The NHL Trade Deadline is an inflection point when a team’s front office is faced with the challenge of weighing the future against the present. Does this year’s team have a chance of making the playoffs? Does it have a chance of winning the Stanley Cup? And does the answer to one of those questions hinge on upgrading talent somewhere on the roster or filling a spot left by an injury? If so, how many future assets are you willing to sacrifice to fill those holes?
“I like what our guys are doing,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said in an interview with NHL.com on Monday. “I like the way we believe in each other and play for each other right now. If there is a piece there that makes sense, and it isn’t at a ridiculous price, we’ll certainly look at it, but we’re not going to do anything that’s crazy at this point.”
First-round draft picks have immense value relative to other draft assets. Surely, those picks are off the table, right? Many teams, not to mention fanbases, likely felt this way last year at the deadline, but seven separate deals involved a first-round draft pick moving from one team to another. Ten others included at least one second-round pick. In other words, if you’re looking to buy a top-17 trade asset at the deadline, you’re going to pay an uncomfortable price. Prices are high and buyers are faced with a time-sensitive decision: Is the chance at a better playoff outcome this year worth it? Is there any value in the deal beyond this playoff run?
The Seattle Kraken are confronting these questions right now, 15 days out from the March 3, 2023, trade deadline. Francis told NHL.com the team would “sit and wait, [and] see where we are and see what the prices are and make some decisions as we get closer to the deadline.”
In part I of our trade deadline series we looked to situate this year’s deadline in historical context. In part II, we dug into Kraken team needs. In this concluding part, we’ll build a big board of trade market options and make a few projections on likely outcomes.
Building the big board
In constructing a big board of potential trade targets, I considered a player eligible if they met one of two criteria: (1) the player is a pending unrestricted free agent on a team out of playoff contention; or (2) the player has been identified as “available” in trade conversations by reliable league insiders I have seen. Players in the first category are classic “rental” options, but some may not be “available” in reality due to the team’s desire to retain the player. Likewise, with regard to the second category, we need to recognize that even credible insiders get inaccurate or indirect information, and some of these players may not be realistically “available.”
On the other hand, the board is under-inclusive too. There are going to be pending restricted free agents or players with another year or more on their contracts that are available but have not been identified by league insiders. Jaycob Megna falls into this category, actually. He was not on early drafts of my trade deadline big board because he has another year on his contract and had not been floated as a trade option, as far as I saw. Even so, I resisted the urge to expand the big board to include additional players on non-contenders to avoid the board becoming unwieldy or full of “wishful thinking.”
To finalize the big board, first, I separated the players by position and contract term (e.g., “pending unrestricted free agent defensemen”) and ordered them based on my assessment of each player’s potential value for this Seattle Kraken team. I then disqualified players I felt (1) would not be usable, even as depth, on this Kraken team, (2) could not conceivably justify the projected acquisition cost; or (3) were not realistic options for Seattle, given the team’s cap situation. Patrick Kane and John Klingberg are notable players I omitted from the final big board because, in my opinion, they fall in the second category. Vladislav Gavrikov is another one. Erik Karlsson is a player you won’t see on the board either because I put him in the third category. Finally, I rounded out the big board with a “long-shot candidates” category that included marginal candidates for the Kraken due to the projected cost or fit.
Ok, let’s dive in.
The trade deadline big board
Pending unrestricted free-agent defensemen
Nick Holden defends Jordan Eberle at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
Shayne Gostisbehere | Arizona | Age: 30 | LD | 9 goals, 20 assists, 154.7 min PP TOI | Contract: $4,500,000
Jake Walman | Detroit | Age: 27 | LD | 5 goals, 4 assists, 52.7 min PK TOI | Contract: $1,050,000
Jarred Tinordi | Chicago | Age: 31 | LD | 2 goals, 3 assists, 41.5 min PK TOI | Contract: $900,000
Nick Holden | Ottawa | Age: 36 | LD | 1 goal, 9 assists, 126.2 min PK TOI | Contract: $1,300,000 (M-NTC)
Troy Stecher | Arizona | Age: 29 | RD | 0 goals, 5 assists, 149.8 min PK TOI | Contract: $1,250,000
Dmitry Kulikov | Anaheim | Age: 32 | LD | 2 goals, 8 assists, 165.5 min PK TOI | Contract: $2,250,000 (M-NTC)
Kyle Burroughs | Vancouver | Age: 27 | RD | 2 goals, 0 assists, 34.9 min PK TOI | Contract: $750,000
Notes: The supply of “rental” defensemen is relatively weak, which suggests to me that as contenders look to solidify their defensive depth chart going into the playoffs, the cost for these players could soar beyond potential value they could deliver. (This seller’s market dynamic could creep into the market for defensemen with term left on their contracts too.) This underscores the strength of Seattle’s early move to pick up Jaycob Megna for a marginal cost (a low fourth-round draft pick). Megna has a year left on his contract and compares favorably to the names below Nick Holden on the above list.
Shayne Gostisbehere is a standout offensive player who can contribute in transition, in the offensive zone, and on the power play, where he’d likely step in as the first-unit blueliner. His work in the defensive zone is less strong, and ideally he’d be on a third pair at even strength. Some of his best seasons were with Dake Hakstol in Philadelphia.
As an aside, John Klingberg is something of an exaggerated version of Gostisbehere: better on offense but worse on defense. His truly shocking defensive metrics led me to disqualify him, despite his previous links to Seattle. If the Kraken are not as pessimistic on his defense, Klingberg would factor into this conversation as an alternative in this same range, similar to Gostisbehere.
Jake Walman is a younger player on an upward trajectory who is well thought of by some scouts and most data analysts, even if his play hasn’t translated into counting stats or wide acclaim yet. Detroit has indicated it would like to keep him, but if talks don’t advance in the next couple weeks, it will need to at least consider moving him to mitigate the risk he leaves for nothing.
The remainder of the players are potential depth pieces. Jarred Tinordi is big blueliner with surprisingly good penalty differential and play-driving metrics; he is on IR at the moment, but it is not thought of as a long-term injury. Nick Holden is a veteran who could bring some leadership and penalty killing experience.
Olli Määttä was on this list between Walman and Tinordi until news broke of his re-signing with the Detroit Red Wings this morning.
Defensemen with team control beyond this year
Mattias Ekholm handles the puck at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
Jake McCabe | Chicago | Age: 29 | LD | 2 goals, 14 assists, 98.4 min PK TOI | Contract: $4,000,000 x 2 years (M-NTC)
Mattias Ekholm | Nashville | Age: 32 | LD | 5 goals, 12 assists, 77.0 min PP TOI, 132.1 min PK TOI | Contract: $6,250,000 x 3 years
These two players are interesting because they could elevate Seattle’s second pairing for a playoff run and also provide insurance for Seattle at left defense long term. There is a bit of uncertainty with two Kraken mainstays on the left side. Carson Soucy is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and there is some sentiment he may move on after the year.
Vince Dunn is not under contract either. He will be a restricted free agent, which theoretically gives Seattle the inside track to retain him, but Dunn’s standout season this year likely puts the team and the player in a tenuous position. In my analysis, comparable players create a projection of somewhere between $6.5 million and $9.5 million AAV on a (very) long-term deal for Dunn. Such a contract makes sense only if the team views Dunn as a franchise defenseman. Does the team see him that way after an up-and-down tenure in St. Louis, followed by one up-and-down year and one brilliant year in Seattle?
Jake McCabe is not flashy but delivers strong support on offense and suppresses shots effectively on defense while avoiding penalties. His cap hit is manageable this year and for two more after. He would likely displace Jamie Oleksiak as the third-best defenseman on the team right away and bolster the team’s depth significantly.
Mattias Ekholm is a high-end, even-strength play-driver on both offense and defense with first-pair ability. He could form a devastating shutdown pairing with fellow Swede Adam Larsson in the playoffs or anchor a second pair that approaches the strength of the Larsson-Dunn combination. He plays a lot but with less production on special teams. Adding Ekholm would be tremendous insurance against the loss of Dunn, but taking on three more years of a $6.25 million cap hit would significantly reduce the team’s capacity to pay Dunn the contract he would likely want. If the team can only have one, is the team better off long term with Ekholm or Dunn? Additionally, I question whether Nashville is actually serious about moving Ekholm given the Predators are still in the playoff chase.
Adding McCabe or Ekholm would likely involve trading away Carson Soucy to create roster space and additional assets for a deal.
Pending unrestricted free-agent forwards
Pius Suter contends with Alex Wennberg at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
Ryan O’Reilly | St. Louis | Age: 32 | C | 12 goals, 6 assists, 54.0% FO%, 78.2 min PP TOI, 69.8 min PK TOI | Contract: $7,500,000
Tyler Bertuzzi | Detroit | Age: 28 | LW/RW | 2 goals, 6 assists, 59.2 min PP TOI | Contract: $4,750,000
Noel Acciari | St. Louis | Age: 31 | C/RW | 10 goals, 8 assists, 89.3 min PK TOI, 53.9% FO% | Contract: $1,250,000
Pius Suter | Detroit | Age: 27 | C/LW | 7 goals, 6 assists, 48.8% FO%, 51.0 min PK TOI | Contract: $3,250,000
Nick Bonino | San Jose | Age: 34 | C/LW | 9 goals, 9 assists, 50.3% FO%, 108.9 min PK TOI | Contract: $2,050,000 (M-NTC)
Nick Bjugstad | Arizona | Age: 30 | C/RW | 13 goals, 10 assists, 47.0% FO%, 118.3 mins PK TOI | Contract: $900,000
Sean Monahan | Montreal | Age: 28 | C/LW/RW | 6 goals, 11 assists, 55.1% FO%, 78.8 min PP TOI, 41.3 min PK TOI | Contract: $6,375,000 (M-NTC)
Ivan Barbashev | St. Louis | Age: 27 | C/LW/RW | 10 goals, 17 assists, 98.6 min PP TOI | Contract: $2,250,000
Derick Brassard | Ottawa | Age: 35 | C/LW | 8 goals, 5 assists, 50.0% FO%, 81.6 min PP TOI | Contract: $750,000
Gustav Nyquist | Columbus | Age: 33 | LW/RW | 10 goals, 12 assists, 88.4 min PP TOI, 83.1 min PK TOI | Contract: $5,500,000
The “rental” market for forwards is a bit deeper than it is for defensemen, with a number of interesting names that could check off one or multiple needs for Seattle. Since the Kraken already have solid NHL-caliber forward depth, I could envision a scenario where the team moves one of those pieces to make an addition. If Andre Burakovsky is out for months, it is more likely the team keeps all of its forwards.
Ryan O’Reilly tops this list because of the fit, but I think his likely acquisition cost could push him close to the “long shot” category. O’Reilly has had a down season, hampered by a foot injury. But, if he is at least 75 percent healthy, he could bring toughness, leadership, defense, and standout face-off ability to the Kraken. The Kraken could desperately use all of the traits when things get a little more difficult in April and beyond. I don’t think this move is very realistic, but there are few players on the list who could dramatically alter the team’s prospects (and do so without even scoring). O’Reilly is one.
Noel Acciari is a versatile, right-shot, bottom-of-the-lineup center who can be physical, take hard defensive zone minutes, kill penalties, and man the face-off dot effectively. Even better, Acciari’s face-off numbers tick up on the penalty kill, checking in at 56.5 percent. Nick Bonino is an alternative to Acciari who brings some of the same elements, likely at a lower cost.
Tyler Bertuzzi is a quality play-driving and goal-scoring top-nine wing whose value may be at an all-time low because he is shooting just 4.9 percent. His underlying metrics remain solid, and his career shooting percentage is in the upper echelon at 14.7 percent. He can score on the power play and at even strength. I really like the value proposition, but his fit with the Kraken isn’t as strong since he doesn’t have the ability to play center or take face-offs.
Pius Suter is another interesting name from Detriot who has never really broken out from a bottom-six role but sports solid metrics across the board. Suter is a better fit than Bertuzzi because he can take draws and kill penalties effectively.
Nick Bjugstad is a name that is frequently mentioned on the trade market. He has good size and physicality, and his contract would be easy to assume. On the other hand, he hasn’t been very productive on face-offs or on the penalty kill, so there are some arguments against his fit in Seattle.
Forwards with team control beyond this year
Adam Henrique tries to get past Adam Larsson at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
Adam Henrique | Anaheim | Age: 33 | C/LW | 19 goals, 13 assists, 51.8% FO% | Contract: $5,825,000 x 1 year (M-NTC)
Sam Lafferty | Chicago | Age: 27 | C/LW/RW | 8 goals, 11 assists, 53.3% FO%, 90.4 min PK TOI | Contract: $1,150,000 x 1 year
Adam Henrique is an interesting fit for the Kraken, but he comes with a contract that extends for one more season at $5,825,000. This is not an unreasonable number for him, but the Kraken are already heavily invested in their existing forward group for the 2023-24 season. It is a situation they could work out by subtracting a piece in the offseason, though. Henrique is skilled on the face-off dot and brings center/wing versatility on the left side that could support a player like Matty Beniers. He’d bring another goal scorer with a proven power play track record too.
Sam Lafferty may be the most interesting “realistic” candidate on the entire big board, followed perhaps by Noel Acciari. Lafferty is a physical, versatile, right-shot forward who can play anywhere at the bottom of the lineup, but he has had success on the face-off dot this year. He has been Chicago’s best penalty-killing forward this season too, exhibiting the biggest positive impact among forwards on his team’s total shot quality while he is on the ice shorthanded relative to his teammates (i.e., “relative xG%”). He could immediately step in on the first penalty kill unit, as the fourth-line center, and take key draws, solidifying multiple weaker areas. He would also be a solid option to fill those roles next year at a reasonable cap hit. Adding Lafferty would decrease the likelihood that Morgan Geekie is a long-term Kraken.
Jakob Chychrun waits for a faceoff at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
Timo Meier | San Jose | Age: 25 | LW | 31 goals, 21 assists, 167.1 min PP TOI | Contract: $6,000,000 (RFA expiry)
Dylan Larkin | Detroit | Age: 26 | C | 20 goals, 30 assists, 54.1% FO%, 189.0 min PP TOI, 94.9 min PK TOI | Contract: $6,100,000
Jakub Vrána | Detroit | Age: 26 | LW | 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 games played | Contract: $5,250,000 x 1 year
Anthony Duclair | Florida | Age: 27 | LW | no stats; 31 goals, 27 assists in 2021-22 | Contract: $3,000,000 x 1 year
Jesse Puljujarvi | Edmonton Oilers | Age: 24 | RW | 5 goals, 6 assists | Contract: $3,000,000 (RFA expiry)
Jakob Chychrun | Arizona | Age: 24 | Pos: LD | 7 goals, 21 assists, 108.0 min PP TOI | Contract: $4,600,000 x 2 years
Jonathan Toews | Chicago | Age: 34 | C | 14 goals, 14 assists, 63.3% FO%, 141.2 min PP TOI, 55.1 min PK TOI | Contract: $10,500,000 (NMC)
As mentioned above, these are “interesting” names that are marginal probability candidates for one reason or another. Timo Meier is a bona fide All-Star-caliber scorer and all-around producer who is still just 25 years old and open to a long-term deal. He is one of the only players on this list for whom I could justify giving up a first-round pick and/or top prospect. If the Kraken want to get aggressive and move capital, he would be at the top of my list (along with Troy Terry, whom I have not seen discussed as a trade option).
If Meier is 1A, Dylan Larkin would be 1B on my list of “aggressive” targets, but he is less likely to be moved by Detroit, and the acquisition price is likely to be even higher. Larkin is a first-line center and All-Star producer in all areas of the game. Adding Larkin would open the window to immediate contention, but I would imagine the package would need to be something like Shane Wright, Ty Nelson, a first-round pick, and one-or-more second-round picks. It is justifiable, but Ron Francis’s history and his commentary suggest the team is unlikely to go there.
Jakub Vrána is a first-line offensive weapon at the wing, who is likely available on the cheap. But with him comes an incredible amount of uncertainty owing only partially to his stint in the player assistance program this year. He was on waivers a couple months ago and every team passed. Even on his best days he doesn’t bring much defense, and he would come with a hefty commitment for next season too, which, again, may not make sense for the Kraken.
Anthony Duclair is a stand-in for a few players the Florida Panthers could conceivably look to move to solve a cap crunch. Other potential trade candidates include Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett. That said, Florida seems likely to retain as many assets as possible as it tries to work its way back into the playoff picture. All of these Florida forwards could fill a role if the price were right. Duclair is working his way back from achilles tendon surgery, but could be nearing a return.
Jesse Puljujarvi is looking more like a bottom-of-the-lineup checking forward these days, but the same could have been said of Valeri Nichushkin at the same stage in his career. He is good at what he does: driving the puck away from his goal and toward the opponent’s goal at even strength. Beyond that there are many gaps in his game. In the abstract, I still really like the player as a reclamation project, but the fit may not be ideal this season as the Kraken consider addressing other specific needs for a playoff push.
The case for Jakob Chychrun is similar to the case for McCabe and Ekholm, but the acquisition price is likely to be higher than the Kraken are willing to pay, unless Seattle is effectively prepared to trade Dunn in the offseason to recoup some assets.
Finally, there is Jonathan Toews. He has been mentioned as a fit for the Kraken due to his league-leading face-off production. Otherwise he’s a shadow of his former self and comes with both a hefty price tag and legitimate questions about his leadership. There are some elements of a “fit,” but I don’t really see it right now.
Recapping Seattle’s team needs
As I analyzed previously, I see Seattle’s potential “needs” as follows:
- Depth left defenseman;
- Offensive play-driving defenseman;
- Power play playmaker;
- Shutdown penalty killer;
- Face-off winner;
- Grit and physical play;
- High-end scoring forward; and
- Injury replacements
The acquisition of Jaycob Megna has already addressed the first need for a depth defenseman. The Megna deal also provides insurance on the fourth need: Megna is a capable penalty killer when he draws in. How could the Kraken attack the other need areas with this market for players?
Strategies the Kraken could deploy
Shayne Gostisbehere stick handles at Climate Pledge Arena (Photo/Brian Liesse)
I would consider the Kraken to have taken an “aggressive” deadline approach if they part with a first-round pick, a top prospect like Shane Wright, or a roster player (in something other than a salary or roster dump) plus other draft capital at the deadline. Examples of this approach could be trades for Ryan O’Reilly or Mattias Ekholm.
Based on historical prices, and the market set by the Bo Horvat and Vladimir Tarasenko deals, I would expect an O’Reilly deal would likely cost a top-100 prospect (e.g., Ty Nelson), a roster player (e.g., Morgan Geekie) and either a first-round pick or multiple picks including at least one second-round pick if concerns about the player’s foot persist.
The market for Ekholm could be tempered a bit based on the term left on his deal. Still, I expect a return for Ekholm to be better or comparable to the package Seattle obtained for Mark Giordano and Colin Blackwell (two second-rounders and a third-rounder). From Seattle’s perspective, if it could move Carson Soucy for a second-round pick, the cost would be at least Soucy, a second-rounder, and a third-rounder, plus the costs of additional cap gymnastics necessary to bring in the Ekholm contract. I could see the upgrade being appealing, but it would sacrifice significant futures and could nudge Dunn toward the exit long-term.
If the Kraken are willing to put a second-round pick, top prospect, or roster player (in something other than a salary or roster dump) on the table, I think the team will fit into the conventional “buyer” category. A move to add Lafferty or Acciari to solidify the penalty kill and production on the face-off dot would qualify. A move on the blue line to acquire a player like Gostisbehere or Walman would also qualify. I would expect the blueliners to cost at least a second-round pick and likely more. Lafferty or Acciari may come in around that price or a bit less.
Alternatively, the Kraken could approach the deadline determined to make a deal only if it is a clear “value” win, regardless of the fit. For example, if the cost on Bertuzzi is low due to his struggles this year, I could imagine the Seattle front office viewing the prospect of adding the winger too intriguing to pass up. Likewise, if Detroit wants to retain salary on Vrana or if Edmonton wants to attach an asset to Puljujarvi just to dump his contract, I could imagine those offers being too appealing to ignore. If Florida has to dump a contract for a low cost, that could be of interest too.
Depth dealer/sideline observer
Under another approach, the Kraken could move toward the deadline committed to protecting their valuable future assets. The team might consider moving a third-round pick or later for an additional depth asset, but otherwise will not sacrifice its “foundation.” In this case, I could see the team make a move for a player like Nick Bonino to provide depth for the forward group similar to the depth provided by Jaycob Megna on the back end.
Similar to the two approaches above, the team could be open to a small asset sale if the price is simply too good to ignore. If a team is willing to offer more than a late-second-round pick for Carson Soucy, the Kraken may have to strongly consider it. Also, while I believe the Kraken will keep their three NHL goaltenders, it is not impossible that an appealing deal could be offered for one of them.
Projection time: what will the Kraken do at the deadline?
Alright, if you’ve stuck with me this long, you deserve to get to the fun part. What will the Kraken do at the deadline? I’ll project that the Kraken trade a 2024 third-round pick and 2023 sixth-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Sam Lafferty. Lafferty would be a go-to righty face-off man, would provide grit, speed, and defense on the bottom line, and would upgrade the first penalty kill unit. Noel Acciari is an alternative who could check some of the same boxes.
I would also at least consider a trade (or trades) that would effectively swap Carson Soucy for Shayne Gostisbehere or Jake Walman. If the move could be made in an asset-neutral way, I’d lean toward doing it.
Thanks for reading. What do you think the Kraken will do? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.