving on to a club where he could have a chance to start could help him improve his worth. That will be crucial with his UFA eligibility next summer.
Georgiev is completing a two-year contract with an average annual value of $2.4 million. Rangers GM Chris Drury could let him depart as a UFA by not qualifying his rights for next season. However, that would be allowing a decent asset to walk away for nothing when he could get something in return in the trade market.
Several clubs with high goals-against-per-game averages this season, such as the Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils, could seek goaltending depth this summer. The Montreal Canadiens might also be in the market if starter Carey Price's nagging knee injury derails his career. One of them could take a chance on Georgiev as a potential starter.
Max Comtois, Anaheim Ducks
Following a promising sophomore performance last season, Max Comtois seemed poised to become an important part of the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks entering 2021-22. Instead, the 23-year-old winger struggled through an injury-shortened campaign and briefly became the subject of trade rumors before the March deadline.
A second-round pick in 2017, the 6'2", 210-pound Comtois tallied 16 goals and 33 points in 55 games to lead the offensively anemic Ducks in scoring during 2020-21's COVID-shortened campaign. After managing one point in his first 13 games this season, he missed five weeks because of hand surgery, struggled to regain his form upon his return and was at times a healthy scratch.
Comtois also tumbled down the Ducks depth chart, averaging just 14 minutes and eight seconds of ice time per game. That led to his name surfacing in the rumor mill. On March 14, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the club was exploring the winger's value in the trade market.
Pat Verbeek, the Ducks new general manager, showed a willingness to make bold moves at the trade deadline by shipping out Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Rickard Rakell. He could continue exploring Comtois' trade value during the offseason if he feels the young winger isn't a fit in his rebuilding process.
Comtois' youth, his potential as a top-six winger and his affordable $2.04 million cap hit for next season would make him an enticing trade target. Perhaps he can regain his footing with a deeper club where he'd feel less pressure to meet expectations. It might also help him regain his confidence playing under a different coach or with a team that is already a playoff contender.
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils expected big things from Pavel Zacha when they chose him sixth in the 2015 draft. He's become a decent forward who can play center or wing. However, the 25-year-old might need a change of address to achieve the lofty expectations that came with being a high first-round pick.
After four largely unspectacular seasons of 32 points or fewer, Zacha seemed poised for a much-anticipated breakout with a 17-goal, 35-point performance in 50 games last season. Instead, he followed up with a disappointing 15 goals and 36 points in 70 games.
A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, Zacha is completing a three-year contract with an annual cap hit of $2.3 million. It wouldn't cost much for the Devils to re-sign him to another short-term deal. However, with younger talent such as Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer in the lineup and more on the way, Zacha might not have a future in New Jersey.
Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald could test Zacha's value in this summer's trade market. On Feb. 12, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek said the Vancouver Canucks were interested. Perhaps they'll revisit their interest in the offseason.
Zacha seems to be spinning his wheels in New Jersey. A trade to the Canucks or another club could provide him with a fresh opportunity to prove his worth as a top-six forward.
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders
This season was a disappointment for the New York Islanders. Considered a Stanley Cup contender after reaching the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and the 2021 semis, they failed to qualify for the 2022 postseason.
General manager Lou Lamoriello wasted little time in shaking things up, firing head coach Barry Trotz last week. He could also make some roster changes, perhaps by dangling Anthony Beauvillier as a trade chip in the offseason.
The 24-year-old just completed his sixth season with the Islanders. He's signed through 2023-24 with an average annual value of $4.15 million. He showed signs of becoming a reliable 20-goal, 40-point winger over the previous two COVID-shortened seasons. The young winger also stepped up over the same period in the postseason with 14 goals and 27 points in 41 playoff games.
However, Beauvillier struggled this season to play up to the expectations that came with his new contract, posting just 12 goals and 34 points in 75 games. Following the March 21 trade deadline, NYI Hockey Now's Stefen Rosner suggested he could be packaged in an offseason trade or moved in a cost-cutting deal.
Lamoriello could retain Beauvillier to gauge his performance under a new head coach. However, it might be best for the young winger to move on to a club that would allow him the opportunity to regain his confidence and scoring touch.
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers' hopes to rebound from a disappointing 2020-21 campaign came to naught this season. A coaching change in December sandwiched between two lengthy losing streaks sent them tumbling toward the bottom of the NHL standings.
General manager Chuck Fletcher is in the hunt for another head coach. He could also shake up his roster after they failed to regain their promising 2019-20 form that saw them finish fourth overall in the Eastern Conference.
One of those moves could involve shipping out Travis Konecny. He tallied a career-best 61 points in 66 games two years ago. His production sagged to 34 points in 50 games last season as the Flyers struggled through a COVID outbreak and a compressed schedule. The 25-year-old winger bounced back somewhat this season with 52 points in 79 games.
Perhaps Konecny's difficulties were tied to the Flyers' coaching changes. They could also be due to the club's overall failure to reach expectations. Whatever the reason, he could benefit from playing on a more stable roster with experienced leadership.
Konecny has three more seasons remaining on a contract that carries an average annual value of $5.5 million and lacks no-trade protection. He's shown the potential to be a more impactful player, which could entice a rival club seeking top-six scoring depth to pursue him in the trade.
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
A fixture in the NHL rumor mill for months, Jake DeBrusk was considered among the prime candidates to be moved before the March trade deadline. Instead, the 25-year-old winger and the Boston Bruins surprised everyone by agreeing to a two-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of $4 million.
After struggling through the first half of this season, DeBrusk caught fire offensively when placed on the Bruins' top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He finished the season tied for third with Bergeron among Bruins scorers with 25 goals and finished eighth with 42 points. His improvement earned him his club's nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
It appeared DeBrusk and the Bruins have repaired whatever rift prompted the winger to request a trade last November. Following the trade deadline, however, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported the winger hadn't withdrawn his trade request.
LeBrun wrote DeBrusk's new contract was meant to make it easier to move him before the March trade deadline. He suggested the winger could still be shopped in the offseason.
It might be best for DeBrusk and Bruins management to avoid further potential drama. He lacks no-trade protection, and the security of his two-year deal plus the late-season improvement in his stats could draw interest. A move to a different club where he could be assured of regular top-six minutes could help him reach the full potential he's struggled to achieve in Boston.
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun's been a fixture in the NHL rumor mill since December. With the Arizona Coyotes in full rebuild mode this offseason, the 24-year-old defenseman should remain a hot trade topic.
Chychrun led all NHL defensemen with 18 goals last season while also reaching a personal best with 41 points in 56 games. His production declined in 2021-22 in part because general manager Bill Armstrong shipped out several veteran players last summer and Chychrun suffered what became a season-ending lower-body injury March 12.
Following the trade deadline, Phoenix Sports' Craig Morgan reported Armstrong couldn't find a club willing to pay his high asking price for Chychrun. The Coyotes GM intends to try again in the offseason, anticipating better trade opportunities.
Morgan also believed Chychrun could welcome a trade, in part because of his unhappiness with his role under head coach Andre Tourigny and the constant losing after six seasons with the Coyotes. In an April 22 mailbag segment, Morgan felt the blueliner didn't want to spend the remaining three years of his contract as part of a rebuild.
Still in his playing prime and carrying an affordable $4.6 million annual cap hit, Chychrun should remain an enticing trade target for clubs in need of a skilled puck-moving defenseman. It may be time for him and the Coyotes to part ways so that he can have an opportunity to play for a postseason contender.