McGuinness: Finding the perfect deadline target for every NHL playoff team
Andrew McGuinness | Wednesday, March 16, 2022
The NHL equivalent of Christmas — the trade deadline — is almost here. In less than a week, the landscape of the league will look completely different. Contenders will gear up to address their weaknesses and push for the Stanley Cup. Rebuilding teams have the chance to haul in loads of picks and prospects that will help them reach the former position sooner rather than later. For the other 28 teams stuck in the NHL’s mushy middle, they have to pick a lane and commit one way or the other.
The focus on deadline day is always about teams who are buyers, which makes sense; they’re the ones who will be immediately benefiting from the deals made between now and 3 p.m. Monday. We’ve already seen a few fairly big trades in March, but every good team has at least one weakness to patch (or strength to supercharge). So let’s look at all 16 teams currently in a playoff spot, as sorted by points percentage (apologies to potential playoff teams like Vegas who aren’t currently in a spot), and find each at least one plausible player they should add before the trade deadline.
Colorado Avalanche: LW/C Claude Giroux (Current Team: PHI)
With captain Gabriel Landeskog out, the Avs could use some help at left-wing. And adding Giroux would only further stack one of the league’s best offenses. The Flyers captain is far from a one-trick pony, too; he can play center or the wing, as well as both the power-play and penalty kill.
Carolina Hurricanes: RD Justin Braun (PHI)
Carolina doesn’t need much. So, let’s pair them with a safe, moderate-cost defensive defenseman in a high-floor, low-ceiling move. Braun’s a solid third-pair option who can maybe play in the top-four in a pinch. Nothing wrong with that.
Florida Panthers: D Mark Giordano (SEA)
Hometown defender Jakob Chychrun is the better story, but Giordano’s the better fit. Florida needs someone who’s steady in their own zone and a little veteran presence can’t hurt too. Giordano has the leg up on Chychrun in both categories.
Tampa Bay Lightning: D Colin Miller (BUF)
Adding a right-handed defenseman just before the deadline has paid off in spades for the Lightning two years running. Why not go for three with Miller, who’s a bit pricey but can move the puck and went to the final with Vegas in 2018.
Pittsburgh Penguins: D Jakob Chychrun (ARI)
There’s no reason the Penguins shouldn’t go all-in this year with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang’s contracts up at the end of the year. Adding Chychrun would make the Penguins undoubtedly better. But an added bonus: acquiring such a strong defender on the left side could provide incentive for Letang, who plays the right, to re-sign.
New York Rangers: C/LW J.T. Miller (VAN)
It’s always nice to have a chance to reunite with your old team. The Rangers probably aren’t ready to go deep this year, but that’s OK because Miller’s signed through 2023 at a reasonable $5.25 million cap hit. He also doubles as insurance for incumbent second-line center Ryan Strome, a UFA at the season’s end.
Toronto Maple Leafs: D Ben Chiarot (MTL)
Adding a goalie would also be nice, but GM Kyle Dubas is on the record saying the team has “one move left in them,” which is likely to improve their backend. Toronto needs someone who is steady in their own zone and can make life easier for their goaltenders by clearing the crease. And trading for someone on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the year before worked so well, right?
Calgary Flames: LW/C Andrew Copp (WPG)
There’s no point in messing with a blue line working as well as Calgary’s, so let’s make a play for another forward. Copp is versatile; he can play center or wing, up-and-down in the lineup. He’s taken a huge step forward offensively over the last two seasons. Adding him would make Calgary’s top-nine absolutely loaded.
Boston Bruins: C Tomáš Hertl (SJ)
The Bruins need to fill the second-line center void David Krejci left when he retired from the NHL last summer. Hertl would do just that; he’s a top-notch goal-scorer with tremendous underlying numbers. Boston’s deepest runs have come when they aren’t a one-line team, and adding Hertl would make their top-six truly formidable.
St. Louis Blues: D Hampus Lindholm (ANA)
The cost for Lindholm may be a bit too rich for St. Louis’ blood. But one can dream, and adding Lindholm, even if it means subtracting from the forward core to make the cap work, might be enough to make the Blues Cup contenders. Their backend could use another top-four caliber player, and Lindholm is that and then some.
Washington Capitals: G Marc-André Fleury (CHI)
I don’t know if Fleury would be willing to waive his no-move clause to go to the biggest rival of his longest tenure team, or anywhere, for that matter. But the Capitals need a goaltender and need to maximize the beginning of the end of Alex Ovechkin’s dominant era. Fleury gives Washington the best odds of getting Ovi and friends another ring.
Los Angeles Kings: LW Jake DeBrusk (BOS)
The 2015 1st round pick’s trade request is still on the table as far as we know. GM Rob Blake has said the team wants to add some scoring but they don’t want to pay more than what they gave up (a 2nd and a 3rd) for Viktor Arvidsson last summer.
Minnesota Wild: C Max Domi (CBJ)
If Ryan Hartman’s unexpected career year hits midnight sooner rather than later, it’d be nice to have another skilled option down the middle behind Joel Eriksson Ek. It’s not often that you can acquire a former 70-point player who has some snarl in their game for as cheap a price as Domi will likely command.
Nashville Predators: G Martin Jones (PHI)
I’m not convinced the slumping Predators are in the position to go all-in this year. But an easy area to address is backup goaltending, as David Rittich has just a .894 save percentage this season. Jones has bounced back with decent numbers in front of a horrid Philadelphia defense. Safe to say he’d do better behind Nashville’s strong defense.
Edmonton Oilers: G Semyon Varlamov (NYI)
The Oilers want a goalie who has term on their contract, and Varlamov is basically the only plausible option that meets both criteria. Call this a win-win, as it allows the Islanders to formally turn over the starter’s role to Ilya Sorokin. And the Islanders need to clear up some cap space to improve if they want to return to the playoffs next year.
Dallas Stars: LW Brandon Hagel (CHI)
With veterans Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, Dallas’ offense needs a shot in the arm to have a chance at making any sort of run this year. They also don’t have a lot of cap space, and like every team, wouldn’t mind getting younger. Hagel, a 25-year old scoring at a 52-point pace signed through 2024 at just $1.5 million, checks all the boxes.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.