The NHL has yet to confirm a date for its 2021-22 trade deadline. On July 22, the Fourth Period's David Pagnotta tweeted it's usually held 40 days before the end of the regular season, which would be March 21. Given the NHL's participation in the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, that appears to be the most likely date.
Making predictions in September over which players could be traded by that deadline seems premature. However, it could take that long to move a star who's been a fixture in offseason speculation, such as Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. Meanwhile, San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl recently surfaced in trade rumors because of his unrestricted-free-agent status next summer.
Here are our way-too-early predictions for this season's trade deadline. We'll examine why the five players on this list could get moved to the teams we consider as possible destinations. Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section below.
Filip Forsberg to the Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche lost some scoring punch at left wing this summer with Brandon Saad's departure to the St. Louis Blues as a free agent. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic could attempt to bolster that position at the trade deadline. Someone like the Nashville Predators' Filip Forsberg could become an enticing option.
Predators GM David Poile had a busy July engaging in what he called a "competitive rebuild." He traded defenseman Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and winger Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings. With Forsberg slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July, perhaps the 27-year-old winger will be next to hit the trade block.
Forsberg is earning an annual average value of $6 million on his current contract. He also lacks no-trade protection, allowing Poile to ship him anywhere for draft picks and prospects if unable to re-sign the skillful left winger by the trade deadline.
On Aug. 20, The Athletic's Adam Vingan speculated Forsberg could seek upward of $8 million per season. While he felt the Predators should pass on offering him that much, he doubted the skillful Swede would accept less than the $8 million that teammates Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are making.
The Avalanche currently have $2.4 million in projected cap space with a projected $11.4 million in deadline cap room. They lack first- and second-round picks in the 2022 draft but have promising prospects such as Alex Newhook, Justin Barron and Shane Bowers as possible bargaining chips. Sakic could also request Poile retain some of Forsberg's salary to make this work.
Sacrificing future assets on a possible playoff rental is always a risky move. Nevertheless, Sakic could take the gamble on someone like Forsberg to help his club win the Stanley Cup next spring.
Tomas Hertl to the Vegas Golden Knights
This could be Tomas Hertl's final season with the San Jose Sharks. The versatile 27-year-old forward is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Despite a history of knee injuries, he's a skilled two-way player who can play center or wing. He carries a $5.625 million cap hit for this season and a three-team trade list.
Hertl's abilities would make him a desirable trade commodity for the Sharks if they're unable to sign him to a contract extension. On Sep. 10, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz speculated they'll want a first-round pick and at least one high-profile prospect center or defenseman as part of the return.
The Vegas Golden Knights could be among the suitors if Hertl hits the trade block. They have Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson filling the center roles on their top two lines, but both lack Hertl's all-around skills.
That need for a No. 1 center explains why the Golden Knights were among the clubs rumored to be interested in the Buffalo Sabres' Jack Eichel. On July 27, The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy reported the Sabres' asking price from Vegas was veteran winger Reilly Smith, prospect center Peyton Krebs, defenseman Nicolas Hague and a first-round pick.
If the Golden Knights aren't in the Eichel sweepstakes, perhaps they could pursue the more affordable Hertl. If they're unwilling to part with Krebs, they could dangle Nolan Patrick or former 2020 first-round pick Brendan Brisson and a first-round pick. The Sharks would have to retain part of Hertl's cap hit for the cap-strapped Golden Knights unless they take on a player with a comparable contract (like Smith) in the deal.
The Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017-18 but fell just short of the Final in the last two seasons. They've shown a willingness in the past to make big moves, acquiring Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and signing Alex Pietrangelo. They could roll the dice on a rental player such as Hertl if they're on his list of preferred trade destinations.