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30 NHL trade candidates to watch ahead of the deadline

The all-star weekend celebrations are finished, some teams are coming off their bye weeks, while others will follow in a few days. It’s Feb. 6, which means we are less than a month away from the NHL trade deadline on March 3.

The flat salary cap will surely still impact this year’s events. Over half the league is using LTIR and teams with millions in cap room are few and far between. Buyers may have to get creative, unless the market swings to favour them on the last deadline day before the salary cap is anticipated to rise again.

The buyers are still being separated from the sellers, though some teams already know which camp they’re in. The Canucks started to sell when they dealt captain Bo Horvat to the Islanders last week, while New York became a buyer sitting on the outside of the playoff picture.

The coming weeks may determine what many other teams do, but the Horvat deal opened the door to other moves, which could start coming any day now.

Here is a look at 30 trade candidates who you’re going to hear about in the coming weeks.

John Klingberg, D, Anaheim Ducks

Contract details via CapFriendly

After leaving Dallas as a free agent, Klingberg signed a one-year pact with rebuilding Anaheim to establish his value, but it’s been a bit of a struggle to 17 points in 42 games. He’s been their No. 2 defenceman to Cam Fowler. Despite getting heavy shift starts in the offensive zone, Klingberg has one of the worst expected goals percentage rates on the Ducks. A pure offensive player, Klingberg may nonetheless attract a buyer who needs help on the power play.

Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes

Contract details via CapFriendly

Once again the Coyotes don’t have to move Chychrun, who has two more seasons left on his contract, but after this season they lose some control over the situation as Chychrun’s modified no-trade clause kicks in. The ask has been high for Chychrun, but will it need to come down a little to find a trade partner?

Karel Vejmelka, G, Arizona Coyotes

Contract details via CapFriendly

His age, 26, and manageable AAV with term make him an attractive asset, and his stats back it up. In Year 2 as Arizona’s starter, Vejmelka has a 13-7-4 record with a .907 save percentage and 3.19 GAA. By MoneyPuck’s Goals Saved Above Expected measure — which considers shots against quality and team defence — Vejmelka ranks eighth overall. The Coyotes won’t be under pressure to deal him though, and may hold on to him past March 3.

Nick Bjugstad, C, Arizona Coyotes

Contract details via CapFriendly

There is usually a market for big centremen at the deadline and Bjugstad (6-foot-6, 209 pounds) fits the bill. Bjugstad is averaging 16:45 of ice time per game, including over two minutes on the PK. He isn’t winning a ton of faceoffs this season, however, getting 47.1 per cent of them this season. Still, he’s a physical presence who is having one of his better offensive seasons in years.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes

Contract details via CapFriendly

A point-producing defenceman with an expiring contract on a rebuilding team, Gostisbehere is a likely trade candidate despite his injury. The Coyotes’ defence leader in power-play offence was on pace for another 50-point season overall before sustaining an upper-body injury on Jan. 26. He’s expected to miss four-to-six weeks, which means he may not play again until after the deadline.

Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Contract details via CapFriendly

Kane certainly isn’t having the same offensively dominant season as we’ve seen over the years, but if a move to a contender gets him producing again, look out. His $10.5 million AAV might require a third team to get involved in any deal, and his full no-movement clause puts him in charge of where he goes. Or if he goes at all.


























Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

Stanley Cup-winning experience and a centre who’s won 63.3 per cent of his draws this season, Toews leads the Blackhawks in power-play points this season (eight), and would be a heck of a middle lineup addition to a contender. Toews is in the exact same position as Kane, with a huge contract to manage and a NMC that gives him complete control of the situation. He has not yet committed to waiving for a trade.

Jake McCabe, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Contract details via CapFriendly

With term left on his contract the Hawks won’t be in a pinch to trade McCabe, though at 29 years old his value may be peaking. A strong defensive presence, McCabe can be a physical shot blocker who logs PK time and has been turned to by the Hawks in D zone situations. He’s managed a plus-2 rating on a minus-58 goal-differential team

Sam Lafferty, Chicago Blackhawks

Playing a versatile role this season, Lafferty has won over half his faceoffs, and has a career-high in offensive production — eight goals and 17 points in 42 games. A depth addition, Lafferty would be a good skater to add toward the bottom half of the lineup.

Vladislav Gavrikov, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

With teams reportedly being granted a chance to speak to Gavrikov’s agent about an extension before any deal, his days in Columbus could be running out. The 27-year-old had a spike in offence to 33 points last season, but is not going to be an offence generator. Gavrikov is Columbus’ team leader in shorthanded ice time per game.

Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets

Even in a soft goalie market, Korpisalo’s .908 save percentage this season and expiring, affordable contract might attract a depth-needy team at the position. Columbus has Elvis Merzlikins under contract long-term and 23-year-old Daniil Tarasov has shown well in 13 appearances this season.

Gustav Nyquist, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

Nyquist was a likely trade candidate out of Columbus with his contract expiring, but an injury impacted that in some way. Though the Blue Jackets announced just before all-star break that Nyquist would miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, the player didn’t rule out a return by April, or in the playoffs when asked by The Athletic. So, though injured, Nyquist could still be moveable as an LTIR asset who could return to deliver on-ice impact in the post-season. He had scored 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games this season.

Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings

While Larkin has said he sees himself as a Red Wing — something he reiterated at all-star — and is Detroit’s leading scorer and top-line centre, until he signs a contract extension there’s a question to be asked about his future. Larkin is already Detroit’s highest-paid player with a $6.1 million AAV, so how high is GM Steve Yzerman willing to go over that for the 26-year-old? One of the quickest players in the game, Larkin could bring a nice return back to Detroit, but may also leave behind a large hole in the depth chart. This is why they can’t let him go past March 3 without a deal in place. Yzerman surprised us with a late Anthony Mantha trade two deadlines ago — does he have another shocker in store?

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton Oilers

Though Puljujarvi is an RFA this summer, if he’s not dealt before the deadline he’s a candidate for UFA eligibility if the Oilers decide not to qualify him at $3 million. Puljujarvi hasn’t been able to seize a top-six spot and has declined to four goals and 10 points in 49 games. At 24 years old, someone else might want to buy low on a fresh start.

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild

It does seem this is most likely Dumba’s last season in Minnesota after years of trade rumours and expansion draft speculation. But the question is if he stays the rest of the season, or is moved by the deadline. It would have to be in a hockey trade that allows the Wild to continue on in their goal of reaching the playoffs and doing damage.

Joel Edmundson, D, Montreal Canadiens

A large (6-foot-5, 224 pounds) defensive defenceman, Edmundson is Montreal’s leader in PK ice time and second in blocked shots with 110. A depth defenceman at even strength, Edmundson’s contract isn’t overly burdensome, and an acquiring team would be getting the defenceman for another season. He was injured just before the all-star break, but was considered day-to-day.

Mattias Ekholm, D, Nashville Predators

Generating trade buzz earlier this season, Ekholm’s place on this list may be entirely determined by what the Predators do next. They hit the all-star break on a three-game winning streak and sitting three points out of a wild card berth and four points out of third in the Central. If they slide back in the next few weeks, a shocking Ekholm deal might become a little more likely, and would be a massive pickup for anyone — an instant top-four shutdown defender added for this season and beyond.

Cam Talbot, G, Ottawa Senators

If the Senators sense they can make a playoff run, they may elect to keep Talbot as their own rental, but they’ll start the post-bye week schedule six points back of a playoff spot.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia Flyers

With eight goals and 21 points in 31 games, JVR is on his usual pace and has been one of the Flyers’ better even-strength offensive players. He can still provide a bump on someone’s power play as well, and with an expiring contract the Flyers could retain up to 50 per cent to get a deal done.

Timo Meier, LW, San Jose Sharks

The top scoring forward available at this deadline, Meier is the most dreamed-of target for teams in need of a first- or second-line scorer. His 28 goals scored this season rank 12th in the league and he’s second with 227 shots on goal. Meier is a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, so there’s a size presence to his game as well. Though he’s an RFA at season’s end, Meier is due a $10 million qualifying offer if a separate extension isn’t agreed to.

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks

On the surface, this seems like more of an off-season move, if there is a trade to be had. Karlsson just makes so much money with an $11.5 million cap hit that it would seemingly require salary retention — but with another four years left on his contract, that’s an awful lot of dead cap seasons for the Sharks to keep. Karlsson’s on-ice performance makes an in-season move an eyebrow-raising proposition, though. He’s the Norris Trophy favourite to date and the NHL leader in even-strength points.

Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko returned to health and scored 34 goals last season, and now has 10 in 38 this season for the struggling Blues. A team looking for a goal scorer might think about targeting this pending UFA. Though the Blues may yet re-sign one or a couple of their pending UFAs, Tarasenko isn’t likely to be one after asking for a trade out a couple years ago. Asked about his future at all-star weekend, Tarasenko said simply “Even Vladi don’t know the future of Vladi.”

Niko Mikkola, D, St. Louis Blues

You will not mistake Mikkola for an offensive generator — he has just 16 points in his past 104 NHL games. But the depth defenceman is third on St. Louis in blocked shots and hits, brings good size at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, and has PK capabilities. He’s also on a very cheap expiring contract and could be a target for a team that wants D help, but has other needs as well.

Ryan O’Reilly, C, St. Louis Blues

By reputation, O’Reilly has been one of the best shutdown centres of his time. But this season there are some concerns. One is that he was having a down season on offence with 16 points in 37 games — though he does notably have 10 goals. Another is that he sustained a broken foot in early January, and might have short run on the ice before the deadline to show that he’s healthy. And finally, he has a stated desire to stay in St. Louis — though the team may look to save some dollars.

Ivan Barbashev, LW, St. Louis Blues

Barbashev more than doubled his career high in points last season when he recorded 26 goals and 60 points, and while he’s stepped back with the rest of the Blues in 2022-23, he still has 24 points in 51 games this season. Though he gets some time on the second PP unit, Barbashev is fourth on the Blues in even strength scoring and has more hits than any other St. Louis forward.

Noel Acciari, C, St. Louis Blues

The team leader in hits, Acciari could be a sneaky add in that he’s also PK capable and has won 54.4 per cent of his 264 faceoffs this season.

Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks

In the first year of a three-year deal, Boeser’s $6.65 million cap hit is a lot to take on for a winger on an 18-goal pace. It could be that Boeser just needs a fresh start to get going again, and the memory of his 29-goal rookie season and 26-goal sophomore season linger for the still-young 25-year-old. There are a lot of difficult contracts the Canucks would like to move, and Boeser’s age and remaining potential might be the most attractive still.

Tyler Myers, D, Vancouver Canucks

There is some suggestion that Myers, 33, may be a buyout candidate this summer, but the Canucks could save themselves some cap space next season and in 2024-25 if they found a trade partner and retained half his cap instead. Myers averages over 20 minutes per game but would need to play a smaller role on a better team. He blocks lots of shots, has great reach and size — is he more palatable for someone at a $3 million AAV?

Luke Schenn, D, Vancouver Canucks

Stanley Cup pedigree and snarl are what will attract buyers to Schenn, whose 237 hits lead the NHL. A bottom-pair blueliner, Schenn is precisely the type of player GMs go for this time of year, and at $850,000 against the cap he’s attainable for anyone.

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks

With the Canucks looking to turn over some of the roster, there’s perhaps an outside shot that Demko gets swapped, but it’s not going to be so simple in-season. The goalie market has recently been very soft, Demko had been having a down season before getting injured, and it’s not clear how much playing time he’ll get — if any — again before March 3. But if there’s a believer in Demko who comes along and offers the Canucks something enticing, it’s an option they’d have to consider.


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