As the calendar flips to March, the NHL's March 21 trade deadline grows larger on the horizon. As in previous years, trade activity will almost certainly increase as the big day approaches, culminating in the usual frenzy of deals in the hours leading up to the deadline.

Business in the trade market picked up throughout February, with a season-high seven deals taking place. All but one were minor moves, with the exception being the Calgary Flames acquiring winger Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens. That was the most significant deal since the Vegas Golden Knights landed Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres in November.

The Toffoli move was typical of most deals leading up to the trade deadline. A non-playoff club shipped out a player who no longer fit into their plans to a postseason contender in exchange for a return comprising primarily draft picks and prospects. The move bolstered the Flames lineup while becoming the first significant domino to drop in the trade market.

A growing number of noteworthy talent could be on the move between now and March 21. They include several players who have been on our previous trade boards, such as Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Some notable additions include Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser and New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Here's a look at our top NHL trade candidates for March 2022. Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Did we leave someone out? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section.

 

The Selection Process

This list is based on media trade speculation. Our previous trade block big boards were 15-player lists with analysis of the top 10 players. Given the increasing number of players appearing in trade rumors throughout February, we have expanded the list to 25 players and provided analysis of the top 15 based on their level of talent, trade value and the possibility of being moved by the March 21 deadline.

All of the players who appeared on our February list remain on this list except for Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith. Placing Mark Stone and his $9.5 million annual salary-cap hit on long-term injured reserve in mid-February enabled them to activate Jack Eichel into their lineup, reducing the likelihood of trading Smith in a cost-cutting move.

Notable additions include Boeser, New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell. Winger Filip Forsberg returns to our list following a report suggesting the Nashville Predators were shopping him. Arizona Coyotes winger Phil Kessel slides out of the top 15 because other notable players became subjects of media trade chatter.

The updated list is as follows in no particular order:

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks

Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks

Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes

Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings

Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens

Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins

Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes

Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets

Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks

Justin Braun, Philadelphia Flyers

Alexander Georgiev, New York Rangers

Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils

Brandon Hagel, Chicago Blackhawks

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

Max Domi, Columbus Blue Jackets

Artturi Lehkonen, Montreal Canadiens

 

15. Brandon Hagel, Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is garnering lots of attention in the rumor mill, but a lesser-known teammate has become the subject of growing trade conjecture in recent weeks. Winger Brandon Hagel, 23, has drawn considerable interest for his energetic two-way play and affordable contract.

A versatile forward who can skate at either wing, Hagel enjoyed a solid NHL debut last season with a respectable 24 points in 52 games. He's surpassed those stats in his sophomore campaign, tallying 17 goals and 30 points in 48 games to sit second among Blackhawks goal scorers and fourth in points. Meanwhile, he's signed through 2023-24 with a cost-effective $1.5 million annual salary-cap hit.

On Feb. 23, The Athletic's Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers reported that the Blackhawks didn't appear interested in moving Hagel. They believe it will take "a very enticing package" to convince management to move him. Teams with limited cap space seeking a top-six winger, such as the Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, could come calling.

It's not surprising that there are teams interested in Hagel. The Blackhawks are poised to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. They have yet to name a full-time general manager and are in need of a roster rebuild. While the Blackhawks appear reluctant to trade Hagel, we cannot rule out the possibility of a postseason contender pitching a tempting offer.

 

14. Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils

On Feb. 10, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that Pavel Zacha was garnering interest in the trade market. Two days later, Friedman's colleague Jeff Marek said the Vancouver Canucks were interested in acquiring the New Jersey Devils forward.

Zacha, 24, was chosen sixth overall by the Devils in the 2015 NHL draft. A big-bodied versatile forward who can play center or wing, the 6'3", 210-pounder hasn't blossomed into a scoring star but has settled into a depth role in New Jersey. With 12 goals and 24 points in 49 games, he's on pace to exceed last season's career-high 17-goal, 35-point performance.

Marek indicated Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin saw a lot of Zacha during their time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perhaps they consider him as a potential replacement for J.T. Miller or Brock Boeser if one of those two is moved before the trade deadline.

There's no indication the Devils are shopping Zacha, but they could be listening to offers. A restricted free agent with arbitration rights, Zacha is also a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. He carries an affordable $2.25 million cap hit with an actual salary of $3 million this season. He could be an affordable re-signing for the Canucks or the other clubs interested in acquiring his services.

 

13. Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins

It's been more than three months since Jake DeBrusk requested a trade. The 25-year-old winger only recently broke his silence with the media about the request, telling reporters that he let it be known he wanted to leave while also indicating he assured his teammates he wouldn't be a distraction.

Since his request, DeBrusk has been among the notable players on our trade boards. He could still be moved before the March 21 deadline, but the apparent lack of interest in him has sent him tumbling down our list.

Lately, however, DeBrusk's performance has improved thanks to being moved up to the Bruins first line alongside superstars Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Over the past five games, he's scored seven goals and collected two assists, boosting his totals for the season to 14 goals and 24 points in 48 games.

NBC Sports Boston's Nick Goss sees the move as a bid to showcase DeBrusk to suitors. He doesn't expect the winger on his own will fetch a significant return but felt it could make it easier for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to package him with other assets to land a roster upgrade.