NHL Trade Candidates: 25 names to watch out for

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As the NHL season is in full stride, it makes all the sense in the world to start considering who are the top trade candidates, as every month we’ll provide you with a top-25 list of NHL trade candidates we foresee being dealt. The NHL Trade Deadline is on March 8th, 2024, 129 days to be exact. And if you’re like me, I’m constantly on top of the NHL trade rumors, as the rest of the world shuts down so I can follow along on social media and broadcasts to see who is getting traded.

Last season, there were 21 trades on deadline day, the year before that there were 33. It was a letdown to say the least, but the number of moves leading up to the deadline was massive – more than 40 trades happened the two weeks prior. There are so many factors that lead to an NHL player being traded, such as his team being out of playoff contention, cap space reasons, trade requests, while the most common reason is because they’re a pending free agent and they’re considered a ‘playoff rental’ for another team looking to make a Stanley Cup run.

It’s harder to decipher which players who have years left on their contracts could be traded unless it’s been talked about publicly in NHL trade news. Or their names just happen to be floating around in NHL trade rumors. For the most part, players on expiring contracts are the ones traded, though there are a few NHL players that have a year or more left on their current deals that could find themselves donning a new jersey. Below I’ll list the players, in order, that I believe are the most likely NHL trade candidates this NHL season. However, I will preface this all by saying that this year’s trade deadline has all the makings of being the worst in NHL history, due to teams’ salary cap restraints.

The first edition is always the toughest because it’s so early in the season, which makes it harder to predict which teams will be sellers, and who will be buyers. Who is considered an NHL trade target or a player no one expected to be moved is dealt. For the first go around, I’m considering players whose teams I believe will be at the bottom of the league standings, players who are rumored to be looking for a change of scenery, and players who are on expiring contracts.

*Player name, position, team, age, contract status, salary cap hit

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

21-25

25. Corey Perry– right wing, Chicago Blackhawks, 38, UFA in 2024, $4,000,000

24. Morgan Frost- center, Philadelphia Flyers, 24, RFA in 2025, $2,100,000

23. Nikita Zadorov- defenseman, Calgary Flames, 28, UFA in 2024, $3,750,000

22. John Gibson– goaltender, Anaheim Ducks, 30, UFA in 2027, $6,400,000 (10-team no trade list)

21. Jordan Eberle- right wing, Seattle Kraken, 33, UFA in 2024, $5,500,000 (16 team no trade list)

When you talk about the Blackhawks’ Perry, you’re talking about all the intangibles he brings to the table, plus the veteran has been in a Stanley Cup or two. If you’re not a Flyers fan, you may be surprised to see Frost as an NHL trade candidate, but he’s been healthy scratched in four of the Flyers’ first six games. Pause for a second and watch Zadorov in his media scrum and that’ll tell you why he’s on this list. Moving Gibson is a tall task, he has a big cap hit, a 10-team no trade list, and he’s not the goalie he used to be. The Kraken had a wild run last season, though they’re started this year off cold, which could mean pending free agent Eberle may be on the move.

Evander Kane takes a shot at the Coach ‘I wasn’t getting enough ice time..’

16-20

20. Evander Kane- left wing, Edmonton Oilers, 32, UFA in 2026, $5,125,000 (Full no trade clause)

19. Jason Zucker- left wing, Arizona Coyotes, 31, UFA in 2024, $5,300,000

18. Evgeny Kuznetsov- center, Washington Capitals, 31, UFA in 2025, $7,800,000 (15-team no trade list)

17. Sam Reinhart- center, Florida Panthers, 27, UFA in 2024, $6,500,000

16. Andrew Peeke- defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets, 25, UFA in 2026, $2,750,000

Kane has voiced his frustrations with his lack of minutes, he could be used as a trade chip to establish more depth in their lineup, but his full no trade clause limits the Oilers’ options. Zucker was traded to the Coyotes in the offseason, he brings a lot to the table, though he’s injured right now and is considered week-to-week. The Capitals we’re used to seeing are no more, they’re older and slower, Kuznetsov would be the perfect NHL trade candidate if it wasn’t for his high cap hit. With Reinhart’s contract expiring, combined with his hot start, he could bring in a good draft package if the Panthers start to fall in the standings. Well known analyst Elliotte Friedman mentioned Peeke is a player that could be looking for a fresh start, he has a modest cap hit, and has been scratched in five of the Blue Jackets’ first six games.

Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

11-15

15. Kevin Lebanc- right wing, San Jose Sharks, 27, UFA in 2024, $4,725,000

14. Shayne Gostisbehere- defenseman, Detroit Red Wings, 30, UFA in 2024, $4,125,000

13. Anthony Mantha- right wing, Washington Capitals, 29, UFA in 2024, $5,700,000

12. Nick Schmaltz- center, Arizona Coyotes, 27, UFA in 2026, $5,850,000 (modified no trade clause)

11. Travis Konecny- center, Philadelphia Flyers, 26, UFA in 2025, $5,500,000

It makes sense that mostly every player on the Sharks’ roster would be available in trade talks, moving Lebanc may be the hardest due to his cap hit, along with the fact since signing the contract his numbers aren’t pretty. I’m on the fence regarding Gostisbehere, he would certainly help a playoff contender on their back end, but the Red Wings look like a playoff team themselves. Mantha knows how to score goals, but he lacks consistency and sometimes you don’t realize he’s even on the ice, and that cap hit would take some maneuvering to trade him. The Coyotes may look as if they could squeak into the playoffs, it’s just there’s no way they actually do so, and Arizona would be doing Schmaltz a favor by trading him. At this point in time, it doesn’t look like the Flyers should trade Konecny, but if the season gets away from them, he could bring back a decent trade package.

Brett Pesce all goals 2022-23 (Regular Season + Playoffs)

6-10

10. Joel Armia- right wing, Montreal Canadiens, 31, UFA in 2025, $3,400,000

9. Brett Pesce- defenseman, Carolina Hurricanes, 28, UFA in 2024, $4,025,000

8. Tyson Barrie- defenseman, Nashville Predators, 32, UFA in 2024, $4,500,000

7. Alexander Barabanov- right wing, San Jose Sharks, 29, UFA in 2024, $2,500,000

6. Matt Duchene- center, Dallas Stars, 32, UFA in 2024, $3,000,000

Armia is a strong depth forward that the Canadiens sent to the AHL to play for their affiliate team, his cap hit isn’t terrible, let this man go free Montreal. The Hurricanes are blessed with a talented defensive corps, Pesce just wants to get paid what he’s worth, and his name will continue to float around any NHL trade rumors. If a team values offense from their defense, then look no further than Barrie, who has a workable cap hit and can put up points. The Sharks are the worst team in the league, Barabanov had a couple good seasons in San Jose, but as he was pointless in their first six games, it’d be smart to trade him for younger assets. I know the Stars are at the top of the NHL standings, but Duchene in Dallas never made sense to me, and he’s yet to show where he fits in the lineup.

5. Elias Lindholm-

Center, Calgary Flames, 28, UFA in 2024, $4,850,000

Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

When I started brainstorming my top-25 list, I knew Lindholm was going to be in my top-5 NHL trade candidates before I even wrote his name down. There are a few components that lead me to believe Lindholm will be on the move this season. First, the Flames are not a cohesive team. Ever since Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk departed the team, they’ve lost all chemistry, and seem to be heading to the league’s basement. With that in mind, Flames’ general manager Craig Conroy should undoubtedly be considering trading Lindholm for a package of young players and draft picks.

Second, his cap hit should be manageable for both teams, but there’s a chance the Flames will have to eat some of that cap to make a deal work. Lastly, it’s a pending unrestricted free agent. Lindholm finished second in the 2022 Selke Trophy voting, he’s accumulated 331 points across 376 games with the Flames and would be highly sought after during free agency. If I’m the Boston Bruins, I’m picking up the phone, and seeing what it would take to pry Lindholm from Calgary.

4. Brandon Montour-

Defenseman, Florida Panthers, 29, UFA in 2024, $3,500,000

Breakout Season Recap: Brandon Montour

Montour had a massive breakout season for the Panthers last year, putting up 16 goals and 73 points, which had him tied for fourth in the league for points by a defenseman. We’re still not sure if the Panthers are still the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, which really complicates whether trading Montour makes sense. And right now, it would be silly if Florida were to trade him at this point of the season, but if things continue to be average then they should be moving the Montour.

Though he hasn’t seen the ice yet this season due to injury, Montour really showed what he is capable of last year, but there’s the concern that maybe that was his one season to shine. If I’m the Panthers, I’d hesitate in contract discussions in terms of contract length. The Panthers are at the cap as it is, which ultimately could be the sole reason Montour gets traded. I don’t think we see him get traded before the deadline and most likely will be one of the biggest acquisitions on trade deadline day. Could the Detroit Red Wings look to add Montour? Another thought, the Maple Leafs are always looking for defensemen.

3. Conor Garland-

Right wing, Vancouver Canucks, 27, UFA in 2026, $4,950,000

Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Before the NHL season even started, Garland and his agent were given permission by the Canucks to find a trade partner, but it’s been crickets ever since. Garland’s situation is complicated due to the term he still has left on his contract and his salary cap hit. Teams don’t have the cap space to be making trades this early in season for players with such a large cap, what makes it harder, again is he still has another year left on his current deal.

I do still believe Garland will be traded this year, but it’ll just take some injuries for playoff destined teams to come to fruition. Once those teams have a clear picture as to what kind of cap they can take on, then we’ll see the Garland chatter pick up. It’s odd that Garland signed the contract with the Canucks after being traded from the Coyotes, as it seems he’s wanted out of Vancouver since Day 1. He has a respectable 100 points in 164 games with the Canucks, he’s crafty, he’s shifty, he could make sense for the Minnesota Wild.

2. Noah Hanifin-

Defenseman, Calgary Flames, 28, UFA in 2024, $4,950,000 (modified no trade clause)

Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Hanifin and Garland have the same cap hit, but two entirely different situations. With Hanifin becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, teams are more willing to take on a contract knowing it’ll come off the books once the season is over. Another detail is that a top-3 defenseman is hard to come by and Hanifin is a dependable two-way guy. Teams will play a good premium for someone with Hanifin’s talents.

Like Lindholm, I knew Hanifin would be in my top-5 for NHL trade candidates this year, and things just got a little bit more interesting. Hanifin has put a pause on contract talks with the Flames struggling, but there’s still the chance they’ll work things out. Not that I want a deal to fall apart, I want to see the guy get paid, I’d just rather see him get traded to somewhere like the New York Islanders or St. Louis Blues.

1. William Nylander-

Center, Toronto Maple Leafs, 27, UFA in 2024, $6,962,366 (10-team no trade list)

Best Of William Nylander | 2022-23 NHL Season

This is a trade that has been building up for what seems like ages, but the saga will finally come to an end this season. Or at least it should. It’s going to be really hard to tell what the Leafs decide to do when it comes to the trade deadline. With the way the Nylander produces offensively, it feels like management would rather lose him in free agency, rather than trade him. He’s currently leading the team in points and there’s been some improvement from him on the defensive side of the puck.

The challenges to a Nylander trade are similar to most on the list, cap hit. Additionally, Nylander does have a 10-team no trade list, and it’s safe to say those ten teams are ones with enough cap space to take him on. Which means Toronto will have to look for trade partners who are willing to part with key guys to fill the Leafs’ needs, while also ensuring the salary going both ways works for each organization. Though Nylander is the top trade candidate for this first edition, we’re talking about the Maple Leafs here, they will find a way to mess the Nylander situation up. If I’m the Leafs, I’m targeting the Blues, or maybe calling the Panthers to build a package that would include Montour.

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