The 2021 NHL trade deadline arrives on April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. There will be teams seeking to trade players that are no longer in their rebuilding plans. There will be teams seeking to add players to complete their championship plans.
This all sounds normal, but this season’s trade season is anything but typical thanks to the COVID pandemic. Players from American franchise that are traded to Canadian teams are subject to a seven-day quarantine. The flat salary cap of $81.5 million — for this season and subsequent ones — has forced teams to retain salary on trades or seek money in, money out deals with other teams. The lack of any significant ticket revenue for the last year has teams looking to slash payrolls while other teams reconsider every dollar they add to theirs.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Kraken and the looming expansion draft are also impacting the trade market.
Get caught up on the players and picks in play, as well as the restrictions and potential moves for every NHL team ahead of the deadline with this comprehensive guide. Who stays? Who goes? Find out below.
Note: Emily Kaplan provides the guide for the East and Central teams, while Greg Wyshynski handles the North and West clubs.
Status: Selective additions required
What to watch: The Bruins have been on the cusp of another Stanley Cup for some time, and should go all-in before their core truly ages out. Boston GM Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy have been pretty transparent about their team’s biggest flaw, though it’s obvious for everyone to see: 5-on-5 scoring is an issue. Heck, the Bruins played their first five games against the Devils, the second-worst team in the division, without scoring a goal during 5-on-5 play. The Bruins had been hoping for more from their middle six and could dangle young-but-underperforming DeBrusk and Bjork as trade options. Returns may not be what the Bruins hope, though.
Much was made about the Bruins’ blue-line turnover this offseason — specifically, parting with stalwarts Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. However, the young group, led by Norris Trophy candidate Charlie McAvoy, has held it together quite well. That said, the Bruins could stealthily be looking for top-four blue-line help. They’d specifically target a left-shot defenseman, and Mattias Ekholm‘s name (as well as cap hit, and extra year left on his contract) will certainly entice the Bruins’ front office, as well as fans. A wild card would be getting insurance in goal, as Tuukka Rask is dealing with a lingering injury.
What they should do: With defenseman John Moore missing the remainder of the season after March 22 hip surgery, Boston’s backup options are even thinner. However, that is not the Bruins’ most pressing need. The focus on April 12 should be all about getting scoring help, and a middle-six winger is what this team should be targeting. Taylor Hall could be brought in for as low as a second-round pick at this point, and if that’s what Buffalo ends up asking for, the Bruins shouldn’t hesitate. Hall will be supremely motivated and may do better in a second-line role at this point. Kyle Palmieri and Nick Foligno are both high-character, high-effort players who would fit in well with the Bruins’ culture.
Status: Anyone could be on the move
Players, picks in play: LW Taylor Hall ($8 million, UFA in 2021, no-movement clause), C Casey Mittelstadt ($874,125, RFA in 2021), RW/LW Tobias Rieder ($700,000, UFA in 2021), D Colin Miller ($3.875 million, UFA in 2022), D Brandon Montour ($3.85 million, UFA in 2021), RW Sam Reinhart ($5.2 million, RFA in 2021), D Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million, UFA in 2022), LW/C Riley Sheahan ($700,000, UFA in 2021)
What to watch: Everything is on the table for the Sabres, the worst team in the NHL this season. First-year GM Kevyn Adams and his closest advisor, VP of hockey administration Mark Jakubowski, need to think reboot for this team after things spiraled out of control this season. Considering there’s absolutely no shot at the playoffs, all pending UFAs — yes, including their prized free-agent find, Taylor Hall — should be on the move. Unfortunately, Jake McCabe is unmovable due to a season-ending injury.
The Sabres got their business started early, sending Eric Staal to the Canadiens on March 26 for a third- and fifth-rounder. Unfortunately, Hall may not yield a first-round pick at this point, considering his production.
The bigger issue is what to do with players with one or more years remaining on their contracts. As it pertains to captain Jack Eichel — who remains out with an upper-body injury — even if the team is considering a trade involving the captain, it is much likelier to happen at the draft, or later in the offseason.
What they should do: Get busy. It’s all about putting Buffalo in the best position for success in the future, and that means stockpiling draft picks. A player like Mittelstadt, who is an RFA this summer, would benefit from a change of scenery. He hasn’t lived up to his potential in Buffalo, and though it’s never easy to give up on a top-10 pick so soon (he was selected No. 8 in 2017) nothing is ideal about the situation.
Though Reinhart has been the Sabres’ most consistent forward this season, Buffalo should even consider moving him, Miller, Montour and Sheahan; all would be better off playing playoff hockey elsewhere this spring.
Status: The rebuild continues
Players, picks in play: RW Nikita Gusev ($4.5 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), RW Kyle Palmieri ($4.65 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), Travis Zajac ($5.75 million, UFA in 2021, no-trade clause), D Connor Carrick ($1.5 million, UFA in 2021), D Dmitry Kulikov ($1.15 million, UFA in 2021), D Ryan Murray ($4.6 million, UFA in 2021), D Sami Vatanen ($2 million, UFA in 2021)
What to watch: GM Tom Fitzgerald said his team will be ready to go for it once its two centerpieces, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, hit their prime. We’re not there yet, so it’s going to be another season of tough goodbyes.
Of the Devils’ available defenseman, Kulikov and Murray are the most attractive to other teams. The two biggest decisions on Fitzgerald’s plate are what to do with Palmieri (the team’s most consistent forward over the last five seasons) and Zajac (the current longest-tenured Devil). Zajac’s no-trade clause means he gets a say in what happens. The Devils and Palmieri have talked about an extension. If nothing gets done, there are plenty of contenders — specifically, the Bruins and Islanders — interested in adding the veteran winger.
What they should do: The Devils aren’t rushing the rebuild. Though there’s certainly a hope that they will be more competitive next season, they aren’t banking on a quick turnaround. In the 2022 offseason, they’ll also clear considerable cap space with P.K. Subban‘s contract ($9 million annual cap hit) coming off the books. Supplement that with a few extra draft picks and prospects and New Jersey is in much better shape.
Gusev, Zajac, Kulikov and Murray should all find new homes. The Devils can’t get rid of all of their available defenseman, or it could harm development the rest of the season. As for Palmieri — he should probably go too. Who knows, he can always circle back in free agency.
Status: Looking for an Anders Lee replacement
Players, picks in play: 2021 first-round pick, LW Kieffer Bellows (entry-level contract, RFA in 2021), prospects Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Robin Salo
What to watch: The Islanders have a strong team identity, and they’re hoping the experience of last year’s run to the Eastern Conference finals is a jumping-off point for even more sustained success this postseason. New York was off to a terrific start before captain Anders Lee blew out his ACL. Lee led the team in goals at the time of his injury.
The Islanders can’t replace the intangibles and leadership Lee brought off the ice, but they are looking to replace some of his offensive production. GM Lou Lamoriello is not typically one to telegraph his moves, but everything indicates that the team is looking for a scoring winger ahead of April 12. That said, keep in mind that this is Lamoriello, one of the most secretive GMs in the game. So it’s also smart to expect the unexpected as well.
What they should do: The Islanders have one clear area of need, so they should go out and address it. Taylor Hall is a natural fit to slide into Lee’s spot on the left wing, alongside Mathew Barzal. Dustin Brown and Kyle Palmieri could also make sense. For the Islanders, it’s all about getting the right character guys to blend in with their team identity and culture. That’s why the top of the Islanders dream list should be another captain: Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Islanders have drafted well recently, so they could afford to give up a first-round pick if needed. Seldom-used rookie Kieffer Bellows has promise, but could be included in a package as well.
Status: Likely idle
What to watch: Things could be really quiet on the Rangers front. Management isn’t losing sight of the bigger picture — which is the full rebuild — and though New York is inching closer to contention, it’s not there yet. GM Jeff Gorton already made one pre-deadline move, sending rugged winger Brendan Lemieux to the Kings for a fourth-round pick. That was really done to clear up some lineup spots because the Rangers get their own trade deadline “acquisition” in Vitali Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick of the 2018 draft who is signed, quarantined, and ready to be inserted into the lineup.
The Rangers still have DeAngelo on the books, but no teams seem interested in the player New York sent home for character issues. More than likely, it’s looking like DeAngelo will be retained until this summer, exposed for the Seattle expansion draft, then bought out.
What they should do: Nothing. Unless Gorton can wrangle a great deal for a young, exciting player who’s under contract beyond this season, there’s no need for the Rangers to do much. If there are moves to be made, they can be done around the draft.
Rooney and Smith could yield a middle-round pick each, though the Rangers would probably need to retain part of Smith’s salary. The 28-year-old Blackwell could garner interest for his recent play. His increased playing time has come at the expense of younger players whom the Rangers would like to be developing right now. Once again, it’s all about the long game for New York at this juncture.
Players, picks in play: D Erik Gustafsson ($3 million, UFA in 2021), C Scott Laughton ($2.3 million, UFA in 2021), LW Michael Raffl ($1.6 million, UFA in 2021), D Justin Braun ($1.8 million, UFA in 2022), 2021 first-round pick
What to watch: The Flyers expected to be contenders in 2021, but their season derailed after a brutal month of March. It’s still possible to get back on track, but time is ticking. The first thing they need to do is stop the bleeding, and a lot of the issues fall on the blue line. Philadelphia could be looking for defensemen reinforcements; the Flyers never seemed to recover from the surprise retirement of Matt Niskanen in the offseason.
Philly is also considering getting goaltending reinforcements. Carter Hart has struggled, and they don’t want to overburden him with pressure (especially when the blue line is so leaky). It doesn’t seem like there’s a trade partner for Shayne Gostisbehere — especially after he went unclaimed on waivers — so it would be surprising to see movement there. If Philly is going to execute a trade, it would have to give up another roster player or future draft picks and/or prospects.
What they should do: If the Predators decide they’re willing to part with Mattias Ekholm, he could be a fit for the Flyers. But the Flyers would likely have to give up their 2021 first round pick, a top prospect (like the recently signed Cam York) and maybe even something else. Ekholm is signed through next season, but Philly would want to sign him to an extension, and make sure he is protected for the expansion draft. It’s a lot to navigate.
Considering the way this season has unraveled, it might be best to play it conservative and make big moves around the draft. That means sending Gustafsson and Raffl away for middle-round picks. Laughton should stick around; he’s too valuable to the bottom six, and could be re-signed in the offseason anyway.
Status: Looking for depth
What to watch: Under former GM Jim Rutherford, you knew what you were going to get ahead of the trade deadline. Rutherford often telegraphed his moves. He also had no problem trading away first-round picks or the organizations’ top prospects — two things he did often.
The new regime of Brian Burke and Ron Hextall have promised a more conservative approach, knowing they need to plan for life after Sidney Crosby. So don’t expect them to part with their 2021 second-round pick (they’re already without 2021 draft picks in the first, third, fourth and sixth rounds). The team could use a reinforcement at center, with Teddy Blueger and Evgeni Malkin both injured. However, that’s no longer as dire a need with the emergence of Frederick Gaudreau.
What they should do: The Penguins should seek depth forwards. Luke Glendening makes a lot of sense, given his versatility and affordability ($1.8 million annual cap hit). Nashville’s Mikael Granlund or Erik Haula would also be good pickups. To make it work, the Penguins could send Pettersson or Riikola the other way. There’s a logjam on the left side, so this is an area of strength, though it sounds as if Pittsburgh management doesn’t mind having depth options there.
Nonetheless, whatever the Penguins do, they can’t dip too far into their pool of draft picks. In 2022 they finally have a full arsenal of picks. Burke and Hextall were hired to draft players, and to keep them around.
Status: Another center would be nice
Players, picks in play: D Jonas Siegenthaler ($800,000, UFA in 2021)
What to watch: Well, the Capitals would like to make additions as they go for their second Stanley Cup in four years. One problem: they don’t have any cap space with which to work. If they add a player, they’d likely have to lose a player.
It was long believed that the Capitals would look for a veteran goalie for insurance, since they’re rolling with two youngsters, in Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. There is a reason they signed Henrik Lundqvist this offseason. However, Samsonov and Vanecek have played well enough lately that this may no longer be necessary.
Adding a defenseman at the deadline has become somewhat of a yearly tradition for the Capitals, but the trend may end here. Washington should be getting blue-line help when Michal Kempny, who is back skating, is activated off LTIR.
What they should do: If the Capitals are going to add to their group, it should be at center. Lars Eller‘s recent absence exposed Washington’s weakness down the gut. Winger T.J. Oshie filled in admirably, but that’s just not going to fly come playoff time. They are one injury away from disaster. Rangers center Colin Blackwell, with a cap hit of $750,000 and under contract through 2022, would be a smart target. A one-for-one swap for Siegenthaler; who says no?
Though adding a goalie would be nice, it’s not worth sacrificing a current roster player to make that move work, salary-wise. Roll with the youngsters; they’ve shown enough promise.
Status: A little bit going out, a little bit coming in
What to watch: After making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 but flaming out of the 2020 bubble, the Hurricanes are looking to take the next step and get over their playoff hump. It’s been a strong 2021 so far. With Petr Mrazek returning from injury (broken thumb) the Canes will have three goalies on their roster. It’s a luxury a lot of teams would like to have, but it’s just that: a luxury. If Carolina is looking to make a trade, involving one of their goalies makes sense. It would likely be the rookie Nedeljkovic or veteran Reimer on the move.
The Canes have a well-balanced and high-functioning forward group. The blue line is also an area of strength, but Carolina could look to add a right-shot defenseman to balance things out. The Canes were busy at last year’s deadline, acquiring one rental (Sami Vatanen) and two players with term left on their deals (Vincent Trocheck, Brady Skjei). This year, if Carolina is active again, it would be surprising to see them shell out for a rental.
What they should do: Considering the league-wide thirst for goaltending, Carolina should move one of its goalies. That could help facilitate a trade for a right-shot defenseman. At first blush, Carolina’s blue line looks just fine, albeit a little imbalanced with so many left shots. A team can never have too much insurance on the back end. The Canes are also going to run into some issues at the expansion draft of which defensemen to protect — especially when they re-sign Dougie Hamilton this offseason. Adding somebody else to the mix could help assuage those issues. Columbus’ David Savard would be a great addition, but the Canes may shy away from players on expiring contracts.
Status: Eyes on the long term
What to watch: The Blackhawks were one of the season’s pleasant surprises in the first half but have tailed off considerably in March. They have been eyeing a rebuild for the past few years but finally admitted to it this past offseason. That means whatever they do will have the big picture in mind. Sure, a playoff appearance would be sweet, but for Chicago, it’s all about winning sustainably again.
This means that the team won’t be in the market to acquire any players on expiring deals; the Blackhawks simply aren’t interested in giving up any of their draft picks or prospects. They could, however, move players of their own on expiring deals — such as Janmark, Wallmark and Soderberg. The Blackhawks also find themselves flush in cap space, thanks to several high-profile players on long-term injured reserve (Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Zack Smith). If any contending teams are looking to clear some money off the books, Chicago is a team they could call — and the Blackhawks are happy to listen, as long as the deal would also include draft picks or young players they can incorporate into long-term plans. Oh, how the tables have turned.
What they should do: First, the Blackhawks should seriously entertain offers on their two pending UFAs, Janmark and Soderberg. Wallmark, a pending RFA, should probably be on the move too. Chicago isn’t secure enough in the standings to justify keeping those players, and those lineup spots could easily be used to give young players more experience down the stretch.
Now for the fun part: Weaponize that cap space! After years of being strapped against the cap, forcing the team to unload contracts, Chicago can now take advantage of teams in a similar predicament. We’ll see whether anyone is feeling that desperate, but it won’t hurt the Blackhawks to try.
Status: Retooling on the fly
Players, picks in play: D David Savard ($4.25 million, UFA in 2021), LW Nick Foligno ($5.5 million, UFA in 2021, 10-team no trade list), C/RW Riley Nash ($2.75 million, UFA in 2021), C/LW Max Domi ($5.3 million, UFA in 2022), D Michael Del Zotto ($700,000, UFA in 2021), G Elvis Merzlikins ($4 million, UFA in 2022)
What to watch: The Blue Jackets are playing catch-up in the Central Division, and the question is whether GM Jarmo Kekalainen thinks his team has enough oomph for a late-season push. A playoff spot is still within reach, but if management isn’t confident in the direction of the current group, it would behoove them to trade a few players on expiring contracts.
Savard’s name has been circulated quite a bit, and because of a dearth of high-quality defenseman available, there will be interest in him by many a contending team. The 30-year-old isn’t having his best season (his average ice time has dipped by nearly a minute per game) but he plays a gritty defensive game, and could be revived on a new team.
The Blue Jackets face a big quandary with Foligno, their captain. If Columbus is thinking playoffs, they can’t let Foligno go. He’s too important — sound defensively, high effort, even higher character. That said, he’d also be the most coveted player available on Columbus’ roster, for that very reason.
Domi hasn’t lived up to expectations in Columbus just yet, so the Jackets could try to flip him. The wild card is Merzlikins. Organizationally, goaltending is an area of strength, so this is where Columbus could take advantage of some truly goaltending-needy teams.
What they should do: Columbus should treat this season as a chance to do a slight retooling. Coach John Tortorella’s contract is up after this season, and it’s unclear if he’ll return next season. It’s not encouraging that the team couldn’t make it work with Pierre Luc-Dubois, who was drafted No. 3 overall in 2016 to be the franchise’s No. 1 center. And whatever they’re asking of Patrik Laine isn’t meshing with the player, as he’s lost on this team.
The available player who could command the biggest return is Merzlikins, and if there are desperate teams calling, Columbus shouldn’t hesitate to strike. As for Foligno, I’d leave it up to the player. If he wants out, I’d respect his wish. If he wants to ride it out (and will re-sign in the offseason) the captain deserves the chance to see this through.
Status: Listening to offers for UFAs
Players, picks in play: D Jamie Oleksiak ($2.1375 million, UFA in 2021), D Mark Pysyk ($750,000, UFA in 2021), LW Andrew Cogliano ($3.25 million, UFA in 2021, six-team no-trade list), LW/RW Blake Comeau ($2.4 million, UFA in 2021), G Anton Khudobin ($3.33 million, UFA in 2023, four-team no-trade list)
What to watch: After making it to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, it’s been a slower-than-desired start for the Stars. Dallas is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, and has games in hand, but needs to get hot, soon. The Stars don’t have a ton of cap space with which to work, given Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin are poised to come off LTIR. But that’s a good thing: both players can act as the team’s own “acquisitions” at the trade deadline. And the Stars won’t have to worry about the usual deadline headaches like, how will those players adjust and fit in with the team?
Most likely, the Stars will take a modest approach on April 12, and try to keep the band together the best they can. If Dallas is looking to make a splash, it could part with Khudobin — a hero of the 2020 bubble — but that’s only if somebody wows them with a package. Oleksiak, the big physical defenseman, is attractive to a lot of teams. But if the Stars think they can snag a playoff spot still, there’s no reason to move him off the roster.
What they should do: The Stars should mostly stand pat and see if they can drum up some late-season magic. However, GM Jim Nill should continue to take calls on the pending UFAs (as he has been doing). If teams want to take on a Cogliano, Comeau or Pysyk and throw in some mid-round draft picks in return, it’s worth considering. Pysyk hasn’t been able to take control of the No. 6 defenseman spot, and the team seems comfortable using Joel Hanley there. Cogliano and Comeau are usually the type of gritty veterans other teams like to add around this time. They have the trust of coach Rick Bowness, so it also wouldn’t be surprising to see both stay.
Status: Stick to the Yzerplan
Players, picks in play: G Jonathan Bernier ($3 million, UFA in 2021), C/RW Sam Gagner ($850,000, UFA in 2021), C Luke Glendening ($1.8 million, UFA in 2021), RW Bobby Ryan ($1 million, UFA in 2021), D Marc Staal ($5.7 million, UFA in 2021, no-movement clause), D Jon Merrill ($925,000, UFA in 2021)
What to watch: After a record 25 consecutive seasons of making the playoffs, the Red Wings are poised to miss the postseason for the fifth straight year. Detroit has improved from its bottom-dwelling 2019-20 self (in which it finished with 23 fewer points than anyone else and a minus-123 goal differential). Even better news: This could be the last season of pain. The Red Wings clear considerable cap space this summer, allowing GM Steve Yzerman to truly begin shaping the roster to his liking.
But Yzerman’s entire master plan is about building the Red Wings into a winner again through the draft, and draft picks and prospects are what he covets most right now. There are very few untouchables on this roster — and several players on expiring deals who are ideal candidates to help a contender. If Bernier is healthy, he is one of the best available goalies this spring. Glendening, who has versatility and a highly attractive sub-$2 million cap hit, is also garnering a ton of interest.
What they should do: Anyone who can go, must go. OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But there are plenty of players on the Red Wings’ roster who are not serving a huge purpose in a losing season but could be very useful elsewhere.
If Bernier is healthy, send him on his way. Glendening and Ryan have enticingly low cap hits for their level of service. They’re as good as gone. Even if Merrill has been Detroit’s best defenseman this season, the Red Wings should say goodbye to him too (if they really like him, they can always re-sign him in free agency).
The biggest win is if Detroit finds a new home for Staal, whom Detroit took from New York this offseason in exchange for a second-round pick. That would mean Yzerman pulled off the rare “double flip” of a player. There’s a reason Yzerman is viewed as the best GM in the game today.
Status: Looking to add
What to watch: The Panthers are having a renaissance season. This is the best the team has looked in at least five years, when Jaromir Jagr was leading the team in points, and Roberto Luongo was holding it down in goal.
However, the Panthers got a huge blow last weekend when Aaron Ekblad, who was having a Norris Trophy-caliber season, suffered a gruesome leg fracture. Surgery will keep him sidelined for 12 weeks. First-year GM Bill Zito has a long-term game plan for the team, but he wants to reward the current roster for playing so well in the season’s first half. That’s the conundrum he faces. The 2015-16 season represents isolated success. The Panthers have made it to the playoffs only twice in 18 years, and made it past the first round just once.
Going “all in” and jeopardizing top prospects (or future prospects) doesn’t align with the big picture of sustained success. So they’ll try to improve, without giving up too much.
What they should do: If Zito doesn’t want to give up a first-round pick or any of the top prospects — and Florida does have a strong pool of talented prospects — the only option might be to see if another team is interested in Driedger. The 26-year-old was a breakout star of the first half, but now that Sergei Bobrovsky has taken over the net, Driedger’s presence could be viewed as expendable. Plus, the Panthers risk losing him in the Seattle expansion draft this summer, so it might be better to get something for him rather than lose him for nothing.
As for attempts to replace Ekblad are concerned, the Panthers should try to snag Vince Dunn away from St. Louis. He’s only 24-years-old, and is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning Florida would be getting a player it could incorporate into its future plans as well. An all-around win.
Status: The deadline’s wild-card team
Players, picks in play: D Mattias Ekholm ($3.75 million, UFA in 2022), C/RW Mikael Granlund ($3.75 million, UFA in 2021), C Erik Haula ($1.75 million, UFA in 2021), RW Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25 million, UFA in 2024), LW Filip Forsberg ($6 million, UFA in 2022), LW Calle Jarnkrok ($2 million, UFA in 2022)
What to watch: Two weeks ago, we would have told you that the Predators were poised to be one of the biggest sellers of the 2021 trade deadline. Then something unexpected happened: The Preds started winning. Nashville recorded the most wins (eight) and highest winning percentage (.889) over the last two weeks in March to bring itself back into the Central Division playoff race.
GM David Poile now faces a quandary. His team has been a bit stale lately, having not made it past the first round of the playoffs since their 2017 run to the Stanley Cup Final. An influx of youth is needed. So how does the team balance maintaining a winning culture with the long view?
Ekholm remains one of the best defenseman available right now, with an attractive cap hit — and, perhaps most importantly, one extra year remaining on the deal. It might be much tougher for the Predators to part with other marquee players, such as Arvidsson and Forsberg, given their standing right now.
What they should do: If the Predators stand pat with this group, they could make the playoffs. But it would likely be as the fourth seed in the Central Division, setting up a date with the Lightning or Hurricanes in the first round. That’s a tough series to win, and if Nashville flames out again, it will begin next season exactly as it started this one.
Poile should move Ekholm, considering he would get a big return. He should also part with two pending UFA forwards, Granlund and Haula, getting draft picks and prospects in return. That’s what the team needs most right now. Plus, their roster spots can be given to younger players who need the experience.
Status: Small tweaks, if any
What to watch: GM Julien BriseBois won the 2020 trade deadline. A year has passed, so we can say that with confidence. The Lightning picked up a pair of underrated forwards, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, who teamed up as part of an important third line en route to the team’s Stanley Cup. What’s more: Both forwards had extra years left on their deals.
These are the types of moves everyone is trying to emulate this year, and it’s not going to be as easy for the Lightning to accomplish something similar in 2021.
If there is an area of need, it’s help on the blue line, especially as the organization doesn’t want to overburden rookie Cal Foote. Philosophically, BriseBois has strayed away from players on expiring deals, but perhaps he’ll make an exception if a player like David Savard of Columbus is available. Don’t discount BriseBois, who has the capacity to pull off something creative and unexpected.
What they should do: Stand pat. No need to get cute or complicated when you don’t need to. Tampa has no cap space, so if it brings in a player, it has to lose someone to balance things out. And why would you remove anyone from this lineup? The Lightning have looked every bit like a defending Stanley Cup champ; hungry and poised for another one. BriseBois was already forced to move Alexander Volkov and may need to clear even more space when Mitchell Stephens is ready to return.
Plus, the Lightning are already expecting reinforcements: Nikita Kucherov, who has missed the entire season, is expected back for the playoffs. (Thanks to a fun loophole, salary cap issues become null come playoff time).
What to watch: On April 1, the Flames had a 10.7% chance of making the playoffs, per Money Puck. That’s probably high enough to prevent them from trading too many players away at the deadline — Calgary didn’t lure Darryl Sutter off the farm for an in-season dismantling. Is it enough to make the Flames a team to make additions? One would hope they’d have a more measured view of their current status than to give away the future for a futile push for the postseason. But GM Brad Treliving has been all-in all season.
What they should do: If they can find teams that want to trade for Bennett and Ryan, make those deals. The lack of goaltenders with expiring contracts available could make Rittich valuable, and the Flames should listen. But obviously the heavy lifting will come in the offseason, as Calgary takes a microscope to its core of players to see that — finally — it’s time to move on from the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau era.
Status: Finding Connor and Leon some help
What to watch: The Oilers are reportedly targeting two forward positions. The first is acquiring a center to play in their bottom six, preferably right-handed and preferably one that can win a faceoff — Edmonton is 12th in the NHL with a 50.7 team faceoff winning percentage, a figure boosted by the fact that Leon Draisaitl is winning 56% of his draws.
The second is a top-six left winger, so they can stop having to use Kyle “two goals in 23 games” Turris up there when Draisaitl moves up to McDavid’s line.
What they should do: Edmonton is another team in a money in, money out situation because of their salary cap number. But they also lack many draft picks and prospects to deal: The Oilers don’t have picks in the second, third and fifth rounds this summer. Luke Glendening would seem like an obvious fix for their faceoff issues, and GM Ken Holland signed him as a free agent while with the Red Wings.
As for a top-six winger, we all want the Taylor Hall reunion, don’t we? The money doesn’t really work and Hall is having a nightmare season that may not warrant the investment, but if we say it enough maybe we can conjure a trade into existence.
Other than that, the Oilers will wait until the offseason to reconfigure parts of their defense and goaltending.
Status: Expect some tinkering
What to watch: Habs GM Marc Bergevin is one of the NHL’s most aggressive general managers when it comes to augmenting his team — just ask former coach Claude Julien, who was fired after 18 games this season. Bergevin started his work early this deadline season, trading third- and fifth-round picks to the Sabres for veteran center Eric Staal on March 26.
The good news is that this is a fairly solid roster, and the holes won’t likely be addressed until the offseason. The bad news is that the Canadiens are capped out and would be best-served to trade away some salary at the deadline.
What they should do: Byron has been through waivers multiple times. Lehkonen has been a healthy scratch multiple times. Clearing either of their salaries off the books would help ease Montreal’s cap strains, although both could be valuable to the Canadiens in a postseason run.
If the cap space would allow it, the Canadiens would do well to add one more defenseman to the mix for depth. They have a bevy of draft picks — two seconds, two thirds, three fourths and two fifths this season — to use on a D-man with an expiring contract.
Status: The build continues
Players, picks in play: C/LW/RW Ryan Dzingel ($3.375 million, UFA in 2021), D Erik Gudbranson ($4 million, UFA in 2021), D Mike Reilly ($1.5 million, UFA in 2021), C Chris Tierney ($3.5 million, UFA in 2022)
What to watch: What an odd feeling to not see Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion with one of the trade deadline’s most sought-after players. We wish we could say that this means the Senators are done rebuilding and constantly trading away their best players before they leave as free agents.
Alas, it actually means that after dealing away Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the Islanders in 2020, there’s no top-tier veteran player left for Ottawa to move.
What they should do: The Senators could use a few more picks in this year’s draft, lacking fourth- and fifth-rounders and having only one pick in the third. Dzingel could be dealt for a high draft pick or a middle-range prospect. Gudbranson and Reilly would be of interest to contenders, although the latter has enhanced his value more this season than the former.
Tierney, 26, could use a change of scenery after his point production and ice time have fallen this season. Is that extra year of contract term appealing to contenders, or a deterrent with the expansion draft looming?
Status: Major market mover
What to watch: In the words of GM Kyle Dubas, watch “everything.” The Leafs are all-in this season, and will continue to improve their team by any means necessary. That means dealing top prospects, dealing their first-round pick, dealing a veteran with term like Kerfoot if it meant getting someone better in that role.
Their specific area of need is at the forward position, especially on the wing. But concerns about Frederik Andersen‘s health could mean the Leafs add some goaltending insurance too.
What they should do: Taylor Hall, if the money can be worked out, would be a really intriguing addition to this team. It’s the perfect kind of situation for him, as he could be a supporting cast member while others sweat in the spotlight.
But if they can’t work out the cap situation for a trade with Buffalo, then Hall’s former teammate in New Jersey, Kyle Palmieri, is the kind of player in which the Leafs should be interested.
Status: Many veterans potentially on the move
Players, picks in play: D Jordie Benn ($2 million, UFA in 2021), D Alexander Edler ($6 million, UFA in 2021, no-move clause), C Adam Gaudette ($950,000, RFA in 2021), LW Tanner Pearson ($3.75 million, UFA in 2021), C Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million, UFA in 2021, 15-team no-trade clause), LW/RW Jake Virtanen ($2.55 million, UFA in 2022, no trade protection)
What to watch: What a difference a season makes. Last trade deadline, the Canucks landed Tyler Toffoli of the Kings, who helped them advance through a couple of playoff rounds. But thanks to some player regression, injury troubles and poor decisions — like, for example, not re-signing Tyler Toffoli — the Canucks aren’t a playoff contender, and should be looking to build up the pipeline this time around.
They have a number of desirable players, but some are constrained by trade protection: Edler’s no-move clause and Sutter’s partial no-trade clause, primarily. (Then there’s Travis Hamonic‘s no-move clause, but we didn’t list him here because he’s not waiving it for any team not located in Western Canada.) Also muddying the waters is health, as Tanner Pearson is currently out with an injury.
What they should do: Rather than draft picks, the Canucks should leverage their players on expiring deals to try to get younger players on less-expensive deals that can help fill out their bottom six at the forward position.
Moving out Sutter, Edler (if possible), Benn, Gaudette and/or Virtanen all makes sense. But if there’s a thrifty deal to be made to keep Pearson around, GM Jim Benning should consider making it.
Status: Looking to add on D
What to watch: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already made a splash this season with the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade that saw Patrik Laine head to Columbus. It’s hard to imagine he’d tinker any more with a very deep group of forwards, nor does he have to worry about his goaltending, with Connor Hellebuyck on the roster.
It’s the defensive corps that needs a stopper to really bring the group together. The Jets have their own picks in the first three rounds to deal. Harkins has been a scratch, and Niku likely doesn’t factor into their plans beyond this season based on his place on the depth chart.
What they should do: The defenseman class of 2021 could mean players like Mattias Ekholm, David Savard and Alex Goligoski are on the Jets’ radar. Ekholm is the best of the bunch, but the Predators are back in a playoff race, and he has another year left on his deal.
Goligoski is a possibility as a pending UFA, but Savard also has an expiring contract and is the better player. But after the way Laine’s worked out, will Columbus pick up the phone if Cheveldayoff calls again?
Status: Let’s make some deals
Players, picks in play: LW/RW Danton Heinen ($2.8 million, RFA in 2021), D Ben Hutton ($950,000, UFA in 2021), C Adam Henrique ($5.825 million, UFA in 2024, 10-team no-trade list), D Josh Manson ($4.1 million, UFA in 2022, 12-team no-trade list), LW/RW Rickard Rakell ($3,789,444, UFA in 2022), LW/RW Jakob Silfverberg ($5.25 million, UFA in 2024, 12-team no-trade list)
What to watch: This will be the third straight season in which Anaheim has missed the playoffs, and the youth movement is on.
Blue-chip winger Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale join players like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones in the next wave for the Ducks. GM Bob Murray can either keep some of his veterans around to augment the young talent, hoping to hit that sweet spot between newbies and veterans like the Kings appear to have done. Or the Ducks can start turning over parts of this roster in a larger overhaul, like (finally) cutting into a defense corps that has been better on paper than on the ice for the last few seasons.
One player that’s gotten a lot of attention is Rakell, the team’s 27-year-old leading scorer who has two 30-goal seasons to his credit. A few general managers were surprised to hear Rakell could be available, given that he’s a player under contract in his prime. If Murray is looking for a significant return — a first-rounder plus more — Rakell could draw that kind of an offer. The Ducks traded Bobby Ryan at 25-years-old with term left on his deal. Same energy here.
What they should do: The obvious answer is to continue to tell Ryan Getzlaf how lovely Denver and Las Vegas are this time of year in the hopes that the 35-year-old captain would be willing to waive his no-move clause. But he’s shown no interest in leaving his family behind in Anaheim to chase (another) Stanley Cup, so let’s assume he’s off the table.
While his trade protection is prohibitive, and the expansion draft complicates things, Manson is someone the Ducks should try to trade. The 29-year-old has value as a physical defenseman — a coveted type of player at this deadline — and both the player and the team would benefit from moving him.
Status: Small moves only
Players, picks in play: LW/RW Drake Caggiula ($700,000, UFA in 2021), D Alex Goligoski ($5.475 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), C Derick Brassard ($1 million, UFA in 2021), D Jason Demers ($3,937,500, UFA in 2021), C Christian Dvorak ($4.45 million, UFA in 2025), G Darcy Kuemper ($4.5 million, UFA in in 2022), D Jordan Oesterle ($1.4 million, UFA in 2021), G Antti Raanta ($4.25 million, UFA in 2021)
What to watch: The Coyotes have two kinds of players in which other teams will be interested. They have veteran players with expiring contracts, with varying degrees of value. Goligoski might have the most in this category, as defensive defensemen are on a lot of teams’ wish lists.
Then there are core players with term remaining. Kuemper, Dvorak and Garland are all on the radar of other teams. They’re also likely not in play at this deadline, despite the return they could generate. Garland, 25, in particular seems to fall into that “other GMs asking about him” category rather than the “Coyotes making calls about him” one.
What they should do: As the trade deadline draws closer, so do the Coyotes to the final playoff spot in the West Division. That probably eliminates any dramatic moves involving players with term — GM Bill Armstrong’s front office is very much still in evaluation mode, and would love to get a look at these core players in the pressures of a playoff race.
Their playoff contention has also given them pause on dealing their UFAs. What signal would it send to the team if they were on the playoff bubble but still shipped out four players? It’s an understandable notion, but the Coyotes would be better served by getting what they can for their UFAs — especially Goligoski, who is going to be catnip to the right contender.
Status: Bolstering for a long playoff run
What to watch: The Avalanche are in the top tier of Stanley Cup contenders this season, but still have a few places that they can upgrade. Chief among them is backup goaltender to Philipp Grubauer, who has been absolutely spectacular in what is not coincidentally a contract year for him. Pavel Francouz hasn’t played a game this season due to a lingering lower-body injury. Jonas Johansson, recently acquired from Buffalo, is a stop-gap solution. Depending on Francouz’s status, they should be in the market for a proven goalie that can be an insurance policy for Grubauer.
Colorado could also be in the market for an upgrade at center in their bottom six, as Compher has been sub-replacement (minus-1.7 goals) in the 26 games in which he’s played this season. The Avalanche could also use a veteran defenseman with playoff experience. You know, your “Ian Cole” type. Whatever happened to that guy?
There’s always a chance they could shoot for the moon and add a veteran winger on an expiring contract — how great would Kyle Palmieri look on this team — in a money-out, money-in hockey trade.
What they should do: Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reported that the Avalanche were kicking the tires on James Reimer, of the Hurricanes’ goalie surplus. He’s a pending UFA, a well-liked teammate and just the kind of player for which they’re looking.
We listed Graves among the players in play because he hasn’t been able to reach his heights from last season, and has a very cap-friendly contract. With some interesting left-shot defensemen on the market, there may be a chance for a “hockey deal” trade. But it might also be prudent not to judge a 25-year-old for underperforming in as strange a season as this one.
Status: A little bit going out, a little bit coming in
Players, picks in play: LW/RW Dustin Brown ($5.875 million UFA in 2022, seven-team no-trade list), LW Alex Iafallo ($2.425 million, UFA in 2021), G Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million, UFA in 2023), cap space
What to watch: The Kings are lingering in a playoff race thanks to the Blues cracking open the door for that last seed in the West Division. They have already added, trading for Rangers agitator Brendan Lemieux, who is signed through 2022, and Ottawa defenseman Christian Wolanin.
GM Rob Blake is in a great position: The young players from the deepest farm system in the NHL are starting to fill out the lineup, his veterans are uniformly having better seasons, and Los Angeles is inching back to playoff contender status. While he has long-time Kings to deal — Brown, Quick — he also has his eye on bolstering this roster in the long term.
There’s been speculation that Blake is in the market for a young, left-shot defenseman with contract term; for example, the Kings have the assets to go after Zach Werenski if Columbus feels he’s going to be the next talent to walk out the door in 2022. There’s also been more than a little matchmaking from NHL Cupids between the Kings and the Sabres on a potential Jack Eichel trade.
What they should do: Iafallo is a 27-year-old forward who can thrive in a variety of roles and would certainly bring back value as a rental, but word is that the Kings are more likely to extend him than deal him — which is the correct decision.
If they can find a taker for Quick’s contract, they should leap at the chance, considering how good Cal Petersen has been for them. Brown is a more complicated trade option. Yes, there could be interest in him — look no further than the Islanders’ needs and how Brown’s style would fit with a Barry Trotz team. But he’s been great for the Kings (14 goals in 31 games) as the team remains in a playoff push, and is an important “lead-by-example guy” you want around younger players. Unless it’s an offer Blake can’t refuse from a team on Brown’s accepted destination list, Los Angeles should hang onto him. At the very least, it’ll signal that the team has the pedal down and is full speed towards contention.
Status: Looking to add wisely
Players, picks in play: C/LW Marcus Johansson ($4.5 million, UFA in 2021, 10-team no-trade list), their own first-round pick and Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2021
What to watch: GM Bill Guerin has been steadfast in saying that he’s not sacrificing the future of the Wild for contention this season. He’s not a fan of rentals, but isn’t opposed to adding to the team if the cost is low. It’s clear he’s playing the long game with the Wild as a contender. Sure, Guerin has talked about Minnesota as “a team that can beat anybody,” but the reality is that dealing a first-rounder for a veteran on an expiring contract isn’t going to suddenly make the Wild better than Colorado or Vegas.
What they should do: Of their expiring contracts, Johansson appeared to be the most interesting trade option — that is until his recent run as Kevin Fiala‘s linemate showed some glimmers of offensive potential. Guerin is right to play the long game with his assets — the Kirill Kaprizov era just started, after all — but if there was a place where a bargain deal could help immediately it would be in the faceoff circle. The Wild are 30th in the NHL at the dot (45.8%). What would be the cost to bring on Detroit faceoff ace (and pending free agent) Luke Glendening?
Status: Let’s make some deals
What to watch: Few teams in the NHL are saddled with the kind of unmovable contracts that the Sharks have. If Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s cap hits weren’t enough of a deterrent, they also have full no-move clauses. Brent Burns has trade protection and an $8 million cap hit through 2025. Evander Kane is untradeable. Martin Jones makes $5.75 million against the cap through 2024, in case anyone else wanted him. All of this makes rebuilding or reloading a rather arduous task for GM Doug Wilson, unless he wants to dig into some of his core players like Logan Couture, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl. Instead, he’ll likely deal from the bottom of the deck.
With so many teams seeking insurance policies in goal, Dubnyk should bring back something, even if he hasn’t been much better than Jones this season. If Nieto is healthy, he could be worth a look for someone’s bottom six. It’s hard to imagine Marleau breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time games mark in anything but a teal sweater — and his play this season certainly hasn’t sparked a trade market for him. But there’s always the chance some contender wants a solid veteran citizen, and Marleau wants one more crack at the Stanley Cup.
What they should do: Trade every pending UFA that they can and test the waters on Hertl, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2022 — and continue to pray that the Seattle Kraken take Brent Burns’ contract off their books in the expansion draft.
Status: Looking to add
What to watch: The Blues’ dramatic stumble in late March swung the door open to the No. 4 seed in the West Division. St. Louis already had to worry about what upgrades it needed to overcome Colorado or Vegas in the playoffs. Now the Blues have to wonder what moves they need to make just to qualify for the postseason.
The two roster players getting the most attention from other teams are Hoffman and Dunn. The Hoff was a healthy scratch recently, which seemed more like a move to get him going than a harbinger of an eventual trade. But given his contract, lack of trade protection and failure to score goals at a considerable clip in St. Louis, he could be on the move in a money-in, money-out deal.
Dunn’s a tough one, given how much the Blues have relied on him as their blue line has suffered through several injuries. He has a good skill set, and defensemen are at a premium at this deadline, but are the Blues better off hanging onto the 24-year-old puck-mover?
What they should do: This is an ideal landing spot for Taylor Hall, if the Sabres winger was willing to waive his … oh, who are we kidding, of course he would waive his no-move clause. The Blues have scored two or fewer goals in eight of 10 recent games. Hall remains a potent offensive talent, even if his production has been sucked into the Buffalo abyss. Trade Hoffman for Hall, with the Sabres retaining the glut of Hall’s cap hit and getting picks or a prospect in the deal. GM Doug Armstrong hasn’t shied away from aggressive moves to upgrade his roster. This would rock the boat.
Status: Poised for another big splash?
Players, picks in play: LW William Carrier ($1.4 million, UFA in 2024), D Nick Holden ($1.7 million, UFA in 2022), RW Ryan Reaves ($1.75 million, UFA in 2022), first-round pick in 2021, New Jersey’s second-round pick in 2021
What to watch: If it’s the trade deadline, the Golden Knights are going to be active. There was the Tomas Tatar trade in their inaugural season, the Mark Stone blockbuster in Year No. 2 and the acquisitions of both Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner last season.
The difference this season is that the Golden Knights have barely any cap space, both due to their offseason signings and the flat cap. That increases the chances that any move they make will be money in, money out, which puts otherwise endearing role players like Carrier and Reaves potentially in play.
What they should do: Vegas is an elite level Stanley Cup contender. They’re also on a “Kong vs. Godzilla” collision course with the Avalanche, and then will potentially have to go through the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the championship. That path would be a lot easier to traverse if the Golden Knights had one more impact center in their lineup. Given their cap situation and the marketplace, that’s likely not an option. But we’ll never bet against Vegas when it comes to making a deadline splash.