Wyshynski’s NHL trade deadline tiers: From elite game-changers to bargain beauties

For the record, the 2023 NHL trade deadline is still scheduled for Friday, March 3, even if most of the league has decided to get their holiday shopping done early.

According to CapFriendly, the average number of trades made in the 14 days leading to the trade deadline was 17.6 over the past 10 seasons. In 2022-23, there were 27 trades made in that time period as of Tuesday.

Those trades included most of the biggest names that were expected to move before the deadline: Patrick Kane (traded to the New York Rangers), Timo Meier (New Jersey Devils), Ryan O’Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs), Mattias Ekholm (Edmonton Oilers) and Dmitry Orlov (Boston Bruins) among them. Go back even further, and you’ll find trades for Vladimir Tarasenko (Rangers) and Bo Horvat (New York Islanders).

With so many trades and so little salary cap space, what’s left for Friday’s deadline?

Plenty, actually. Significant names still need new homes. Contenders still need to fill lineup holes. Rebuilding teams still want to amass picks and prospects. And given the “third party” trade creativity we’ve seen this season — with “broker” teams picking up draft picks in exchange for retaining salary on a traded player — there’s a chance for more big moves under the cap before the deadline.

Here are the trade tiers for the 2023 NHL trade deadline, such as they are at this moment.

Elite trade target

Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes

The 24-year-old defenseman hasn’t played since Feb. 10 for “trade-related reasons,” a justification that has entered into the hockey lexicon this season. He requested a trade out of Arizona last season. The clamor around his availability this deadline makes it seem like that wish might finally be granted.

There’s a robust market for Chychrun’s services, because of his age, size (6-2) and the overall quality of his game — including offensive upside that could be realized on a better roster. Most of all, his contract: He’s signed through 2024-25 with a $4.6 million annual cap hit.

GM Bill Armstrong has been seeking two first-round picks, although that could materialize as a first-round pick and a blue-chip prospect who’s the equivalent of one. That’s the starting point in the package coming back to the Coyotes — there will have to be more.

Another part of the asking price: The Coyotes are not looking to take on any additional salary beyond what’s due Chychrun, something that reportedly stalled out talks with the Los Angeles Kings earlier this month. They also don’t want to retain any of Chychrun’s contract. According to an NHL source, the Boston Bruins were in talks with Arizona about acquiring Chychrun before making their trade for Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov, but the Coyotes balked at the notion of retaining part of Chychrun’s contract.

What makes the Chychrun derby exciting is that it’s not relegated to contenders. Teams that are outside of the playoffs like the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues could also make their pitches to acquire this foundational player as a longer-term play.

Top pending free agent tier

Matt Dumba, D, Minnesota Wild
James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia Flyers

There are a few players in these tiers whose inclusion falls under the “could be traded if an offer bowls his general manager over as if he were struck by the boulder from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.'” Dumba is one of those players.

The 28-year-old Wild defenseman is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. While he hasn’t had the best season in Minnesota, his play has trended up recently. “If somebody comes through and offers us a boatload for him, we’ll think about it,” Wild GM Bill Guerin said. “I would probably bet that he’s here through the end of the year, but I can’t make that promise.”

James van Riemsdyk is in his 14th NHL season and has 23 points in 40 games for the Flyers ahead of unrestricted free agency. He’s still a player with a great net-front presence who could be an asset on the power play for a contending team. But Philly would have to find a way to slice into his $7 million cap hit in order to make a trade work.

Top players with term tier

Brock Boeser, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Kevin Hayes, C, Philadelphia Flyers
J.T. Miller, C, Vancouver Canucks
Colton Parayko, D, St. Louis Blues
Nick Schmaltz, C/RW, Arizona Coyotes

This tier seems to change every few hours, given the amount of tire-kicking that’s happening leading up to March 3.

The Canucks have explored trading Boeser in recent weeks, as the 26-year-old winger has two more seasons left at a $6.65 million annual cap hit beyond this one. Miller, 29, is “week to week” with an injury; his status with the Canucks seemingly changes week-to-week as well. His seven-year contract extension ($8 million AAV) begins next season, with a full no-movement clause that kicks in with it. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this week that the Penguins and Canucks had been engaged in trade talks regarding Miller, who grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

The Blues have opted to move players out at the trade deadline. Parayko, 29, has a no-trade clause and is in the first season of an eight-year contract that carries a $6.5 million annual cap hit. While he has struggled this season, he could be a first-pairing defenseman for any team — and the Blues could amass more picks and players to transform their roster in the offseason.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher was asked on Tuesday about trading Hayes, and said the potential for such a move was there, saying that he’s expressed to teams that “we’re open to ideas and willing to listen to a lot of different types of scenarios.” The Flyers want to get younger. Hayes, 30, has a 12-team no-trade clause.

Schmaltz, 27, doesn’t have the profile of these other names. What he does have: a contract that runs through 2025-26 with a $5.85 million annual cap hit, as well as 98 points in his past 106 games. There’s a reason GM Bill Armstrong sees him as a core player. Acquiring him wouldn’t come cheaply.

Check back this summer tier

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks
Christian Dvorak, C, Montreal Canadiens
John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks
Torey Krug, D, St. Louis Blues
Travis Sanheim, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers

It’s a tribute to Karlsson’s 77 points in 60 games that his name featured prominently in the trade market, as his $11.5 million cap hit through 2026-27 and full no-movement clause had some claiming it was an unmovable contract. If he does move, it’s likely not at the trade deadline: Karlsson recently said he hasn’t been asked to waive his NMC and “it’d be weird” if GM Mike Grier asked him so close to the deadline. “We’ve had plenty of time for that if that was the case,” Karlsson said this week.

Demko just returned to the Canucks’ lineup this week. While trading a goalie of Demko’s quality might seem deleterious to Vancouver’s future success, there’s been speculation the Canucks could move the 27-year-old for a sizable return. He has a $5 million annual cap hit and is signed through 2025-26.

The Flyers are sellers, according to GM Chuck Fletcher, and that could include two 26-year-old defensemen. Sanheim is 26, and has an eight-year contract extension kicking in this summer — one that carries a $6.25 million AAV and a no-trade clause. Provorov has two more years left on his deal, at $6.75 million AAV. The Flyers could be compelled to move both ahead of significant salary increases: Sanheim makes $8.125 million in total salary next season while Provorov’s salary jumps to $8.5 million.

Krug, 31, is signed through 2026-27 with a $6.5 million annual cap hit and a no-trade clause. He has been limited to 41 games due to injury, and is a minus-28.

Given where the cap is this deadline, a player like Dvorak isn’t at the top of the acquisition list. But with two years at $4.45 million per year left after this one, there might be a better market for the 27-year-old this summer.

Finally, there’s John Gibson. The 29-year-old is signed through 2026-27. He finished ninth in the ESPN positional rankings, so he’s got some respect out there. But it’s not a contract that would move at the deadline, especially given his 10-team trade protection.

Help up front tier

Andreas Athanasiou, LW/RW, Chicago Blackhawks
Nick Bonino, C, San Jose Sharks
Jason Dickinson, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Max Domi, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Mikael Granlund, F, Nashville Predators
Adam Henrique, C, Anaheim Ducks
Kevin Labanc, C, San Jose Sharks
Sam Reinhart, RW, Florida Panthers
Jack Roslovic, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

The NHL sent a memo to teams on Tuesday warning that the league will investigate trades that involve injured players and the acquiring team keeping them on long-term injured reserve until the playoffs. It hasn’t chilled the market, as injured Gustav Nyquist was traded to the Wild on Tuesday. That could be good news for Adam Henrique.

Two of the more interesting names here are Granlund and Reinhart. The former could be part of a larger housecleaning in Nashville. He’s 31 and can play center or wing, carrying a $5 million AAV through 2025. It’s been a down year for him, but he could bolster a forward group. Reinhart falls into that “if the Panthers were overwhelmed by an offer” category. He’s got 45 points in 61 games and is signed through next season at a $6.5 million cap hit.

Roslovic has 34 points in 57 games, but his future with the Jackets is a bit unclear. Domi is bound to generate interest from contending teams, but there’s a chance he could be part of the rebuild in Chicago as well.

Help on the back end tier

Tyson Barrie, D, Nashville Predators
Tony DeAngelo, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Arizona Coyotes
Dante Fabbro, D, Nashville Predators
Radko Gudas, D, Florida Panthers
Dmitry Kulikov, D, Anaheim Ducks
Marco Scandella, D, St. Louis Blues
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Anaheim Ducks
Carson Soucy, D, Seattle Kraken

Among the puck-moving defensemen, there are some options. Barrie, 31, just joined this list yesterday, as the Predators acquired him in the Mattias Ekholm trade. While his power-play numbers aren’t going to be what they were feeding pucks to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, he’s a capable quarterback. His even-strength play often leaves one wanting more, however.

Gostisbehere, 29, is in the final year of his contract ($4.5 million AAV). He couldn’t keep it rolling after a hot start — Gostisbehere has four points in his past 16 games — but he has 30 points in 51 games this season. Shattenkirk, 34, has a $3.9 million cap hit and a modified no-trade clause. The 13-year veteran won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2020.

DeAngelo is the most productive of this trio with 34 points in 56 games, and is signed for an additional season at $5 million AAV. He has been a healthy scratch and was called out by coach John Tortorella for his defense this season.

On the “defensive defenseman” side, Kulikov ($2.25 million AAV) has a modified no-trade clause before hitting unrestricted free agency this summer. Scandella has another year at $3.275 million against the cap, a modified no-trade clause and has played only three games this season due to injuries. The Panthers have gotten calls on Gudas but would likely move the pending UFA only for a commensurate NHL player, given that they’re in the playoff hunt.

There’s been heavy speculation that Dante Fabbro could end up in San Jose, with his former college coach David Quinn. Soucy is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $2.75 million cap hit whom the Kraken could make available.

Help in the way back tier

Jonathan Quick, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
James Reimer, G, San Jose Sharks
Anthony Stolarz, G, Anaheim Ducks
Cam Talbot, G, Ottawa Senators
Karel Vejmelka, G, Arizona Coyotes

There were four NHL-level goalies traded near the 2022 deadline, including Marc-Andre Fleury being sent to the Minnesota Wild. The 2023 trade season could yield fewer goalie moves, given how many contending teams are set in the crease.

One of the few teams that might have needed a goalie — the Los Angeles Kings — acquired one on Wednesday by trading for Joonas Korpisalo of the Blue Jackets (and sending Jonathan Quick to Columbus).

Speculation is that the Blue Jackets will now attempt to move Quick on to another contending team before the deadline. He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The other rentals here are Reimer, Stolarz and most notably Talbot, who just returned from injury for the Senators. Vejmelka is signed through 2024-25 at a $2.725 million annual cap hit. He’s the best of the bunch (10th in goals saved above expected in the NHL) but wouldn’t come cheaply.

Lars Eller, C
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW
Conor Sheary, LW/RW
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D

Needless to say, this tier was much more robust as of Tuesday morning. But the Capitals continued their pending unrestricted free agent “everything must go!” routine by sending Erik Gustafsson to the Maple Leafs and Marcus Johansson to the Wild.

(This was the fifth time that Johansson has been traded since 2017 and the second time he’s been traded by the Capitals. It’s entirely possible that “Johansson” is Swedish for “Stempniak.”)

GM Brian MacLellan still has other players to move, provided he doesn’t hammer out contract extensions with some of them.

Eller is the most interesting one from a contender’s standpoint. The 33-year-old veteran’s offense took a tumble this season, but he’s a good bottom-six center who’s very familiar with the playoff grind. The Capitals could retain something on his $3.5 million cap hit. Sheary ($1.5 million) has 30 points in 62 games, along with two Stanley Cup rings from his Penguins days. “TVR” could bolster a team’s penalty kill while also pitching in at 5-on-5.

Bargain Beauties tier

Justin Braun, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Patrick Brown, C, Philadelphia Flyers
Nick Bjugstad, C, Arizona Coyotes
Nick Seeler, D, Philadelphia Flyers
Austin Watson, LW/RW, Ottawa Senators

A few Flyers make this tier. Brown ($750,000 AAV) is a solid defensive forward who could round out a fourth line. Seeler makes $775,000 against the cap through next season, and brings physicality in his 14:35 per game in average ice time. He’s been one of the bright spots analytically for the Flyers, leading them in wins above replacement (2.1). Braun ($1 million AAV) brings experience and toughness.

Watson ($1.5 million AAV) is a UFA next summer and could be a gritty, penalty-killing addition to someone’s bottom six. Bjugstad has 23 points in 59 games with the Coyotes, and the journeyman pending UFA makes only $900,000 against the cap.

Value drop tier

Max Comtois, LW, Anaheim Ducks
Jonathan Drouin, C/LW, Montreal Canadiens
Jordan Greenway, LW, Minnesota Wild
Conor Garland, RW, Vancouver Canucks
John Klingberg, D, Anaheim Ducks
Joel Edmundson, D, Montreal Canadiens

Our last group is a collection of players whose value has dropped this season for one reason or another.

This tier was basically created for Klingberg. He was once counted among the better offensive defensemen in the NHL, and had 47 points in 74 games with Dallas last season. But when a big-money multiyear contract didn’t materialize in the offseason, Klingberg signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Ducks. His season has been underwhelming in traditional stats (24 points in 50 games) and advanced metrics (minus-6.1 goals scored above replacement). Can the Ducks find a taker, considering he also has a 10-team no-trade list?

Comtois is a pending RFA who hasn’t been able to find a defined role in Anaheim. Drouin’s inability to stay in the lineup and his cap hit ($5.5 million) mean he’s likely headed to a career course correction as an unrestricted free agent. Greenway’s production dip in the first season of a new three-year deal ($3 million AAV) has made him available from the Wild. Garland’s points per 60 minutes rate has declined for two straight seasons, and he’s in the second campaign of a five-year contract with a $4.95 million cap hit. Edmundson can be a solid defender, but injuries have limited him and his appeal this season — plus, he’s signed through next season at a $3.5 million annual cap hit.

As you can see, there are still plenty of players who could be moved before the trade deadline … despite so many having moved already.

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