The 2023 NHL trade deadline, but that doesn't mean the fireworks are over. With some big names coming off the board early, general managers have time to get creative and pull off some stunners before Mar. 3.
Players like Timo Meier, Ryan O'Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko have been off the board for a while now, but there are still teams looking to upgrade their roster for a deep playoff run. The Pittsburgh Penguins might want to take a big swing with their core players still intact, and the Carolina Hurricanes need more offensive firepower after Max Pacioretty's injury.
Here are some bold predictions for what will happen in the last couple of days leading up to the 2023 NHL trade deadline:
Flames trade Tyler Toffoli to Wild
The Flames have some big decisions to make and not a lot of time to make them. At the moment, Calgary sits four points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
In terms of points percentage, the Flames are 10th in the conference. That puts them behind the Nashville Predators, who have already decided to become sellers. Calgary doesn't have much time to turn things around, and it may be prudent for the team to do a bit of selling in order to gain something from what has been a disappointing season so far.
If the Flames do decide to flip a couple of roster players for future assets, Toffoli could bring in a big haul for a team in need of offense. That's where the Minnesota Wild enter this scenario.
The Wild's biggest struggle this season has been depth scoring, and if they hope to challenge the other top teams in the Western Conference, they probably need to acquire some more offensive firepower. With 25 goals and 52 points in 60 games this season, Toffoli would give them a significant upgrade.
Not only would Toffoli give Kirill Kaprizov some extra help up front this season, but he is also signed for a manageable $4.25 million through 2023-24. The buyout penalties from the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter contracts only get worse next season, so taking on a team-friendly deal like Toffoli's could help Minnesota remain competitive in the Western Conference next season too. -- Nivison
Penguins land Jakob Chychrun in deal with Coyotes
The Pittsburgh Penguins are clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and have been about as inconsistent as any playoff-caliber team around the league lately. Penguins general manager Ron Hextall chose to get the band back together when he re-signed Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to long-term deals in the offseason, so he really can't sit on his hands now.
The window may not be open for much longer for Pittsburgh, so the Penguins have to go for broke. That's why it makes sense for the Penguins to make a splash at the trade deadline in the form of acquiring star defenseman Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes.
The Penguins' defense is allowing 3.20 goals-per-game, which ranks in the bottom half of the league. The addition of Chychrun would give them an excellent two-way defenseman that would shore up the team's blue line.
Chychrun possesses a cannon of a shot that would really add another dynamic to Pittsburgh's offense. He could also be a tremendous asset on the team's power-play if he were to be added to the mix.
If the Penguins were to add Chychrun, it also wouldn't be surprising if Hextall figured out a way to include Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka in the deal. Tristan Jarry can't seem to stay healthy this season and Casey DeSmith has struggled to the tune of a 3.27 goals-against-average in relief of Jarry. -- Bengel
Hurricanes acquire Sam Reinhart from Panthers
Carolina missed out on the biggest prize of this year's trade deadline when Timo Meier went to the New Jersey Devils, but there are still options available to general manager Don Waddell, especially if the Florida Panthers decide to become sellers.
Much like the Flames, the Panthers' chances of reaching the postseason are lower than they appear on the surface. That's because Florida's points percentage of .525 ranks 12th in the conference. The New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators are all ahead of the Panthers in that category.
With Florida's playoff hopes hanging by a thread, it might be worthwhile for Carolina to inquire about winger Sam Reinhart. Max Pacioretty is essentially done for the season with another Achilles injury, so the Hurricanes are once again looking for a scoring winger, and Reinhart would fit that bill.
Over the last two seasons with the Panthers, Reinhart has played 139 games and scored 54 goals. There's no reason Reinhart couldn't continue scoring at that pace -- or even higher -- on a Hurricanes team that is stacked with young offensive playmakers.
In terms of the money, this could make a bit of sense for both sides. The Panthers would have $6.5 million in cap space with which to reload in the summer, and he has one more year left on his contract. Reinhart wouldn't be a rental for Carolina, and the team wouldn't have to find a way to fit him in under the cap when Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Martin Necas, and Seth Jarvis all become free agents in the summer of 2024. -- Nivison
Golden Knights stand pat
Over the years, the Vegas Golden Knights have made it clear that they're not afraid to make a big deal at the trade deadline.
While it wasn't at the trade deadline last season, the team did go out and acquire Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres. In previous years, the Golden Knights have added Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Tomas Tatar prior to the trade deadline.
It's a mindset that hasn't failed the Golden Knights as they've qualified for the playoffs in four of their first five seasons in the NHL. However, this is the year where Vegas might actually hang onto their assets and play with the roster that they have.
In February, the Golden Knights announced that captain Mark Stone had back surgery and would be out of the lineup indefinitely, with no guarantee he'd be back for the postseason.
Vegas currently leads the Western Conference with 76 points and obviously has gotten along fine without Stone, who has been limited to just 43 games this season. This is a group that still has plenty of playmakers in the form of Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Chandler Stephenson, so a marquee move may not be needed.
Goalie Logan Thompson is currently dealing with a leg injury and has been placed on injured reserve. As long as Thompson is back by playoff time, the Golden Knights should still be a dangerous force in the West even if they stand pat at the deadline. -- Bengel
Predators trade Juuse Saros
The Nashville Predators entered the trade market as sellers over the weekend, and they did so with a bang. They began their fire sale by trading Nino Niederreiter to the Winnipeg Jets and trading Tanner Jeannot to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Predators probably have more moves on the way, and while it seems like Juuse Saros might be one of a few untouchables, it would probably be in their best interest to listen to offers on star goaltender.
Saros has two more years at $5 million left on his contract, and he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2025. Assuming Saros continues to play at a high level over the next two years, he will be due for a raise at that time. If the Predators remain committed to their rebuild, would it be prudent to give a large payday to Saros, who will be 30 years old then?
For most teams, the answer might be, "Yes." Consistent goaltending, especially Vezina-caliber goaltending, is hard to find. Saros could be dominant well into his 30's, but Nashville might not need him to be.
That's because the future of Nashville's goaltending position might already be in the AHL. The Predators drafted highly-touted goaltending prospect Yaroslav Askarov with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and that selection already looks like a good one. In his first season with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, Askarov has posted strong numbers en route to being named an All-Star.
As the Predators try to build around young talent, Askarov may be ready to take over in goal in just a couple of years. Askarov will turn 23 in the summer of 2025, and he might be the better option if Nashville is taking a long-term approach to roster construction under new general manager Barry Trotz.
Trading away a franchise player and a top-five goaltender in the league may be a tough pill to swallow for the Predators, but moving Saros to a team in need of goaltending could set them up very well for the future. -- Nivison
Kraken acquire James van Riemsdyk
The Seattle Kraken went through some growing pains that most expansion teams do in in their inaugural season. Fast forward a year later, and the Kraken are vying for a playoff spot in a very tight Western Conference.
The Kraken were never going to chase a Timo Meier or Patrick Kane, but there are a few veteran forwards that could really help them on a run towards the playoffs. One of which is Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk.
There's a sense of familiarity with van Riemsdyk with Dave Hakstol having served as as the Flyers' head coach for part of van Riemsdyk's first season in Philadelphia back in 2018-19.
van Riemsdyk obviously isn't the explosive 30-goal scorer that he used to be, but he's still got plenty to offer a team like Seattle. The Flyers forward has tallied nine goals and 14 assists on the season and would provide a veteran presence on the Kraken's second or third line.
The 33-year old is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so he likely won't carry a hefty trade price.
van Riemsdyk sat out Philadelphia's game on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils for undisclosed reasons, fueling speculation that he's going to be moved. While it's been stated that the Flyers are talking to several teams, going to a head coach that's familiar with van Riemsdyk's playing style would make a ton of sense. -- Bengel