With the NHL trade deadline just over a month away, it is worth taking a minute to evaluate which teams to keep an eye on up to March 3rd. The playoff races remain competitive so far this season and many teams have to decide if they want to try and acquire a key piece to make a push or unload some of their potential free agents to help in a rebuild.
It doesn’t hurt that there is also a generational talent waiting to be picked number one overall in this year’s draft. Teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks might have more incentive to unload a veteran player in hopes of accelerating their rebuild with Connor Bedard.
There is a lot to monitor in this upcoming trade deadline but these are three teams to watch through February and into the deadline on March 3rd:
Three Teams to Watch as the NHL Trade Deadline Approaches
It is hard to imagine a Mount Rushmore of Chicago Blackhawks hockey that doesn’t include Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s equally difficult to imagine these two players wearing the sweaters of another team. However, this could be the case if the Blackhawks want to move on from these franchise icons and officially announce their rebuild.
The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups with these two players as the cornerstone of their organization. They took the Blackhawks from being a dormant Original Six franchise to being back among the NHL’s elite.
However, that era has begun to fade. The Blackhawks are currently last in the Western Conference with 34 points and finished last season second to last in the central division. Kane and Toews, while still productive, don’t have the ability to carry the team the way they used to.
Will Chicago be willing to part with their aging stars though?
The better question might be whether either player wants to leave. They both hold matching no-trade clauses, meaning that they will have to approve whatever trade the Blackhawks could initiate. It might be worth it to them to try for one more cup with a contender during the trade deadline before they start to look at retirement.
The Vancouver Canucks have been in the news more recently because of the bizarre firing of their former head coach, Bruce Boudreau. The dismissal of their coach was strange in the sense that everyone seemed to know it was happening, yet he was still behind the bench coaching the Canucks.
The Canucks have been in a perpetual rebuilding cycle now for a few years. Their last division championship was in 2013 and they have only made the postseason twice since then.
Their captain, Bo Horvat, is a pending unrestricted free agent that is in the middle of a career year. Through 48 games this season he has 31 goals and 19 assists for a total of 50 points. His previous career high in points was 61 through a full 82 games.
Bo Horvat chases down the loose puck and sets up Elias Pettersson for a SHORTY, Canucks lead early!#Canucks pic.twitter.com/vbpjGZsggk
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 28, 2023
After offering Horvat a deal in the offseason the Canucks are now faced with an interesting decision. Do they bet that this additional production from Horvat is here to stay and pay him accordingly? Or do they cash in on the center’s productive season and trade him to a contender in need of a number 2 center?
It is a trade deadline dilemma that will dictate the direction of the organization’s rebuild under a new head coach and second-year General Manager.
Detroit Red Wings
Long a playoff mainstay, the Detroit Red Wings haven’t made it to the postseason since the 2015-16 season. During that time they’ve spent many years at the bottom of the league, but haven’t always had the luck in the draft lottery to have as high of a draft pick as they maybe should have had.
Nonetheless, they have been able to stockpile some good young talent, including forward Lucas Raymond and last year’s Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Many thought that this would be the year that young talent takes a step forward and the Red Wings would be able to flirt with a postseason berth.
Just past the midway point of the season, it doesn’t appear like that will be the case. The Red Wings have struggled with injuries so far this year and are currently seven points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings have some interesting unrestricted free agents heading into this off-season. Namely captain Dylan Larkin and forward Tyler Bertuzzi. While many remain confident that the Red Wings and Larkin will get a deal done, however, it is still intriguing that the has become a small bit of uncertainty around the face of the Red Wings’ current rebuild.
Bertuzzi is a bit more interesting. He has traditionally been one of the Red Wings’ most productive offensive players but would the Red Wings consider moving him at the deadline without a deal in place? It would be a shame for the team to lose him to free agency for nothing.
Yzerman has always been shrewd at the trade deadline so having him calling the shots makes the Red Wings an interesting team to watch at any trade deadline.