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With less than a month to go before the deadline, we’ve got you covered every day atDaily face-to-facewith a trade-focused story leading up to deadline day.
Today we take a look at five competitive clubs with potential strengths they can use to bring in someone of note at Deadline. Which prospects get moved is a complete mystery – they’re almost never in trade rumors, and who gets moved really depends on the specifics of a deal.
So we’re basing today’s list on teams with prospects they might be willing to move to get the pieces needed for a long playoff streak. That doesn’t mean they’re bought or teams will consider moving them. But the opportunity to get the Spicy Target they need might be more accessible if one of the listed players is moved.
2023 trading deadline countdown: 26 days
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Possibly available: Matthew Knies, Fraser Minten, Roni Hirvonen, Nick Abruzzese, 2023 1st round pick
The Maple Leafs must do whatever it takes to qualify for the first round this year, and no hope in the system should be untouchable. That includes Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten, two of the team’s most notable prospects in the last two drafts. Knies would be the one getting the most attention. He had one point per game as a rookie at the University of Minnesota last year and has 30 points in 28 games as a sophomore. He’s surrounded by high-quality teammates like Jimmy Snuggerud and Logan Cooley, which helps, but he was the leading scorer of the three. That potential to be a decent scorer in the middle of the six could tempt teams to part ways with a player on the current roster, and if it gives the Leafs some extra scoring depth right now, it’s worth it.
I was never high on Minten, who I didn’t even have in the second round last year, let alone the 38th-best prospect. He had good numbers with Kamloops in the WHL, but he’s fifth in scoring on the team (especially behind the older players, mind you) and I don’t think he has a high cap in the NHL. His value is that of a physical striker in the middle of the six, and while that would suit the current roster perfectly, he’s definitely someone worth moving on to.
An intriguing name is Topi Niemela, who already has an entry-level contract. He’s had a slightly less good year with Karpat in Finland, but he’s still the team’s best defensive prospect – and, in my opinion, the one with the most upside in the Toronto system. Teams love young, mobile defensemen who move the puck, and he would be a prime candidate to come to North America next year.
Nick Robertson’s season-ending injury probably takes him out of the equation. But one name that could definitely catch the eye is goalkeeper Joseph Woll. He’s one of the best goaltenders in the AHL right now and he’s playing well enough to earn an NHL shot. But with Ilya Samsonov playing well this season and Matt Murray signed for another year, Woll could turn 25 and still work in the NHL. I don’t think he solves a team’s immediate problems, but maybe he’s used as a sweetener to land a goalscorer they need. Who knows? Roni Hirvonen and Nick Abruzzese could also act as sweeteners, especially with the Abruzzese currently playing good hockey.
The Leafs earn the No. 1 ranking not only because they have intriguing assets, but also because they are well positioned to make virtually all of their prospects available.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
Possibly available: Jackson Blake, Alexander Nikishin, Massimo Rizzo, Domenick Fensore, 2023 1st round pick
With Max Pacioretty out and no real schedule, the Hurricanes could be looking to fill the void with his lost goalscoring touch. After years of building one of the best prospects, the Hurricanes have climbed near the top of the NHL standings. And even after graduating players like Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis, the pool still looks strong.
They are solid in the NCAA with forwards Massimo Rizzo, Jackson Blake and Cruz Lucius, as well as defensemen Scott Morrow and Domenick Fensore, among others. So they can afford to move a few pieces to catch another high impact player without too much hesitation in a single league.
The real wild card is 6-foot-4 defenseman Alexander Nikishin. The 21-year-old is one of the best defensemen in the KHL, playing around 23 minutes and on his way to 50 points while playing a huge role for SKA St. Petersburg, the KHL’s top team. But Nikishin signed a three-year contract in the KHL just before being drafted 69th overall by the Hurricanes, which is why he hasn’t come on yet.
He is so physically advanced for his age and the offense also shows. His contract is due to end this year and he has legitimate top-four potential. So it will be interesting to see if his rights are used in a deal to add further depth in the immediate future.
3. Calgary Flames
Possibly available: Jérémie Poirier, Matthew Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, Matthew Phillips, 2023 1st round pick
The Flames have a decent prospect in the system, but it looks like coach Daryl Sutter wants nothing to do with them most nights. Forward Jakob Pelletier was recalled in early January but only played four games, seeing less than eight minutes in two of them. He immediately returned to the AHL and had two points, giving him 16 goals and 36 points in 32 games. Those are solid numbers for a 21-year-old, and he clearly deserves to be seen better in the NHL. With the Flames on the outside, but with the ability to make playoff noise, could they use that as a key bargaining chip?
Similar sentiments could be expressed about Connor Zary and Matthew Phillips. Both have been excellent with the Wranglers, and it’s been seven years since Phillips, in particular, was drafted by the Flames. Zary would be more valuable being three years younger, but all deserve a real look with the Flames or elsewhere.
Two prospects who I wouldn’t expect to be moved, but who could be intriguing depending on the asking price, are goaltender Dustin Wolf and forward Matt Coronato. Coronato is one of the top prospects drafted into the NHL in the NCAA and could fetch a pretty penny as a sophomore who could be ready to turn pro sooner rather than later. Wolf is one of the best goaltenders outside of the NHL right now, but Jacob Markstrom is signed through 2026 and Daniel Vladar has two years left on his contract. Wolf is good enough to be in the NHL next season, and while I think it would be easier to move someone like Vladar and his $750,000 touchdown this year at the deadline, it would be interesting to see what it takes to get Wolf out of Calgary. I don’t see that happening, but we’ve seen crazier things.
4. Los Angeles Kings
Possibly available: Alex Turcotte, Jordan Spence, Tyler Madden, Aidan Dudas, Kenny Connors, Francesco Pinelli, 2023 1st round pick
The Kings desperately need a goaltender if they want to make some noise before the playoffs. And while the team’s prospect pool has cooled over the past two years, they still have enough to bring in someone who can fill an immediate need.
Forwards Francesco Pinelli, Alex Laferriere, Quinton Byfield, Tyler Madden, Aidan Dudas and Kenny Connors are all still relatively young. They also have Brandt Clarke, Kirill Kirsanov and Jordan Spence as future defenders. If the Kings are looking for a short-term answer – someone like Cam Talbot, James Reimer or Alex Stalock – it shouldn’t be necessary to have a high-end prospect to make it happen.
The biggest thing holding the Kings back is their horrible goaltending, which right now is led by regular third player Pheonix Copley. The core of the club still have enough talent up front and on the blue line. If they can move even a few of their younger assets, like a Pinelli, a Connors or a Spence, they wouldn’t suffer in the long run.
5. The Seattle Kraken
Possibly Available: 2023 Second Round Pick (x3)
Hear me out: I was fully on the “Seattle must absolutely suck those early years to build up resources” bandwagon when they entered the league. Quite the opposite of Vegas, essentially. But they’ve amassed an incredible trove of draft-pick assets over the past few seasons, and it might be worth trying to move a few around to bolster this group. Because whether you can predict it or not, the Kraken have a legitimate chance to go all the way west.
I don’t think they’ll move leads, because they don’t have a huge pool to work with. They have three second-rounders, two fourth-rounders, and two sixth-rounders in 2023 and two third-round picks in 2024. If we work with just those assets, it’s not going to land a high-value player on the trading block, but it could give you a decent bottom-six striker or a bottom-four defender who can complete the team formation. You don’t always have to make a splash to get big results, and that’s exactly what the Kraken learned after picking up Eeli Tolvanen on Waivers.
The Kraken need to stay focused on the front, and I don’t see them deviating from that fact. The 2023 NHL Draft is strong enough that even a 25th overall pick is impressive enough. Moving a few second rounds won’t hurt the team’s future much, and it could be precisely what it takes to give the group a long and exciting playoff streak as well. It’s about tinkering without mortgaging the future, and I think the Kraken can do that.
Honorable mentions: THE Dallas Stars don’t have a first or third round in the 2023 draft, but have built up an enviable prospect closet that includes scheming forwards Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven… It’s hard to imagine the New Jersey Devils move their defensive mega-prospects Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, but what if someone brings in Alexander Holtz? However, it may be too early for New Jersey to take a big swing, as they are just breaking through as a playoff team.
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