NHL trade candidate tiers: Names to pay attention to ahead of the deadline

Though this year’s NHL trade deadline falls on April 12, and thus we’re just about a month out, there is a lot of belief that more business could get done earlier this season so teams can deal with any quarantine and get their acquired player for more than a handful of post-deadline games.

Just how busy this deadline will be is a big question. On one hand, you have the economic reality around the league. That captures a flat salary cap with around half the league’s teams using LTIR, and that fans are only starting to trickle back into some arenas, so revenues are far from usual levels. How many owners will be looking to spend? How many GMs will want to add salary that carries into next season?

On the other, look at this list. There are nearly 50 names of players who are believed to be available on some level. Some of these players would take a substantial return, while others could move for whatever assets their current team is able to get. Not all of these players will be traded of course, but it gives you the idea of the possibilities that are out there this trade season.

What that divide between buyers and sellers ultimately settles as will be a huge factor in how busy deadline season is. And that’s how we should view this year’s deadline: it’s less a “day” than a “season” and it starts right now.

With all these complexities on the market, rather than rank a top 20 or 25, or list the most likely candidates to be moved, this season we’re putting rumoured names into various tiers depending on their type and potential availability. We will continue to update this list between now and April 12.


Mikael Granlund, Nashville: Among many struggling Predators. Granlund, 29, never put up the offence he did with the Minnesota Wild, but presents intriguing upside for at least a one-off playoff run. And if he clicks in a new spot, maybe there’s an extension to be had.

Tanner Pearson, Vancouver: The Canucks are playing better lately and GM Jim Benning said last week that he wanted to try and re-sign the winger. But with the cap situation what it is, Pearson is also a struggling depth scorer who could hold some value for that role in certain places around the league. Recouping assets for a player like this is usually what teams in Vancouver’s place do.

Taylor Hall, Buffalo: Hall is in the classic rental situation. Star scorer on the last year of his contract getting traded for futures to help some contender’s top six. But this is different for a few reasons. One: Hall has just two goals in 23 games. Two: How many teams are looking to add, and can fit, a salary like Hall’s the rest of the way? Three: He has a full no-move clause. Four: He’s mentioned being open to re-signing in Buffalo, which could provide better security than heading to free agency again. Given his struggles and the uncertain market, what would a return on a Hall trade look like today compared to last season, when Arizona gave up a first-rounder, third-rounder and three prospects?

Eric Staal, Buffalo: His numbers aren’t there this season — eight points and a minus-15 in 23 games — but there will always be a market for centre depth and Staal is one of the best rentals available at that position.

Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa: The Sens acquired Dzingel for Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette a month ago and it would be a surprise if he’s not flipped again. Dzingel wasn’t fitting or producing with the Hurricanes and the hope would be that he gets back to the level he was at with the Sens two years ago and creates a market. When the Sens traded him away in 2019 he returned Anthony Duclair and a second-round pick.

Artem Anisimov, Ottawa: It hasn’t been Anisimov’s season by any measure, but still, he could be a target for a franchise just looking for centre/wing depth.

Brandon Sutter, Vancouver: Strong on faceoffs and a penalty kill presence. The Canucks need to be thinking of ways to alleviate the pressure applied by bottom-six cap hits, making Sutter a strong candidate to move.

Brandon Montour, Buffalo Sabres: Another player it just never worked out for in Buffalo. The Sabres will not recoup the assets they gave up to get Montour in 2019 (Brendan Guhle, first-round pick), but the right-shot blueliner has more to give with the right D partner.

Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes could be a fascinating deadline team. They’re contending for a playoff spot right now, but have a need for futures after they were fined draft picks. They may also be looking to shed salary. At 33, Hjalmarsson is a veteran who could give you shorthanded minutes. He has a full no-move clause.

Alex Goligoski, Arizona Coyotes: Similar to Hjalmarsson, Goligoski is at a stage in his career where he might just not fit with the direction anymore. He has a modified no-trade list, but would be an attractive top-four upgrade with more offensive upside than Hjalmarsson (though Goligoski has managed only two points so far in 2021).

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks: Just 22 games away from breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record, would the Sharks deal him before that milestone? They traded him to Pittsburgh at last year’s deadline for a conditional pick. Marleau has five points in 23 games this season after going pointless in four playoff games with the Pens last summer.

Carl Soderberg, Chicago Blackhawks: Fairly productive player, wins over 51 per cent of his faceoffs and useful in most situations. Soderberg is a flexible option for the bottom six, who could move up in a tight pinch.

David Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets: If Columbus fades they’ll have to consider any option and that includes the 30-year-old Savard. He could confidently slide into a top four, and possibly be a nice complement to some team’s No. 1. Savard would be one of the best rental blueliners available.

Bobby Ryan, Detroit Red Wings: After a great start to the season, Ryan has just two goals in his past 22 games. Few players combine value and big-game upside better than Ryan in his market.

Luke Glendening, Detroit: There’s always a market for a bottom-six centre who wins draws as frequently as Glendening (67.7 per cent this season) and can be counted on for the penalty kill.

Brad Richardson, Nashville Predators: More defensive depth, Richardson is a right winger who can give you dependable PK minutes and step in for a draw in a pinch.

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils: If Palmieri is available, he’d likely bring the Devils a nice return of futures, but it would cost them one of the more consistent goal scorers around. Palmieri is one of the top adds for teams in need of secondary scoring help.

Marc Staal, Detroit Red Wings: He’ll have final say in any trade with his no-move clause, but Staal could bring the Wings at least a minor return. We can’t underestimate how valued blue line depth is post-deadline.

Travis Hamonic, Vancouver Canucks: With a full no-move clause, Hamonic likely won’t waive for many places, but Winnipeg makes a lot of sense.


Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: It’s an other off-the-rails season in Buffalo so another round of “will Jack Eichel get fed up and want out” has picked up. It was notable when last week GM Kevyn Adams had to confirm that Eichel has not asked for a trade. Now he’s injured — with speculation on how injured — which would complicate a trade anyway, but even if he were healthy an in-season Eichel trade seems unlikely. Not only would the market be smaller than it could be in the summer months, but Adams is less than a year into his tenure and won’t want to rush that decision.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames: If Darryl Sutter doesn’t get this thing on track soon the Flames could be deadline sellers. Gaudreau’s trade candidacy has been a long time coming and building to this window. If things spiral, could the Flames explore moving Gaudreau now and extract a bigger return out of a team that would get him for two runs at least? This, too, feels like an off-season move when bigger decisions on the core may have to be made. The Flames are a long way off from being eliminated from contention and Gaudreau is their leading scorer.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are capital S Struggling this season and the offence is their biggest sore spot. Getzlaf is no longer the top player he once was, but still has that vision and playmaking ability to complement stars. Think a slightly younger Joe Thornton. Getzlaf will be 36 in May, is in the final season of his contract and doesn’t seem to fit the Ducks’ direction. But he has a no-move clause, is a legacy player in the organization and GM Bob Murray doesn’t seem to have any appetite to make the trade after 16 years.

“I don’t want to hear this out of Toronto anymore,” Murray told The Athletic. “I’m tired of hearing how his name’s out there. The only way Ryan Getzlaf would ever go anywhere is if he came to me and said, ‘Bob, can you try to trade me to a contender again?’ I don’t think … he’s never said he wants to do that. He never will. As for next year, we’ve talked and we’re going to see how he feels after this year. We’ll see how his body feels. We’ll see how it’s going. He may just say I don’t want to keep going through this little bit of this rebuild we’re doing here.’ “

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: When new management came in and the Penguins were struggling, the question about Malkin’s trade candidacy had to be asked again. Since Brian Burke and Ron Hextall’s arrival, though, Malkin has been finding an old form and has 13 points in those 14 games. The Penguins have turned a corner too, with a 10-4-0 record. Burke and Hextall talked about improving this year’s team if it performed, so an in-season Malkin deal now seems less likely.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins: He may not be peak Letang anymore, but the soon-to-be 34-year-old is still the Penguins’ No. 1 defender. Like Malkin, it’d be hard to move Letang now, one year out from his contract expiring, while the team. is competing. There was a rumour former GM Jim Rutherford wanted to moved Letang and was rebuffed by ownership, but he denied that last week.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators: Of all the names in this tier of long shots, Forsberg’s is the one that may be most likely to move. It’s far from a sure thing, but the Preds are so obviously in need of a shake up. It’d take a big offer to get Forsberg with another season left on his deal, but it’s not often players like him come available at 26 years old. Preds GM David Poile doesn’t sound like a motivated seller, but he also kept the door open a crack.

“I try to be open with everybody because you’re exchanging information, you want to hear what people have to say so you don’t want to set up any barriers to any conversation,” Poile told ESPN radio. “Having said that I really don’t think Filip Forsberg is going to be a guy we have any interest in trading at this time.”


Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: The biggest hurdles to a Quick trade is that he’s prone to injury and has a $5.8 million cap hit for another two seasons, but what if the Kings retain a portion of that? Quick is actually owed only $2.5 million and $3 million in those last two seasons. Goaltending depth is a priority around the league, and though it’s been three years since Quick was remotely close to the goalie who won two Stanley Cups, he has been moderately better lately. Cal Petersen’s play has earned him more playing time.

Ryan Miller, Anaheim Ducks: The 40-year-old would probably have some say as to whether he’s available or not, despite the lack of a no-trade clause, but if he were available he’d be one of the more reliable and experienced backups out there.

Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Depending on where the Coyotes are and what the organization’s mindset is, Raanta could be an interesting addition to the trade market. He had a .921 save percentage last season, though it has been a bit bumpy in 2021. The pending UFA wouldn’t be expansion draft eligible for an acquiring team, but would beef up the position for a run this season. But the Coyotes themselves are still very much in it and the injury to Darcy Kuemper complicates this now.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: At this rate, Jones will go three years in a row with a save percentage below .900. He makes $5.75 million for another three years and there isn’t much salary relief as it goes. He’s a buyout candidate for San Jose and certainly will be left unprotected to Seattle — which is what could give him some value to another team if the Sharks retain salary. There just might be better, less messy options.

Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers: The pending UFA has been one of the better underdog goalie stories of the year. As Sergei Bobrovsky starts building momentum, the Panthers could be made to feel better about moving Driedger, who has a .920 save percentage.

Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings: Has been good enough in three years with the Red Wings and would be a good second stringer in the final season of his contract.

Aaron Dell, New Jersey Devils: you have to wonder because the Devils got Dell on waivers for nothing and, as a pending UFA, he’ll be of more value to a playoff team than New Jersey if the Devils slip further out of the race.

Jonas Johansson, Buffalo Sabres: As Buffalo considers everything, putting the 25-year-old Johansson out there has to be on the table. He has just an .892 save percentage in 11 NHL games across two seasons, but did show much better in the AHL a year ago. A No. 3 option for better teams, Johansson would bring depth and can be exposed to Seattle in the expansion draft.

Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers: After a promising past two years as the backup in New York, Georgiev is struggling with consistency at 25 years old. Might the Rangers seek a trade partner for this still-young goalie and eye moving ahead with Keith Kinkaid as Igor Shesterkin’s backup?


Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames: We know he’s asked for a trade, but we also know he’s been a valued playoff performer for the Flames and won’t return that sort of value in a trade. Darryl Sutter’s arrival might help Bennett’s situation.

Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks have been trying to move him and he may be attractive as a reclamation project, but the problem is that Virtanen also comes with a $2.25 million cap hit next season with an actual salary of $3 million.

Adam Henrique, Anaheim Ducks: He’s already passed through waivers, which tells you something about his $5.825 million cap hit of a contract. The Ducks would need to retain a fair amount of salary to find a taker, but if you suddenly shave a couple million off his price tag, having Henrique as, say, a third-line centre would be a nice fit.

Danton Heinen, Anaheim Ducks: Already linked to the Canucks, Heinen will be an RFA this summer who may even be a candidate to be left unqualified, but in the meantime he’s a — as Anthony Stewart might say — tertiary offensive option.

Matt Nieto, San Jose Sharks: A 28-year-old pending UFA, Nieto returned to San Jose on a one-year contract last off-season, but the Sharks are in a spot where they need assets rather than prioritizing re-signing bottom-six forwards. Nieto can play PK minutes and is an inexpensive addition.

Marcus Pettersson, Pittsburgh Penguins: It’s been a down year for Pettersson after he signed a long-term contract with Pittsburgh. There may be a buyer looking for what Pettersson did a year ago, but his $4 million cap hit could be an issue.


Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators: The best defenceman believed to be available, Ekholm makes just $3.75 million against the cap this season and next, making him affordable to any team. On one of the worst goal differential teams in the league, Ekholm’s 65.22 GF percentage is the best mark on the Preds — when he’s on the ice Nashville is outscoring opponents 15-8. While Ekholm is hoping to remain a Predator his lack of trade protection, the team’s general strength on defence, and that they’re at a crossroads leave him as a trade candidate likely to bring a large return to help reshape the future.

Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes: While a few other Coyotes have appeared on this list, those were all veterans, on short deals, without much of a long-term fit in Arizona. But Keller represents something different. He is signed at $7.15 million for another seven seasons and can be seen as a centrepiece of their future. But, he’s also not been able to get back even close to his 65-point rookie performance in the past two seasons, so has that perception changed? As the Coyotes look to cut costs and rebuild their prospect and pick base, the 22-year-old Keller would be the player who could give them the best return on a single trade. He has been on a tear lately, though, and might prove too valuable to move in the end.

Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres: There aren’t many bright spots in Buffalo this season, but Reinhart is one of them. As the headliners struggle, Reinhart has 11 goals and 19 points in 22 games with positive shot metrics and an expected goals for percentage in his favour. Reinhart has overcome the miserable situation around him for a pretty good start. He’s making $5.2 million and is an RFA this summer. On one hand, he could bring the Sabres a nice return to move on with, but on the other trading away players who are actually performing is a risky proposition for a team stuck in the mud.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres: A polarizing player that often splits the analytics and “old school” fans, Ristolainen has had a decent season all things considered. Shot attempts are actually in Buffalo’s favour when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5 and he has a solid eight points in 17 games. He’s a $5.4 million blueliner and signed through another season. The Sabres may be motivated to move him before that deal expires and he’s free to explore signing elsewhere.

Travis Dermott, Toronto Maple Leafs: We’re putting Dermott in this category because if he gets traded, it’s probably going to be as part of a package for a “head turning” return. The Leafs need defensive depth, so giving up Dermott would present its own risk that could be offset by a specific, possibly high end, target.

Vince Dunn, St. Louis Blues: Honestly, we were looking for this one to happen all last off-season when Dunn needed a new contract and the Blues didn’t have much room. The two sides agreed on a one-year deal with a $1.875 million cap hit, which again will leave him as an RFA this off-season. He’s a young (24) puck-mover with an affordable contract and controllable beyond this season. Most teams would be happy to have him within their top four.

Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are one of those teams considering all of its options and while we’d assume it’d be extremely hard, if not impossible, to pry Dylan Larkin out of there, Mantha could be a different story. Here you have a goal scorer who is maybe better used as a complementary producer so he’s not taking a step to another level in Detroit. He’s in his prime at 26, has 30-goal upside (though hasn’t hit that mark yet in his career) and has a $5.7 million contract that runs another three years.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers: An up and down NHL career has brought us to this point where at 27, Gostisbehere is a bit of a project with tantalizing upside for a team looking to bolster its blue line. Much has been made about his bounce back season defensively in Philadelphia and maybe now some of his offence is starting to come back with five points in his past eight games. The Flyers aren’t your traditional seller, though, so moving Gostisbehere would likely mean a somewhat substantial deal.

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