Playoff Team Trade Targets at the All-Star Break

With the All-Star Break taking place this week, most NHL teams found themselves with time off, as only a handful of games took place. Due to this, it didn’t make much sense to do Power Rankings as there would be little to discuss. Instead, we are going to look toward the next big date on the NHL calendar… the Trade Deadline! With the league in a fervor pitch, let’s look forward to an exciting time of speculation and breaking news as big trades take place.

2023 NHL Trade Deadline
2023 NHL Trade Deadline (The Hockey Writers)

For this exercise, I am going to discuss one trade target for each team in the playoffs as of Feb. 6th, 2023. To keep things interesting, I will only mention a player once, which will quickly limit the pool of available talent. Also, we will try our best to keep salary cap constraints in mind, but when an NHL general manager wants a player, they find ways to make a trade happen, even if it would sometimes seem impossible in a discussion.

Western Conference

Wild Card #2: Colorado Avalanche

It’s difficult to win the Stanley Cup, as the playoffs are grueling and injury-filled, so it shouldn’t be a real surprise that the Colorado Avalanche haven’t looked perfect in their title defense. However, they are getting healthy and pulling themselves back into the running for the Central Division.

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As they look to bulk up for the playoffs, I could see them pursuing defenseman Vladislav Gabrikov. At 6-foot-3, he is a solid stay-at-home defender who has the size of an impact player and is carrying a low-cost contract that could easily be worked around. For a team in need of quality players, he could be a great fit for the Avalanche.

Wild Card #1: Edmonton Oilers

When you feature one of the best hockey players in the world, you should always be on the lookout for talent that can help push your core over the top. The Edmonton Oilers should be in win-now mode, and they have the assets needed to make a big trade this season, even if they tend to shy away from those deals in recent years.

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So, despite what I think they will do, I’m going to say that the Oilers take a big swing and bet on Vladimir Tarasenko. While he has struggled with injuries in 2022-23, he is just one season removed from a 34-goal, 82-point campaign, and if there’s anywhere he could return to form it would be in Edmonton.

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Despite struggling with injuries this season, Vladimir Tarasenko could still be an impact player with the right franchise. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Just imagine how terrifying the Oilers’ top-six would be if you add in Tarasenko, even if he is only playing at 85 percent. That’s a dangerous player on a dangerous team, and it could be that jolt they need to take that next step in the postseason.

Pacific #3: Vegas Golden Knights

Things have changed quickly for the Vegas Golden Knights. Only a few weeks ago they looked like the clear favorites to win the Pacific Division, but now they might be in a fight to even qualify for the postseason. For this reason, I expect Vegas to make a bold move, especially with their captain Mark Stone being out indefinitely with an injury.

How bold you may ask?

Ryan O’Reilly.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues
If you’re looking for a veteran who can change your team immediately, Ryan O’Reilly could be a perfect trade target. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Does this make any sense in regard to cap space or even team need? No. But the Golden Knights don’t always make sense. They see a star, find a way to acquire them, and hope that everything works out. If they acquire O’Reilly, it would be a move that could either win them a Stanley Cup, or bankrupt the franchise, but when you’re a gambler, you take those risks.

Pacific #2: Los Angeles Kings

There’s never been a more clear trade target than Karel Vejmelka to the L.A. Kings. As a team in desperate need of a steady goaltender, Vejmelka could come in and immediately stabilize their net. Considering that is their biggest weakness, a move like this could take the Kings from a fringe playoff team to a contender overnight.

Pacific #1: Seattle Kraken

If you bet on the Seattle Kraken not only making the playoffs but leading the Pacific Division at the All-Star Break, congratulations on your payday. The Kraken had a rough inaugural season, but things are coming together for the fledgling franchise and they now find themselves in the postseason hunt despite sub-optimal goaltending. They also lack a real star, so I could see them going out and finding one this trade deadline with Erik Karlsson.

Related: NHL Trade Bait List for the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline

Would this be buying high on a defenseman who has struggled with injuries in recent years? Yes. However, Karlsson is playing some of the best hockey of his illustrious career, and he could bring this offensive upside to the Kraken for years to come. If Seattle can get the Sharks to retain salary on this deal, it would bring the cap hit down to a more reasonable level, and they might be able to pull off the trade without giving up significant assets if San Jose is desperate enough to shed cap.

Central #3: Minnesota Wild

If the Minnesota Wild are truly looking to move on from Matt Dumba, then they could use a new offensively-minded defenseman to take on those minutes each night. This leads me to believe that they could look toward Jon Klingberg as an answer, even if he is experiencing a down season.

John Klingberg Anaheim Ducks
Even if John Klingberg is struggling to find his form with Anaheim Ducks, he’s still a top-tier defenseman who can make a difference as a deadline acquisition. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While he is making $7 million, if the Anaheim Ducks retained half, then Klingberg would cost less against the cap for Minnesota than Dumba, while bringing in a player with high-end potential who is currently struggling with a bad team. All told, that wouldn’t be a bad change for a cap-constrained Wild.

Central #2: Winnipeg Jets

When thinking of a player who fits for the Winnipeg Jets, I wanted to find a quality depth forward who could take on those middle-six minutes. This immediately led me to Ivan Barbashev, who is experiencing a down season after posting 26 goals in 2021-22.

I think he could be a perfect fit for the Jets, as he is an all-round forward who may not have elite upside, but he also has few downsides and already has deep postseason experience along with a Stanley Cup ring. Plus, he’s on a low-cost contract that Winnipeg could absorb with only minor retention, which is all the better.

Central #1: Dallas Stars

After reaching Game 7 in the first round of the 2022 playoffs, the Dallas Stars are proving that was no fluke during the 2022-23 season. At times, they have looked like the most complete team in the NHL, with elite offense, defense, and goaltending. In recent weeks, however, they have looked more human, and they find themselves barely hanging on to first place in the Central Division.

While they don’t need to make a big deal at the deadline, I could see them going after one of the top names. However, in this scenario, I’m projecting them to land on a trade for Brock Boeser.

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser has plenty of offensive upside, and a change of scenery could revitalize his career. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For the Stars, Boeser could provide top-end scoring talent in their bottom six, even if he simply hasn’t been working out for the Canucks in recent years. Vancouver may also be looking to offload his contract, so Dallas could get the former All-Star for next to nothing, even with retained salary. This could be a risk worth taking, as the franchise has a strong structure that could unlock the potential he once showed.

Eastern Conference

Wild Card 2: Pittsburgh Penguins

Despite struggling through a difficult January, the Pittsburgh Penguins still find themselves in the postseason picture as the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. As a team with a lot of draft capital available, and a number of moveable expiring contracts that could be used to clear out cap space, they could easily make space for a big addition.

For this reason, I’m going to say that the Penguins swing for the fences and look to acquire one of the biggest fish available, Jakob Chychrun. As a franchise, Pittsburgh needs to add younger, cost-controlled talent while they still have their star core intact, and Chychrun would provide this and more to the team at a reasonable $4.6 million cap hit. Plus, he would give the team flexibility on their blue line as he can play either side if needed.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun could be a long-term trade target for the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Given everything we know about the Penguins, they are willing to take big swings at the deadline if it puts them in the position to win now, and there would be few bigger moves than acquiring Chychrun at the deadline.

Wild Card 1: Washington Capitals

Another team that is holding onto a spot in the postseason despite struggling at times, the Washington Capitals are a team that you can’t overlook due to the number of injuries they are fighting through. If they get healthy, they could easily be one of the most dangerous teams to meet in the first round.

So, for their trade target, I’m going to look toward THW’s own Jesse Courville-Lynch for an idea, where they suggested Matt Dumba as a potential fit. As they said:

The Caps have been struggling with injuries all season, specifically on their blue line. The loss of John Carlson has been a massive blow to the team, and they find themselves fighting to stay in the playoff race. Bringing in a player of Dumba’s caliber that can play big minutes and can fill the void left open by injuries can be beneficial in the short term if they continue to be stung by the injury bug.

As a low-cost option that could involve nothing more than a swap of underperforming and overpaid players, I could see Dumba benefitting greatly from a fresh start with the Capitals. If he re-finds the form that made him a $6 million player, then it could be an absolute steal for the franchise.

Metropolitan #3: New York Rangers

After reaching the 2022 Eastern Conference Final, there’s reason to believe that the New York Rangers have a very bright future in front of them. With that in mind, I expect them to be active this deadline, and for them to go after one of the biggest fish available in Patrick Kane.

Even if he is struggling this season, Kane could still be a perfect fit both on and off the ice for the Rangers, who features a core of largely young talent. His veteran presence and playmaking ability is highly valuable, assuming he is able to still play at an NHL level with his nagging injuries.

Metropolitan #2: New Jersey Devils

Heading into the 2022-23 season, expectations were somewhat muted for the New Jersey Devils, especially for their young roster that was still developing and a head coach that seemed to be a sitting duck with the franchise. However, after stringing together some of their best play in years, they now find themselves as buyers at the deadline, with the assets needed to land a top prize. Due to this, I believe that they will be looking to spend whatever it takes to land Temo Meier.

Timo Meier San Jose Sharks
Timo Meier will be one of the biggest prizes of the 2023 Trade Deadline. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Meier is everything you want from a deadline acquisition, and if things go well, he could be re-signed to an expensive long-term deal by a team like the Devils. That would be money well spent if he brings with him all of the scoring ability as advertised to New Jersey.

Metropolitan #1: Carolina Hurricanes

What do you get the team that has everything? More. After Max Pacioretty suffered a second Achilles tear and will be out for the rest of the 2023 season, the Hurricanes could use reinforcements in their offensive corps. For this reason, I see them targeting a player like Sean Monahan, who has shown glimpses of star power but could never take that next step in his career. If the Canadiens retain a good chunk of his contract, he would be a perfect low-cost fit in a reduced role with the Hurricanes, and his depth scoring could be exactly what they need to get over the hump.

Atlantic #3: Tampa Bay Lightning

While I wish this was more exciting, the answer here is an obvious one. Luke Schenn is a veteran, low-cost defenseman who has already won two Stanley Cups with Tampa Bay Lightning. His acquisition cost won’t be that high, and for a team with few assets, a third-round pick plus a prospect is about all the Lightning can afford. For that reason, I imagine they will be pursuing Schenn this trade deadline.

Atlantic #2: Toronto Maple Leafs

As one of the top teams in the league, there’s reason to believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas will be ready to pull the trigger and go all in this deadline. Typically he’s not the type to trade away a huge package of assets for temporary help, but there’s a lot of talent out there that you can’t look past if you’re trying to do more than just get past Round 1 of the postseason.

For that reason, I believe they will be big game hunting, and target Jonathan Toews.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews would be expensive, but he would also bring a lot of intangibles to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yes, it would take a lot of work to make this move happen, but Toews brings with him a lot of those intangibles that the Maple Leafs need for the postseason. Not only that, but in a reduced role, he could thrive with Toronto, and be a real game-changer in the faceoff circle.

Atlantic #1: Boston Bruins

Let’s see, the Boston Bruins have been on a historic winning pace this season, and they look like one of the best teams in league history on the back of their veteran-led core. This is a true last-dance situation, as it appears that these players could be departing at the end of the season, so I expect the Bruins to be a player at the deadline, even if they lack cap space to do so.

Related: 3 Bruins’ 2023 Trade Targets With Term

For this reason, I’m going to say that they target Adam Henrique of the Anaheim Ducks, who is a player that can help them now and in the future. While he would be nothing more than a luxury addition, he would add another veteran presence down the middle that can step up into a bigger role if called upon. While his contract is expensive, with the right amount of retention, he could fit perfectly into their bottom six. Most importantly, I expect Henrique has more to bring to the ice each night for a contender like the Bruins than his play with the Ducks has shown this year.

Power Rankings Return Next Week

Thanks again for reading this All-Star Break edition of the THW Power Rankings. Next week we will return to our regular schedule, and we will get to look forward to seeing if any of these Trade Targets come true!