6 NHL Players in Need of a Trade This Year
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With the NHL season reaching its halfway point and the March 3 trade deadline inching closer, we have a pretty good idea as to which teams need to make a trade, either to add to their roster for a Stanley Cup run or to add future pieces for a rebuild.
But what about the players that are in need of a trade? Either for a fresh start in a new city or for an opportunity to add to their career resume by playing for a Stanley Cup?
That is the focus of today’s piece as we dig into six players that could use a trade away from their current situation.
Let’s get into it.
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Everything about this season has been a disappointment for the Canucks, with only a few exceptions.
One of those exceptions has been team captain Bo Horvat, who is in the middle of a career year that has seen him score at 58-goal pace through the first half of the season.
So why does he need a trade?
Because with the way he has played the past few years, he deserves an opportunity to play for a contending team and show what he can do in the playoffs. He is not going to get that opportunity in Vancouver, and with the way contract negotiations between the two sides seem to have stalled, he is probably not going to be back in Vancouver beyond this season, anyway.
Which brings us to the next question: Even if the Canucks did come back with a better contract offer, what is his incentive to return? The Canucks have been a dysfunctional mess this season, and there does not seem to be much immediate hope in the near future given the team’s weaknesses and salary-cap situation.
He could likely find an offseason offer that matches whatever Vancouver could throw at him.
Get him to a good team so this great season does not get wasted.
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Jesse Puljujärvi still has a chance to be a good NHL player, but it is becoming increasingly clear that is not going to happen in Edmonton.
His ice time has been reduced to 12 minutes, 51 seconds per game, and heading into Friday’s game he had only totaled three goals and nine total points in 43 games this season.
It just isn’t working out with the Oilers.
And that is a shame for both sides because there was so much potential here, and over the past two years there was an argument to be made that he was one of the most underappreciated players in the league. He has always been a strong possession driver, and his teammates always seemed to play better when he was on their line versus when he was not.
He is still a good possession driver, but Oilers management and the coaching staff clearly do not trust him, and he has expressed a desire to leave Edmonton before.
A team in need of a good complementary winger should be looking at him as another potential Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin’s career started off with him being a top pick who consistently posted strong underlying numbers but never turned it into actual production as the Dallas Stars lost faith in him. All it took was a fresh start with Colorado for him to become a star.
That can still happen for Puljujärvi, but it is not going to happen in Edmonton. Get him to a new team where he can start with a clean slate.
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John Klingberg entered the 2022 free-agency signing period as the top defenseman on the open market.
But things fell apart for him in that signing cycle as he had to wait until the end of July to sign a one-year deal worth $7 million with the Anaheim Ducks.
It was clearly a prove-it contract for him to try to boost his value for this offseason.
But his time in Anaheim has been a disaster. The Ducks are one of the league’s worst teams, and it has crushed Klingberg’s production. But if you dig down in the numbers, there should be some signs of optimism for a potential trade partner.
He is still scoring goals at a rate similar to his peak level, and his possession numbers are still among the best on the Ducks’ roster. But his assist numbers have plummeted. The latter two points might indicate that the talent level around him is holding him back, and that if he could get into a better situation with more offensive punch around him he might be able to regain some of that production.
That would be great news for him going back into free agency. Because at this current rate, his prove-it deal is not proving much to potential free-agent suitors.
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Entering the 2022-23 season there was every reason to believe that San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson was finished as an elite player.
Injuries had taken their toll, his production had declined, and even though he was still good, he wasn’t the impact player that made him a yearly Norris Trophy contender and one of the league’s best skaters.
Well, you can throw all of that out the window because not only is Karlsson playing like an elite player this season, but he also is having one of the best seasons of his career.
He is on pace to be the NHL’s first 100-point defenseman in nearly 30 years, looks like a Norris Trophy front-runner and has been one of the league’s top scorers. Not just top scoring defensemen, but top scorers. Period. Regardless of position.
It is a mind-blowing performance, made even more impressive due to the combination of his age and the fact the Sharks team around him is lacking in talent and on the verge of a rebuild.
And those two things are why a trade might be mutually beneficial here.
As good as Karlsson is, the Sharks probably won’t contend for a Stanley Cup anytime soon. That means Karlsson might be running out of time—and opportunities—to add the one thing his Hall of Fame resume is lacking: a Stanley Cup championship.
It is also a golden opportunity for the Sharks to restock their cupboard with draft picks and prospects.
Karlsson has trade restrictions in his contract, and his salary-cap hit would be an obstacle for interested teams ($11.5 million AAV through 2026-27), but there is always a way around those hurdles. If Karlsson wants to get a Stanley Cup, he may need a new team. And with the way he is playing right now, he could help make any playoff team a top Stanley Cup contender.
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This is another change-of-scenery candidate, and one that would also benefit his current team.
The Penguins have invested so many resources in Kapanen over the years and received so little in return.
They originally drafted him in the first round (No. 22 overall) of the 2014 NHL draft and then used him as a major chip in the trade for Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs just one year later. Then in 2020, they re-acquired Kapanen in exchange for a first-round pick and a top prospect (at the time) in Filip Hallander. Then they signed him to a two-year, $6.4 million deal that goes through the end of the 2023-24 season.
The production does not justify that sort of investment, and its usage from the team does not reflect much trust from the coaching staff.
He has been a healthy scratch at times this season and averages less than 12 minutes per game when he is in the lineup.
The weird thing about Kapanen is that he has all of the tools to be a very good player. He is one of the fastest players in the league; he has a good shot; he works hard and does not take shifts off; and he puts in the work in practice. It just never all comes together for him, and it has not happened in Pittsburgh where he is regularly buried down the lineup in a third-or fourth-line role.
This would be a solid situation for a rebuilding team that needs talent to buy low on him, get him a fresh start, give him top-six ice time and power-play time, and see if it can all click. It would also be beneficial for the Penguins to clear some salary-cap space to address some of their weaknesses at the bottom of the lineup.
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Now we go back to Vancouver for another change of scenery situation.
Boeser was supposed to be a core building block for the Canucks, and at times he has looked like he would be that player along with Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat.
But his name has surfaced in trade speculation for a couple of years now, he has missed a lot of time, and he seems to be on a short leash with the current coaching staff. He is also having one of the worst seasons of his career.
He is signed for two more seasons after this one at a salary-cap rate of $6.65 million per season.
He seems like the type of player who needs a fresh start, a better team and a more stable organization to help him reach his peak potential. The Canucks have to clean up their salary-cap situation, and shedding Boeser’s salary might help do that a little while also bringing back a useful return.
[Data in this article via Natural Stat Trick]
[Salary-cap information via CapFriendly]