2022 Trade Deadline Landing Spot Predictions: Klingberg, Miller, Fleury

The trade deadline is still a month away, and while major assets are still waiting to be traded, some transactions are beginning to take place. The Calgary Flames made the biggest splash so far, acquiring forward Tyler Toffoli to bolster their forward group, while the Toronto Maple Leafs made a swap to acquire a defenseman from the Arizona Coyotes. In the first edition of this article, we predicted landing spots for Claude Giroux, Calle Jarnkrok, and Jaroslav Halak. This time we will feature key trade pieces, including John Klingberg, J.T. Miller, and Marc-Andre Fleury.

2022 NHL Trade Deadline Landing Spot Predictions
2022 NHL Trade Deadline (The Hockey Writers)

Two of the three players listed above are featured on The Hockey Writers’ “Trade Deadline Big Board,” with a high possibility of being moved before deadline day. Miller, on the other hand, is still under contract and a player who could be available if the price is right. With the trade market and prices beginning to establish themselves around the league, many more moves are still to come.

John Klingberg — Right Defense, Dallas Stars

This is the number one ranked trade target on The Hockey Writers “Big Board,” and rightfully so. Klingberg made it known that he would like to be moved because of his decreased role with the Stars. The reason for the decline in playing time is partially because of his lack of production, but it’s also because of the emergence of Miro Heiskanen. The Stars opted to sign Heiskanen to an eight-year extension, which ate up a lot of the available cap space that Klingberg would command as a free agent. A change of scenery may be just what Klingberg needs, and with the Dallas Stars falling further out of the playoffs, it’s almost certain he will find a new home.

Landing Spot 1: Anaheim Ducks

Finding a trade partner to move Klingberg may be tough for the Stars, firstly because of the limited teams with appropriate cap space to re-sign the defenseman. The second hurdle is finding a team without a bonafide number one defenseman that will be able to give him a bigger role. This situation makes it more likely that a deal for Klingberg comes from a team that may not necessarily end up in the playoffs this season like the Anaheim Ducks.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Ducks are in the hunt for a playoff berth and probably will continue to be vying for a spot down the stretch. They are a team with a mix of veterans and young players that is proving this season they are ready to take another step in their rebuild by adding NHL-ready talent. With $11,134,019 in cap space available to them this season and most of their pending free agents being restricted and limiting the cost on new contracts, there is more than enough space to make a deal happen. While Jamie Drysdale remains the right defenseman of the future in the organization, he and Kevin Shattenkirk are the only two right defensemen on the roster heading into the next season.

Klingberg’s situation doesn’t change much from a playing time standpoint, but he could be a safety blanket for Drysdale as he continues to grow and develop. A move like this would push Kevin Shattenkirk further down the lineup and provide more defensive depth. There is also the possibility of losing Hampus Lindholm to unrestricted free agency in the offseason, which would leave even more cap space at Anaheim’s disposal to re-sign Klingberg long-term.

Landing Spot 2: Carolina Hurricanes

This trade destination gets a little more complicated, considering how fluid the Hurricanes’ cap situation will be heading into next season, with lots of decisions to make on several pending free agents. Tony DeAngelo has exceeded expectations this season, fitting in seamlessly onto the back end and taking over quarterback duties on the top power-play unit. However, both DeAngelo and Ethan Bear are pending restricted free agents with arbitration rights, and their ask could complicate things for the Hurricanes.

Tony DeAngelo Carolina Hurricanes
Tony DeAngelo, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Defenseman Brett Pesce is signed to a fairly team-friendly contract with several years remaining and likely won’t go anywhere, but there is potential that the team could bring Klingberg in as insurance to Bear or Deangelo. With the latter expected to be out at least a month with an upper-body injury, the need for Klingberg will be heightened and could prompt a move for the Stars’ blueliner. Klingberg is having a down year offensively, but he’s a much more reliable defenseman in his own end and can log top pair minutes. Adding Klingberg would push DeAngelo into a more suitable role in a bottom-four pair while giving them a legitimate and lethal second power-play unit quarterback.

Related: Klingberg Trade Would Make Hurricanes’ Blue Line Lethal

Adding an offensive defenseman that scored 40 points or more in five of his eight seasons, including a career-high 67 points in the 2017-18 season, is something any team would like to do. The Hurricanes could potentially get him on a cheaper deal if he is extended because of his down year this season, which could end up being a value deal if he can return to his previous form if given more ice time.

J.T. Miller – Center/Left Wing – Vancouver Canucks

A name that surfaced more recently could potentially be the biggest name available on the market, and that’s J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks. Although there is one more year remaining on his deal, the Canucks’ new management may opt to put their own stamp on this team and move out players while maximizing the assets they get in return, and Miller would certainly fetch them a decent haul. Acquiring a player of this caliber would be a massive get for any team because of his multitude of skills and play style, and there should be a ton of interest throughout the league if he is available.

Landing Spot 1: Toronto Maple Leafs

Yes, how can we not link a name like J.T. Miller to one of the biggest hockey markets in the league? He is a unique player with positional versatility, good defensive awareness, and offensive upside with 57 points through 51 games. Almost a week ago, it seemed like a move for a player like Miller would be impossible considering the cap gymnastics that would need to go on in order for the Toronto Maple Leafs to facilitate a trade. But with Jake Muzzin officially landing on the long-term injured reserve due to his second concussion of the season, there is now lots of cap space to work with.

This would obviously mean the Leafs would need to bring Muzzin back come playoff time, but it allows them to go big-game hunting for a top-six forward to play on either Auston Matthews or John Tavares’ line. Miller makes a lot of sense for the Leafs for several reasons, including his combination of a heavier and more physical playstyle with high-end skill. He could be deployed by Toronto in many different ways, including at the center position or on the wing (which is more likely) as well as both special teams units.

JT Miller Vancouver Canucks
JT Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The cost to get Miller would not be cheap and would likely require a top prospect like Topi Niemela and a package of picks. If they were to move futures like this, it helps that Miller is under contract for another year at a reasonable dollar figure. At this point, the Leafs are in full win-now mode and desperate to win at least one playoff round, and mortgaging the future to make a splash like this should not be out of the question.

Landing Spot 2: Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild are another team that fits the need to acquire a player with Miller’s services. They are in need of adding a legit center, and Miller is capable of being that for them. With Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek as the current top two centers on the team, Minnesota’s depth down the middle is good but remains the biggest area of need to help take the team to the next level.

The Wild’s physicality is their identity and part of what makes them such a hard team to play against, making Miller’s fit even more tantalizing. With just over $2 million in cap space, they’re one of the few playoff-bound teams with a decent cap space cushion heading into the deadline.

Related: Wild Have 3 Good Targets at the Trade Deadline

The Wild have a solid prospect pool and could easily put together a good enough package to pry Miller away from Vancouver. That said, if they can also move out a bad contract like Victor Rask’s, who is currently playing in the American Hockey League with a $4 million cap hit, that would make the deal even more worth it. If they are able to create cap space by moving Rask’s contract out, there is even a possibility that Miller can be extended in the future.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Goaltender – Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks made big moves in the offseason by adding pieces to make another run at a Stanley Cup championship with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane still under contract. They mortgaged some of their future in order to bring in Seth Jones on the back end, and they also brought in Fleury to backstop them between the pipes. Unfortunately for Fleury and the Blackhawks, the season did not go as planned, and the Blackhawks find themselves likely to miss the playoffs again and forced to be sellers at the deadline. With Fleury’s 10-team no-trade list, he owns some say on which team he could be traded to and is likely to be headed to a contender for a shot at another Cup with potential retirement on the horizon.

Landing Spot 1: Edmonton Oilers

There is no team with playoff aspirations that is in desperate need of a goaltender more than the Edmonton Oilers. The inconsistency in their tandem of goaltenders raises concerns as to whether this team is actually a playoff-caliber team. Between Mike Smith’s injuries limiting his playing time and Mikko Koskinen’s constant struggles, the Oilers are in search of stability in their crease. Acquiring a player of Fleury’s caliber and résumé would immediately make him the number one option in goal.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Smith’s age is starting to catch up to him, as he’s started only 13 of the Oilers’ 51 games so far this season. Koskinen shouldered the bulk of the load this season during Smith’s injuries, but his .899 save percentage and 3.13 goals-against average are mediocre at best and nowhere near starting-caliber results. While Smith and Koskinen showed flashes of brilliance, their inability to remain healthy and consistent leaves too many question marks for the Oilers heading into a potential playoff series.

Even on a sub-par Blackhawks team, Fleury owns a 2.80 GAA and .912 SV% through 38 starts, which is significantly better than any of the options the Oilers currently have. Chicago and Edmonton got a deal done earlier this season, and perhaps as familiar trade partners, there is potential to make another one happen. The only catch is Fleury’s willingness to move to another team again and finding a way to fit his cap hit into the Oilers’ current situation. If salary retention is a factor or Koskinen and his expiring $4.5 million cap hit are moved in the deal, it’s hard to see a team that will be more desperate than the Oilers to make this move happen.

Landing Spot 2: Nashville Predators

The Predators are enjoying a very good season after retooling yet again, and although they are in a wild card spot, they’re a team that should be looking to add goaltending depth if they expect to make a playoff run. Nashville’s cap space is a big factor, with over $10 million available to them heading into the deadline, which is far and above the space other competitive teams have at their disposal. Juuse Saros is undeniably the team’s starter and goalie of the future as his 42 games played rank second in the league among goaltenders through the team’s 51 games. Even for a young goaltender, that workload is massive and could be detrimental to Saros, as he will be relied on heavily down the stretch while the team continues to fight for a playoff spot.

Juuse Saros Nashville Predators
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The team opted to bring in David Rittich in the offseason, but the goaltender’s limited playing time is forcing the team to be highly reliant on Saros. Rittich has started in eight of the team’s 51 games so far this season, posting a very poor 3.17 GAA and .890 SV%, giving very little reason for head coach John Hynes to warrant playing him more often.

Getting a capable complementary goalie like Fleury to provide rest to Saros down the stretch and keep him fresh for the playoffs is something the Predators should strongly consider. If, by chance, Saros does falter in the playoffs, the team will have a reliable option to turn to with Fleury’s extensive playoff experience.

Monitoring the Market

A lot of these teams who will be interested in making acquisitions will need to monitor the market and see how it sets itself. The Tyler Toffoli trade is one that does begin to make that threshold clearer. As desperation mounts for teams and injuries pile up, the market could fluctuate greatly. But the reservations of making bigger deals this early remain because of the potential to miss out on a better deal closer to the deadline.

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