5 Trade Targets NHL Buyers Should Avoid at the Deadline
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You might think it’s a little too early to start thinking about the NHL trade deadline on March 3, but that just means you haven’t been trying to make your favorite team look better since the season began.
Every team in the league wants to gain an edge for the playoffs, even if you’re the Boston Bruins or Vegas Golden Knights, who have looked like they’re playing the game on “easy” mode. Being able to one-up any potential future opponent is a chance any general manager will want to take.
Trades aren’t always a slam dunk for teams. Sometimes a trade that looks like it’ll be one to put a club over the top is one that will sink them instead. The last thing we want to see here at Bleacher Report is to see your team—yes, you reading this—fall flat on their face. We’re a kind and considerate lot like that.
That’s why we’re going to give you a few names to give pause to when you consider penciling them into the imaginary lineup in your head. Their skills may be tantalizing, and their history may point to potential success, but buyer beware, for these players might not be the help you think they will be.
Got beef with these choices, or want to remind me of who I missed? Hit it in the comments.
John Klingberg, Anaheim Ducks
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A year ago, John Klingberg was an impending unrestricted free agent with the Dallas Stars, and his offensive prowess figured to be in high demand come summertime. After all, defensive misgivings can be forgiven when the points pile up, even for defensemen.
The market dried up for Klingberg’s services after he hoped for a long-term deal, and he signed a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks to prove what he could do. If he stays in Anaheim, the prospects of that don’t look good.
Klingberg is on pace for roughly 25-30 points on a Ducks team that’s defied even the middling expectations we had for them by being one of the worst teams in the NHL. Although he’s known best for his work on the power play (20 of his 47 points in 2021-22 came on the man advantage), it hasn’t clicked there yet.
A contending team in need of a power-play quarterback, and a right-handed shot at that, will find Klingberg’s particular set of tantalizing skills. His poor stats could be blamed on playing for the Ducks, but his offensive numbers and injury luck haven’t been quite the same since 2017-18.
He’s been a consistent 40-plus point per seasons scorer since he came into the NHL, but his 0.36 points per game rate this season are the worst of his career by a long shot.
Klingberg’s modified no-trade clause also means he might not even approve a trade, depending on the team. Maybe your favorite team can turn him around…or maybe this is the start of a trend that won’t improve.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
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It might be a bit of a risk to list Jesse Puljujärvi here because he’s been rumored to be traded for what feels like the past two years.
The 24-year-old no. 4 pick from the 2016 draft has yet to find his stride with Edmonton, and while his early seasons could be attributed to a lack of imagination on the team’s part, the reasons are starting to evaporate.
For a time this season, Puljujärvi was on a wing with Connor McDavid. Playing with No. 97 for any amount of time should result in an instant boost of productivity for anyone. It hasn’t happened for the big Finn.
In just over 103 minutes together at 5-on-5, Puljujärvi and McDavid have one goal scored and seen six scored against them (14.6 percent). When Puljujärvi is on the ice without the two-time Hart Trophy winner at even strength, Edmonton scores just 31.6 percent of the goals. When McDavid is out there without Puljujärvi, that mark goes up to 58.3 percent.
Although their shot attempt metrics don’t change too much with or without each other, the great scoring chances and goals haven’t happened. McDavid’s 44.7 expected goals for percent with Puljujarvi is the lowest of his Oilers teammates with at least 100 minutes together.
The Oilers have a high cost to acquire him, but the numbers just don’t justify it. Puljujarvi knows it’s not working out there, and maybe he needs a change of scenery to hit his potential and regain confidence.
Is that a risk an interested team is willing to take to get him and give up an asset or two to make it happen? It’s certainly possible, but paying the Oilers’ price isn’t appealing to other teams.
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers
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Teams in search of a veteran winger who has a history of scoring goals might cast their eyes toward Philadelphia to take a look at 33-year-old James van Riemsdyk. His numbers on a poor but dramatic Flyers team look useful, but a closer examination shows looks may be deceiving.
In nine games, van Riemsdyk put up nine points, with four of those coming recently in an overtime loss on the road against Arizona. The 14-year veteran missed just over a month of action with a broken finger this season and had five points in six games before the unfortunate injury.
This all seems like it would make him a perfect candidate for any team in need of a boost up front, but a look at how the team performs at 5-on-5 when he’s on the ice shows there’s reason to be cautious.
hey 21st out of 22 Flyers with 100 or more minutes played at 5-on-5 in shot attempts for percentage. While his expected goals for percentage at even strength is second best on the team, opponents get more scoring chances when he’s out there.
Meanwhile, his 1,111 PDO (shooting percentage plus goalie save percentage added together; 1,000 is even) is the highest on the team, and regression to the mean want happen eventually.
Yes, the Flyers aren’t great this season, and van Riemsdyk is a solid player overall, but things are bound to cool off. A team in need could benefit greatly from JvR, but they just have to understand they’re not getting the guy who scored 30-plus goals twice in his career.
Patric Hornqvist, Florida Panthers
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There’s no one contending teams love to add more to their team than guys who play hard in the dirty areas and guys who have won the Stanley Cup, and Patric Hörnqvist is both. That means if the Florida Panthers need to make salary space or fall out of the playoff race, teams will be calling.
Hörnqvist’s reputation is outstanding as a guy who will park in front of the net, exchange cross-checks with opposing defenders and snag rebounds to score all day long. He’s like a modern version of Tomas Hölmstrom, and the Pittsburgh Penguins winning back-to-back cups in 2016 and 2017 is proof enough of that.
What makes him acquiring a risky proposal, aside from his modified no-trade clause, is his offensive numbers are down across the board. At 35 years old (he turns 36 on New Year’s Day), his points per game are the lowest they’ve been since his first season in the NHL with Nashville in 2008-09, and his advanced numbers on a team that has outstanding stats overall as a team are among the lowest.
At 5-on-5, Hörnqvist is just 12th in shot attempts for percentage and has the third-lowest expected goals for percentage. The argument for making a deal for him would be that the numbers won’t get worse because they’re well below career averages, but at his age and the way he plays the game, his body has some hard miles on it.
Taking the gamble to add him, Florida should even want to move him, might pay off, but there’s a clear risk in doing so.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
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Let’s get spicy.
Any team that has the ability to add Patrick Kane and perhaps put themselves over the top in winning the Stanley Cup would do very much so in an instant.
His scoring prowess and pedigree are unmatched and unquestionable out of players who could be traded this season. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion and an all-time scorer, so why would teams have to be cautious about him?
Chicago is having an awful season, and they’re next-to-last in the league in 5-on-5 shot attempt metrics. They’re also dead last in goals scored in the league.
Most fans across the league have broken out their tiny violins to play a sad song for a team that’s won so much the past 10-plus seasons, but these are numbers that would fit in better with the Dollar Bill Wirtz teams of the past than the more recent playoff teams.
Kane has 20 points in 26 games for the Blackhawks, and his 0.77 points per game average are the lowest of his career. That rate is still good, mind you, but throughout Kane’s career, his focus on goals meant he was a defensive liability, and it’s been exacerbated this season.
Even with Chicago having horrendous 5-on-5 shot attempt numbers, Kane’s is the lowest on the team at 38.8 percent CorsiFor. His 37.2 percent expected goals for are the second worst behind Jack Johnson. His scoring chances for percent are third lowest on the team. Unsurprisingly, these rates are all the worst of his career by a long shot.
Kane has a full no-movement clause, so he can decide where, if anywhere, he wants to go. He’s also a free agent this summer and will be looking for a new deal. Getting off the Blackhawks to a contender would almost certainly turn these numbers around but by how much?
A contender want want him and want find a way to do it, but will pay it off the way they’re hoping? It might seem like a no-brainer, but there are red flags worth considering.