After just one NHL trade took place in January, the turn of the month brings renewed hope of a busy trade deadline. Factors such as a high number of teams with limited salary-cap space and the recent spread of the omicron variant among NHL rosters contributed to this lack of activity.
But now that the schedule has moved into February, general managers could become more inclined to start making moves, with the March 21 deadline less than seven weeks away.
Despite the limited number of transactions in recent weeks, there hasn’t been any shortage of rumors involving some notable NHL talent. Some of the names mentioned in recent trade speculation are players who appeared on our January edition, such as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun and Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux was among several new names in the rumor mill during January.
Here are our top 10 trade candidates entering February 2022. Do you agree with our ranking? Feel free to weigh in on this topic in the comments section.
The Selection Process
This 15-player list is based on media speculation throughout January 2022. The 10 analyzed are ranked based on their level of talent, trade value and the possibility of being dealt before the March 21 deadline.
There were several changes to our list over the past month. Minnesota Wild winger Kevin Fiala, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl and Los Angeles Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi have dropped off, as there was little mention of them in media trade rumors in recent weeks.
Evander Kane came off the list when he signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers after the San Jose Sharks terminated his contract.
Sharks center Tomas Hertl returns to the list, as his name has resurfaced in recent trade conjecture. It’s uncertain whether he’ll be shopped on deadline day since the Sharks are jockeying for a Western Conference wild-card berth, but his trade status bears monitoring.
The updated list is as follows, in no particular order:
- Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes
- John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
- Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
- Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens
- Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
- Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
- Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
- Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
- Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
- Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings
- J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
- Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks
- Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars
- Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights
10. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
With his club tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher could become a seller by the deadline.
As such, the status of team captain Claude Giroux has generated plenty of interest among NHL pundits in the rumor mill.
The 34-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He carries an $8.3 million cap hit for this season, though his actual salary is $4 million after the Flyers paid out his $1 million signing bonus at the start of this season.
He also has a full no-movement clause, but that hasn’t stopped suggestions he could waive it to join a contender.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Flyers hadn’t spoken to other clubs about Giroux and that Fletcher hadn’t talked to him about a trade.
Eight days later, LeBrun indicated Giroux’s agent informed him he would speak with his client in the next few weeks to discuss his future with Fletcher. That same day, Fletcher said he would leave it up to his captain to decide his fate.
Giroux should garner lots of attention if he waives his movement clause. The versatile, two-way player can play all three forward positions and has 35 points in 41 games this season.
On Jan. 25, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested he’d be a good addition to the Colorado Avalanche’s roster. Given the Avs’ limited cap space, however, he felt it could take a three-team deal to make the dollars fit.
9. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
The combination of a poor start to the season and trade rumors involving the Minnesota Wild saw J.T. Miller appear at No. 3 on our December trade board.
The 28-year-old center slipped out of our top 10 the following month after a shakeup in the front office, and the coaching staff saw the Vancouver Canucks stabilize and regain ground in the standings.
Miller’s reappearance in the rumor mill coincided with the Canucks hiring Patrik Allvin as their new general manager and Emilie Castonguay as assistant GM last month.
During an appearance on Sportsnet 650, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli felt Miller could fetch “a little more than a [first-round pick] and a highly touted prospect,” suggesting the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames as suitors.
Given team president Jim Rutherford’s history as a wheeler-dealer, it’s little wonder there’s an assumption he could approve a Miller trade.
However, he and his new management staff aren’t under pressure to trade him due to the year remaining on his contract. Much will depend upon where the Canucks are in the standings by March.
The Wild need skilled depth at center, so it’s not surprising to see Miller linked to them again. He also started his NHL career with the Rangers, who are well-positioned in terms of cap space and promising young players to make a competitive bid for someone with his skills.
The Bruins and Flames, meanwhile, could use a reliable second-line center.
8. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights
Speculation abounded following the Vegas Golden Knights’ acquisition of Jack Eichel and how they would free up cap space to absorb his $10 million annual salary-cap hit. This led to Reilly Smith making his debut on our trade block big board in December.
With Eichel expected to join the lineup before the end of this season, Smith’s trade status could draw more attention before March 21.
The Athletic’s Jesse Granger suggested bundling a $5 million forward like Smith, Jonathan Marchessault or Evgenii Dadonov along with backup goalie Laurent Brossoit as a potential package.
While Smith is one of coach Peter DeBoer’s most trusted forwards, his unrestricted free agent status this summer could make him the easiest to move.
Furthermore, Smith’s reliability as a top-six forward should draw plenty of interest in the trade market.
The Athletic’s Arthur Staple suggested him as a trade target for the New York Rangers to address their need for a top-six right winger. The Blueshirts have the cap space to easily absorb his cap hit and depth in promising prospects to offer as trade bait.
Given Smith’s lack of no-trade protection, the Golden Knights could ship him anywhere. That could prove useful if they have to move him quickly should Eichel be ready to return to action before deadline day.