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Top 21 Players to Watch Heading Into the NHL Trade Deadline 2020-21

Here is a list of the Top 21 players we think could be moved by the NHL Trade Deadline 2021. Obviously, not all will be traded.

Even though most insiders are predicting this year’s NHL Trade Deadline will be among the slower ones in recent memory — and there are plenty of reasons for that we won’t dive into here — we still believe there will be enough action to keep hockey fans, particularly trade fans like us, happy.

We’ve scoured most of the online lists from insiders and reputable sources to come up with what we believe is the Top 21 names to watch this season and over the course of the next two weeks. We’re aware not all players will be moved. But, we think a good chunk of these names could be.

Related: Blues’ Mike Hoffman Made a Healthy Scratch, Trade Rumors Follow

1. Mikael Granlund, C, Nasvhille Predators

There’s been so much talk about Granlund this season, there’s almost too much chatter for there not to be action. Still only 29 years old, Granlund isn’t a steal at a Cap hit of $3,750,000, but if the Nashville Predators retain some salary on the deal, he’s no more expensive than Eric Staal, who was already traded to the Montreal Canadiens.

Granlund is a pending UFA which makes him attractive as a rental and he has no trade protection in his deal. He’s a versatile forward that can play a useful depth role on a strong team and he’s got experience playing all three forward positions. He can be used as both a scorer and in a shutdown role.

We believe the Toronto Maple Leafs are the frontrunners here, but don’t be surprised if another team pops up out of nowhere and acquires him.

2. Tanner Pearson, LW, Vancouver Canucks

Tanner Pearson’s name will undoubtedly make its way to the trade block if the Vancouver Canucks can’t sign him to a deal over the next few days. He’s returning from an injury and if healthy, at age 28, he’s a useful piece for a team that has a little cap room.

Pearson has a cap hit of $3.75 million and is a pending UFA. He’s got no trade protection but his ankle injury is something teams will be thinking about.

Tanner Pearson Vancouver Canucks
Tanner Pearson Vancouver Canucks

3. Luke Glendening, C, Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings are clearly going to be sellers and their name will appear on our list a few times. Luke Glendening earns the highest ranking for a Red Wings player because of his cap hit and his faceoff stats. He’s leading the NHL in faceoff percentage and some team will find that useful.

While he’s not a high-scoring center, he can kill penalties, he will win you faceoffs and he’s a suitable two-way player that can help in key situations. The Edmonton Oilers are rumored to be kicking tires on Glendening and he’s one of the few low-cost contracts the Oilers can afford with a little bit of maneuvering or the Red Wings retaining some salary.

4. Mattias Ekholm, D, Predators

The first defenseman to make our list, Ekholm would have been ranked higher (maybe No. 1) if not for the recent chatter that the Predators may decide to wait on moving him and see if there’s a better possible return in a trade after the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Ekholm is not a rental so if a team trades for him now, they’ll be looking to get two playoff appearances out of him. That rules out any non-playoff teams. He’s also not cheap, both in terms of what it would cost to acquire him and what he needs to be paid this and next season ($3.75 million). He’s certainly the top prize in this year’s trade cluster but we’re not 100% sold he’s going to be moved if the right return isn’t there for Nashville.

5. Taylor Hall – LW, Buffalo Sabres

We know the talk is that Hall and the Sabres could work out an extension, but it’s hard not to see a team who really wants that top-six winger to make a pitch and the Sabres not to bite. The likelihood that Hall re-signs in Buffalo — despite all the chatter — isn’t high.

This is a player that may have to do another short-term deal with a team or a team-friendly longer-term contract with a location that he thinks will help him get back on track offensively. There is a lot of time for Hall despite some poor production this season. The question is, will teams pay the asking price of a first-round pick and use all their money on his high cap hit? Hall likely won’t fetch the first-rounder, but it’s still a big investment.

6. Anton Kuhdobin, G, Dallas Stars

There’s going to be a rush for goaltenders in the final days of the deadline as teams realize their netminding heading into the postseason just isn’t up to snuff. As such, Anton Kudobin out of Dallas could be a very interesting player to watch.

The Stars aren’t techincally out of the playoff race, but they are seventh in the Central Division, and some key injuries to top players make it even more difficult for the club to get back into contention. Ben Bishop has a no-movement clause so the likelihood he gets moved is low. Rookie netminder Jake Oettinger is expansion-draft exempt, so Khudobin is the odd man out and he had a fantastic playoff run last season which will entice another team. Not only that, but he potentially solves a goaltending question for a team for a few years as he’s got two years left after this season at a cap hit of $3,333,333.

7. Jonathan Bernier, G, Red Wings

The second goaltender on our list, Jonathan Bernier seems like a lock to be moved by a Red Wings team that will be selling. He’s 32, has a cap hit of $3.2 million but the Red Wings will certainly retain some of that salary. He’s a pending UFA and he’s played well on bad teams.

The one thing an interested team might want to consider is that he’s not really starter. He’s more a decent backup with some injury issues worth paying attention to.

8. David Savard – D, Columbus Blue Jackets

If the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in the playoff race (they are three points out of fourth in Central) they might not move Savard. But, a few losses and a slight drop in the standings will make Savard a very attractive option for a few NHL teams. He’s a veteran defenseman with size and a right-handed shot-blocking machine. He’s perfect top-four material for a contender as a rental. He’s not cheap ($4.25 million), but if the Blue Jackets retain a little salary, he’s an option for at least a half-dozen franchises.

9. Alex Goligoski, D, Coyotes

The Arizona Coyotes have said they’d like to make some changes as Goligoski is a veteran puck-mover on an expiring deal. He makes sense as candidate to be part of that change. The cost to acquire him won’t be a lot — a pick or prospect or both — and the Coyotes might eat a little salary, even if they try to move him to a team where they won’t have to.

He does have some trade control with an 8-team no-trade list and his salary is hefty ($5.475) which is why he’s a bit lower on our list. In the right deal, he’ll be moved.

10. Kyle Palmieri, RW, New Jersey Devils

Like Tanner Pearson, Palmieri is a player who likely gets moved at the deadline if extension talks don’t go well. The New Jersey Devils have tried to chat with him about an extension but speculation is that things have not gone all that well. He’s likely to be moved and he’s the final player in our Top 10.

His numbers have not been great this season, but this is a 30-goal guy and anyone looking for a scoring winger in the top-six is likely making a phone call to New Jersey to see what the asking price is.

11. Ryan Dzingel, LW, Ottawa Senators

A team that will also be selling at this year’s deadline, Dzingel is quickly moving up most insider’s trade bait boards. He’s a pending UFA, has a workable salary (if the Sens retain a little) and he’s got five goals in 11 games since the Senators landed him from the Carolina Hurricanes.

12. Sam Bennett, LW, Calgary Flames

Something still seems off in Calgary when it comes to Sam Bennett and the Flames future. He’s not terribly expensive, and he’s a good chip for the Flames to have heading into the NHL Expansion Draft, but as the Flames slip out of playoff contention (they aren’t out yet), Bennett’s name may pop up more and more.

This is a player who has been a disappointment in the regular season but shows up at playoff time. A team that might find that attractive.

Sam Bennett Calgary Flames
Sam Bennett Calgary Flames

13. Toronto’s Top Prospect

This entry might be cheating a little since we’re not listing a player name here. But, because Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has been open about his willingness to trade a top prospect to land the piece that he needs, someone is in play. The reason this is a bit lower down on our board is because of the sudden emergence of Alex Galchenyuk.

The Leafs were looking for a top-six forward and Galchenyuk has three assists in four games for Toronto since being inserted into the lineup. He’s found some chemistry with John Tavares and if it continues, Dubas might not be so inclined to give up a strong asset if Galchenyuk can fill the role.

14. Petr Mrazek, G, Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes could look to trade one of their goalies for help in other areas and GM Don Waddell admitted as much as per a report on NHL.com. With Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer splitting games and Petr Mrazek near a return, someone will potentially be shopped since the Hurricanes are looking for a defenseman before the deadline.

Waddell hinted that he could keep all three, but also said he might use one of netminders as a trade chip. The GM said, “We don’t have a lot of [NHL salary] cap space. If we’re going to do something at the trade deadline, maybe one of the chips is one of our goalies. I can’t say which one. It depends.”

15. Brandon Montour, D, Sabres

If you believe the Sabres are going to hold a fire sale, include defenseman Brandon Montour in your list of tradeable assets the club might look to move. He’s a puck-mover by title but he’s struggled in Buffao (who hasn’t). At one point, he was considered a high-end prospect for the Anaheim Ducks but it’s hard to know how much his stint with the Sabres has hurt his value.

He’s a pending UFA with a $3.85 million contract. But, as we’ve noted, the Sabres are going to be in the business of retaining salary on rentals over the next two weeks.

Related: Jets Linked to Multiple Defensemen Prior to Trade Deadline

16. Bobby Ryan, RW Red Wings

Bobby Ryan easily would have made our Top 10 if not him leaving a game Sunday with an upper-body injury. There’s no word on the severity of that injury. If it’s not serious, he’ll be traded. If it is, he might not be as attractive an add for teams that were previously looking at him.

As per a story from Ansar Khan of mlive.com, Ryan was getting a bit anxious about what he figured would be a pending trade. He understands he’s more likely to be moved than stay put, even if he’s been open about signing an extension with the team.

17. Ryan Murray, D, New Jersey Devils

Another pending UFA, the reason Murray isn’t a bit higher on this list is because he’s had an underwhelming season and he’s a $4.6 million cap hit for a team looking to land modern-style defensive defenseman with consistency issues.

The return won’t be high for the Devils who have said they’re open to selling off everything that isn’t a big part of their long-term future.

18. Nick Foligno, LW, Blue Jackets

Again, if the Blue Jackets aren’t sellers, Foligno likely stays put. But, if they fall, the 33-year-old forward is a pending UFA with a lot of leadership experience. He’s beloved in Columbus and sits third on the franchise’s all-time list in games, goals, assists and points. He won’t be an easy player to let leave if the team does decide to trade him.

His heart will be something teams look to acquire heading into the playoffs. The question is whether or not they are willing to pay $5.5 million at his age for it.

Nick Foligno Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno Blue Jackets

19. Conor Garland, RW, Coyotes

The Coyotes aren’t reportedly actively looking to trade Garland, but if a team comes up with a good offer, they might make a move. Reports are that the Coyotes are getting some calls and could move him if the return is significant. The name most often connected to the player is the Boston Bruins.

20. Jake DeBrusk, LW, Boston Bruins

There’s a ton of talk the Bruins might be thinking about trading DeBrusk as he’s not been offering what the Bruins need this season and been a healthy scratch as a result. He’s a forward with huge potential and if the right fit is found for him, could explode offensively.

The Bruins would really have to have soured on DeBrusk if they’re actually thinking about moving him. Not sold they are at that point yet.

21. Rickard Rakell, LW, Anaheim Ducks

Lots of talk about Rakell, but the chatter is quieting heading into the trade deadline. It could be because the ask will be high as Anaheim is not about to give the forward away. He’s also not a rental, so teams that are interested will need to find a way to fit him into their salary cap structure next season. He’s got a Cap hit of $3,789,444, so he’s certainly going to be an attractive player, even if he ultimately doesn’t get moved.

Next: 5 NHL Trades That Just Became Likely With Reduced Quarantine Rules

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