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With the NHL season approaching the midway point for each of the 32 NHL teams now that we’re through the holiday/COVID break, playoff positions and the overall standings are beginning to come together.
Now is the time for teams to become either buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline and to begin to target players that could help put them over the top down the stretch. Perhaps best of all there haven’t been any one or two teams that have really run away with the top spots in the NHL, so there are going to be a lot of teams vying for the top trade targets on the market.
Here’s a look at five NHL trade targets that could and should be difference-makers when the NHL trade deadline comes around on March 21, just a couple of months from now with some kind of February break due to each of the 32 teams.
Jakob Chychrun – The left-shot defenseman isn’t having his best season with two goals and seven points in 26 games with a minus-29 rating, but he’s still a frontline top pairing defenseman with 24:49 of ice time per game. It seems that he misses the presence of Oliver Ekman-Larsson this season while shoulder all of the top back-end responsibilities all by himself this season, but the talent and the body of work is still undeniable. The 23-year-old had averaged 15 goals and 34 points in each of the previous two seasons for the Coyotes and boasts a big point shot, solid size at 6-foot-2, 210-pounds and the requisite level of physicality for a player going up against top lines.
A big part of Chychrun’s value is that he’s smack dab in the middle of a six-year deal with a very reasonable $4.6 million cap hit, so he’s the kind of player everybody outside of Arizona could easily afford. Chychrun will command a Jack Eichel-esque price tag of first round pick, a young NHL player, top prospect and other considerations, so he won’t come cheap. But his standing as a young, talented left shot defenseman means he will be a massive commodity on the trade market.
Lawson Crouse – Do you notice a pattern here? Yeah, the Arizona Coyotes team will be selling off their best players again as they’re in a perpetual rebuild. This is why we continue to say that the NHL would be much better off if they pulled the plug on the Coyotes and moved them somewhere to a fan base that could help build a successful winner. But that’s a story for a different day. The former first round pick Crouse has nine goals and 17 points in 32 games as he’s on pace for career highs as a 24-year-old entering his prime. Crouse has size at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, he’s got some offensive ability and he plays with a power forward attitude that pegged him as a tough skill guy when he was picked 11th overall in the first round. The Boston Bruins have been interested in Crouse, according to Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek, and that makes a lot of sense when you watch him run around throwing hits and then throwing down with PK Subban.
There aren’t a lot of skilled power forward-types that become available in trade when they’re still young enough to play that style really effectively for a few years to come, but Crouse absolutely fits into that category.
Jake DeBrusk – It might not even take until the trade deadline for the 25-year-old DeBrusk to be dealt away from the Boston Bruins once he returns from the NHL’s COVID protocol. DeBrusk’s numbers have been trending downward since he scored 27 goals for the Black and Gold in his second NHL season and his days are numbered in Boston after formally requesting a trade earlier a couple of months ago. He’s actually been playing solid hockey since the trade request and there’s been chatter about his native Edmonton Oilers team harboring strong interest for him. But cost in terms of moving forward will be a consideration as he’s an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent currently being paid $3.675 million per season. It shouldn’t cost a huge amount in terms of assets as the Bruins will be looking for an NHL player similar to DeBrusk to help them this season, or a first or second round pick to replace the selection they used to take the left winger in the infamous 2015 NHL Draft. DeBrusk could be a help to a playoff team as a speed, dangerous winger that’s had some big playoff performances on his resume in the past as well.
Tomas Hertl – The biggest forward name potentially available ahead of the trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks center has 20 goals and 31 points in 36 games this season while proving to be a dangerous player in the middle for San Jose that’s on pace for 40 plus goals this season.
The 28-year-old won’t potentially cost as much as some other players due to his status as a rental player and the huge contract he’ll earn this offseason, but almost any team across the NHL could use a goal-scoring frontline center that can drive either of the top two forward lines. There’s also little question that a San Jose Sharks team really going nowhere will end up dealing him as contract talks don’t really produce much between the player and the team. A first round pick and a top prospect should do it for Hertl and give one of the NHL contenders an impact player that could put them over the top.
Ben Chiarot -- The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Chiarot isn’t a flashy name by any means, but he’s exactly the kind of big-bodied, physical warrior type that could help a playoff contender stabilize things on the back end. Just look at him cleaning house on Matthew Tkachuk in front of the Montreal net.
The 30-year-old Chiarot has five goals this season, but it’s been about his three seasons with the Canadiens averaging over 20 minutes per game as a top-4 shutdown defenseman. Even without Shea Weber this season Chiarot has been able to do the job effectively for a Habs team that’s struggled coming off last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Chiarot is a rental player with a $3.5 million cap hit, so the expectation should be a first or second round pick from a playoff team for a few months of service. That’s the kind of trade investment a lot of teams could be interested in after watching Chiarot’s stalwart play for Montreal in the playoffs last season.