Before we dive into our 2022 NHL Trade Deadline Big Board 1.0, here’s a view from an NHL executive about the current state of trade talks, which never seem to unfold as quickly as fans (or writers) want them to.
The problem, according to one team official, is ascertaining value in a shifting marketplace. There’s a flat salary cap, and COVID-19 has disrupted the schedule (and revenue flows) for the third year in a row.
“For years, you paid up for term when making a trade,” the executive said. “It meant, if you traded for someone, there was increased value for term because you’re getting the player, not just as a rental, but for a few years beyond this year, which made him worth more.
“In a flat cap era, it’s the opposite. Taking on term sometimes decreases a player’s value.”
As is almost always the case, the buyers would like to get the wheeling and dealing started right away in order to integrate any incoming faces into their lineups as soon as possible. The sellers tend to drag things out to see how the market develops — and in the case of some teams that are still within reach of a playoff spot, to see exactly which side of the buy or sell line they ultimately fall on.
Let’s take a look at who might be moving at or before the March 21 trade deadline, ranked by intrigue.
1. Jakob Chychrun, Coyotes
Position: Right defense
Contract: $4.6 million with three years remaining
Likelihood of a trade: High.
Chychrun’s name atop the list makes no sense on one level. People will reasonably ask: Why would Arizona trade a young player who led NHL defensemen in goalscoring last season, who is just entering his prime, and plays on a team-friendly contract? One source speculated it’s because Chychrun simply may not have the patience to wait out Arizona’s endless rebuild. Arizona’s modus operandi in the past 12 months has been to trade most of their today pieces for help in the future, and knowing that, the inquiries for Chychrun have already started flooding in. One executive suggested the Coyotes were looking for a Jack Eichel type package — a 2022 first-rounder, plus two potentially foundational young pieces, preferably with a first-round pedigree.
Chychrun’s case is a perfect opportunity to explore an important caveat here. For someone with his skillset and contract, the line of interested suitors is high. But as the Eichel talks can attest, deals of this magnitude can take forever to come to fruition and sometimes can go off the rails. Chychrun is in play, but the ask is high and so far, nobody’s met it. Eventually, one might. Or it could linger into the summer. Chychrun was a top performer on a bad team last season, but hasn’t come close to duplicating his goal-scoring numbers this year. But the thought is, moving to a better team would bring Chychrun back to last year’s levels. If he does get traded, it’ll be as close to a blockbuster as we get this year. The likelihood of something happening by March 21 is high.
2. Tomas Hertl, Sharks
Contract: $5.625 million, pending UFA
Likelihood of a trade: Medium.
Hertl has a very limited three-team trade list, so effectively, he can limit the number of teams that can genuinely bid on his services. There is also a thought that Hertl is happy enough in San Jose that he would consider signing an extension. So, no guarantees he’s moving at all, but if a contender wants a player who can immediately step into the lineup and play a top-six role, the line probably begins and ends with Hertl so he could potentially command a premium price in return.
Said one executive of Hertl: “I love the player. But he controls all the marbles. I think he’s got a very specific list of teams that he’d be prepared to be traded to. His trade restrictions are very tight. But the other thing with him is, if he’s going somewhere, he wants to go and try to win. So that’s encouraging.”