OK, so, many big names have already been moved well ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, but there is still so much action to unfold.
We know who the buyers are. There are some late additions to the seller category. And, heck, there are some non-playoff teams who may try and buy a piece or two by Friday.
So, we asked our staff writers three questions: which team are you most interested to follow at this deadline, which trade do you want to see most, and what is your bold prediction for the last days of dealing?
TEAM I’M MOST INTERESTED IN AT THE 2023 NHL TRADE DEADLINE
Emily Sadler: Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights know how to put on a show, and that applies not just to their in-arena experience and win-now attitude from Day 1. As we’ve seen on the trade market and free agency front, Vegas has been a front-runner for just about every big name in the game — from Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone in the earlier years and Alex Pietrangelo and Jack Eichel more recently.
And yet, after missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence last spring, and rallying their way through piling up injuries to get back atop the Pacific this year ahead of the stretch run, things have been… fairly quiet. Too quiet. Sure, the acquisition of Ivan Barbashev was a smart one, but it feels more like the trade-deadline equivalent of dipping your toes in the water than jumping right in.
Compared to the powerful Eastern Conference, the West looks ripe for the taking… and with the recent LTIR assignment of captain Mark Stone, the club suddenly has a surplus of space to work with, some flexibility in the future with Shea Weber’s contract offloaded, and a clear path for another deep playoff run. I’m intrigued… is there any chance Patrick Kane is intrigued, too?
Sonny Sachdeva: Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes are undeniably one of the most intriguing teams in this year’s deadline drama, because they possess the one thing every club with Cup aspirations craves this time of year: cap space. A few days from March 3, Carolina has roughly $10 million to work with, while sitting tops in the Metropolitan Division and looking every bit a team to be reckoned with come playoff time.
Their needs are clear: after losing off-season acquisition Max Pacioretty to a season-ending Achilles tear in January, GM Don Waddell’s said he’s on the hunt for an impact forward to bolster his offensive group. The options are falling off the board though, and even worse for the Canes, they’re all ending up in their own division: Timo Meier to New Jersey, Bo Horvat to Long Island, Vladimir Tarasenko (and soon Patrick Kane?) to New York.
Carolina’s a half-decade into looking like they can take the next step and make some serious noise in the post-season, but they’ve yet to get over that final hurdle and become a challenger in the latter half of the playoffs. Now, they have some space to give themselves a better chance, and seemingly have no choice but to add given what’s happening around them in the Metro. But with the options running out, which move do they make?
Mike Johnston: Nashville Predators
It’s easily the Predators for me. Jeff Marek reported over the weekend the Preds would be open for business leading up to the deadline and that has already proven itself to be true. Nashville GM David Poile sent Nino Niederreiter to the Jets Saturday afternoon then acquired Cal Foote plus a haul of draft picks from Tampa Bay in exchange for Tanner Jeannot on Sunday – the same day it was reported Poile will retire in the summer and former longtime coach Barry Trotz will take over.
Poile has made some blockbuster trades throughout his career and what makes this deadline so interesting for Nashville – beyond the fact Poile will be stepping away – is that they don’t have many pending UFAs, which means we could see some interesting and potentially complex hockey trades transpire.
Ryan Dixon: If we extend this to the off-season… Winnipeg.
Everything that happens this year is done against the backdrop of knowing Mark Scheifele, Connor Hellebuyck and Blake Wheeler are eligible to become UFAs in 2024 and that could well be the case for Pierre-Luc Dubois, too. If this team gets smashed in five games in Round 1, what do the next two months after that look like? Conversely, if they win a round and go to Game 7 versus Colorado in Round 2 or something, is there a feeling the band will stay (mostly) together after all?
Rory Boylen: Edmonton Oilers
You do have to be smart with your assets and be confident in the trades you’re making, but in the back of GM Ken Holland’s mind he must know every year that ticks by is another closer to when the question “will McDavid or Draisaitl leave?” becomes nervously relevant. After this season Draisaitl will be two years away from a UFA opportunity, and McDavid three. Last year’s breakthrough to the Western Conference Final brought some relief that, perhaps, this thing was trending in the right way. But how can you make sure that momentum continues and doesn’t stall? Will Holland make a more notable splash at this year’s deadline than in the past? It feels like it’s very close to pushing-in-the-chips time.
THE TRADE I WANT TO SEE HAPPEN BY FRIDAY
ES: Jakob Chychrun to Ottawa
At first glance, this might feel like a boring pick. But with two questions dominating Ottawa right now — are they buyers or sellers? And, can they finally solve their search for a defenceman? — I want to see Pierre Dorion answer both at once with a statement-making deadline move. Sure, the Senators likely aren’t actually going to be in the race this year, but after a bold off-season of big moves for Dorion last summer, they’re nearly there. Bringing in a young, affordable (cap-wise), puck-moving rearguard is the perfect way to transition this team into a contender without the GM feeling the need to dip into the rental market just yet.
(Confession: What I really want to see is a different top defenceman — Erik Karlsson — make his grand homecoming to Ottawa, and I do think that will happen… just not at the deadline… and not before new ownership comes in and agrees to foot that bill.)
SS: Erik Karlsson to the Oilers (or another contender)
With the abundance of game-breaking talent putting in absurd performances this season — the Connor McDavids, the Tage Thompsons, the Rasmus Dahlins — it’s easy to overlook what Erik Karlsson’s doing right now. But rewind back to where the veteran was just a couple years ago, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in the hockey world — aside from Karlsson himself — who would’ve predicted the 32-year-old would be entering the latter half of 2022-23 leading the league in even-strength scoring, producing at a 100-point clip, on track for the best season of his career.
It’s a performance that deserves the stakes of playoff hockey, something the veteran won’t be getting any time soon in San Jose. And what a sight EK65 was in the post-season. Just revisit that game-breaking air-mail pass against Boston, imagine McDavid on the end of it, and it’s clear why the prospect of Karlsson in Oilers colours would be such a gift for hockey lovers. Whether he ends up in Edmonton or elsewhere, here’s hoping we get to see this version of Karlsson on a contending roster by the time mid-March rolls around.
MJ: Mattias Ekholm to the Oilers
They’re in the market for a top-four blueliner and cap-/term-/asset-wise it would be easier to pull off than Edmonton acquiring someone like Erik Karlsson from San Jose. The Oilers have their own first- and second-round picks from both this and next year, and just looking at Monday’s trade between Toronto and Chicago that saw Jake McCabe at 50 per cent salary retention the centrepiece, it would take more than that to land Ekholm.
RD: The Kings going big
The Kings trade for Jakob Chychrun and Joonas Korpisalo. West — and, in particular, their division — is wide open.
RB: Jakob Chychrun to Columbus
With the acquisitions of Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine in the past couple of years, it’s clear the Blue Jackets don’t want to be a non-playoff team for long. They will sell some at this deadline because that’s the situation they’re in, but I’d love to see them act as a buyer, too. And while, sure, Columbus may not be Chychrun’s top choice, he would no doubt strengthen that blue line. The team and city would have a couple of years to sell him on staying. I’m not a fan of tanking, so I’d love to see a team like Columbus also buy, and position themselves to make the East even more interesting in the coming years, when a few teams will be looking to rise up.
ONE BOLD PREDICTION FOR THE TRADE DEADLINE
ES: Patrick Kane doesn’t go to New York
All signs have pointed to Kane being a Ranger for a few weeks now, and it seems like a deal so close to being completed, this writeup might not even make it to publishing… and yet, I can’t help but hold out a little hope for fireworks on this front.
All this tidy business getting done well before Friday’s deadline is great and all, but a Kane-to-Vegas turn of events would certainly bring a welcome dose of deadline drama, wouldn’t it? Or how about Kane to Edmonton, with Connor McDavid applying a full-court press behind the scenes for the rental? Or Dallas keeps calling in to complicate things? The fact that Kane’s No. 88 sweater has already been spotted at Madison Square Garden says otherwise, but until this deal is *actually* done I’m still going to speculate.
SS: Brock Boeser to the Penguins
The Pens are in an odd position heading into the deadline. On one hand, they’re clinging to a wild-card spot, not looking like much of a world-beater in the East. On the other, the club just invested $61 million in bringing back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and made a commitment to Sidney Crosby to remain in the hunt for another Cup — so they’re still going for the big prize, regardless of where they sit in the standings.
Ron Hextall gave his club a better chance this year by bringing in Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta to bolster the blue line. But up front, it still feels like they’re missing some dynamism, another interesting piece to give them a bit more offensive potential in the bottom six. And much like the swing the organization’s previous regime took on Phil Kessel eight years ago, a trade for another talented sniper in need of a change of scenery could be the move for Pittsburgh.
Roster-wise, Brock Boeser’s fit is pretty clear — with Hextall moving on from Kasperi Kapanen (getting some help from the Blues, who plucked the winger and his cap hit off waivers), there’s a spot for Boeser on Pittsburgh’s third line, where the Pens had hoped Kapanen could shine. Cap-wise, the Pens would likely have to move someone out to fit Boeser in (or convince Vancouver to eat some of the winger’s salary), but with plenty of names coming off the books this summer, the fit would be easier to stomach over the next two years of Boeser’s deal, as would giving up assets to bring in a young talent with some term.
The fit could make sense, the Pens have a history of rolling the dice on players in need of a fresh start, and if Vancouver prefers to trade Boeser to the East, who better than Canucks GM Patrik Allvin and president Jim Rutherford’s former club, whose prospect pool the pair would know best?
MJ: Erik Karlsson and Jakob Chychrun BOTH get moved
The opposite is more probable. Both impact defencemen have term remaining, which always complicates transactions, plus Karlsson’s cap hit is far from manageable. Still, with Karlsson the Norris frontrunner and Chychrun a top under-25 talent teams will be calling on them. The past couple weeks have been wild on the trade front so why not cap off trade season with a pair of blockbusters?
RD: Matt Duchene to Carolina
Canes need centre help, he can slide in as a No. 2 and can also obviously play a lot of wing. Nashville retains, a third-party retains and they get it done. Seems like a place he’d like to be.
RB: James Reimer to Toronto
Kyle Dubas didn’t sound too keen on adding a goaltender by the deadline when he spoke to the media last week, and at the time it made sense. Toronto had needs at forward and on the blue line with limited cap space, so those places had to be prioritized. Now, though, with Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Sam Lafferty and Jake McCabe all in the mix, could the Leafs GM turn his attention to the crease? As currently built, Toronto can’t activate injured netminder Matt Murray without going over the cap — but he does seem close to a return. With Ilya Samsonov taking over in the crease and Murray not exactly inspiring with his play, may the Leafs choose to go another, cheaper route for depth at the position? Reimer’s $2.25 million AAV on an expiring contract would fit, and the Sharks — or someone — might retain some of that. Bring Reimer home.