The Canucks and Islanders kicked NHL trade deadline season into high gear on Monday with the Bo Horvat trade. But with the deadline 31 days away, looking around the league you’ll see a lack of salary cap space available which may hinder teams from making deals.
Seventeen teams are currently utilizing long-term injury reserve to make the club cap compliant, per CapFriendly. The amount of space those teams are going to have available if needed to make trades before the March 3 deadline is dependent on if and when some of the injured players return.
Contending teams still want to make trades to improve their clubs before March 3. Rebuilding teams still want to sell off veteran players to collect assets. But how much the player costs against the cap will be as much of a factor as how much it costs in assets to acquire him.
With that in mind, The List is going to look at some players who might be under-the-radar trade targets. The players likely have an intriguing analytical profile, but most importantly they come with a small cap hit.
1. Alexander Barabanov, F, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have a collection of veterans on reasonable contracts who have all performed pretty well this season (individually) in support of their star players. You could populate half of this list with them.
The question is how many of them will first-year general manager Mike Grier actually be willing to move. The focus has been on Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier, but Grier could make several GMs happy if he is willing to make some of his veterans on cheap deals with term available like Nico Sturm and Matt Benning.
Barabanov is at $2.5 million for this season and next. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn and Shayna Goldman have his market value at nearly twice that ($4.9 million). He’s on pace for 50-plus points this season, and he’s shown that his output isn’t entirely tied to being the third guy next to Meier and Tomas Hertl, like he was for much of last season. He could be a strong fit for someone looking for a complementary addition to one of their top two lines.
2. Noel Acciari, F, St. Louis Blues
Acciari missed a big chunk of last season, but a fresh start in St. Louis has suited him pretty well. He’s got 10 goals and 18 points in 50 games and leads Blues forwards in short-handed time on ice. He’s going to check plenty of boxes for potential contenders — wins 54 percent of his faceoffs, has experience with a deep playoff run (2019 with Boston) and has a reputation as a sound two-way player.
The contract is also a big plus. Acciari is a pending UFA with a $1.25 million cap hit. Even teams with extremely limited space can make that work.
3. Karel Vejmelka, G, Arizona Coyotes
The goaltending market ahead of a trade deadline can be weird. Some teams don’t like trying to add a starter this late in the season.
Vejmelka could be worth it. He’s eighth in the NHL in Money Puck’s goals saved above expected, and the seven guys ahead of him are all current or recent Vezina Trophy contenders. The raw numbers don’t always look great for Vejmelka, but the play in front of him is often lacking.