With less than 3 weeks to go, a look at potential targets ahead of NHL trade deadline

·4 min read

An NHL season like no other could produce a trade deadline like no other. The league's 56-game schedule played amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has been unique in a number of ways, including realigned divisions, quarantine issues, postponements, a flat salary cap, and an absence of fans in Canadian arenas.

With the April 12 cutoff less than three weeks away, The Canadian Press takes a look at some of the players potentially on the move.

TAYLOR HALL

The winger signed a one-year, US$8-million contract with the Buffalo Sabres in free agency with an eye toward getting a longer deal once the pandemic's dust settled and the NHL's finances rebounded. Hall's stint in Buffalo hasn't gone according to plan, however, with the team sitting dead last in the overall standings and on a 14-game winless streak. The 29-year-old former Hart Trophy winner as league MVP has just two goals and 16 points in 30 contests, but has been unlucky to not find the back of the net more often. Hall, who does have a full no-movement clause in his contract, came into 2020-21 with a career shooting percentage of 10.4, but sits at an unlucky 2.7 this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft also owns a 5-on-5 shot differential of 53.6 per cent on the NHL's worst team.

RICKARD RAKELL

With one season left on his current contract, the 27-year-old winger is another offensive option potentially on the move. Rakell has 21 points in 33 games in 2020-21 with the Anaheim Ducks, and two 30-goal seasons to his name. Carrying a palatable cap hit of $3.79 million, he would be a nice addition to a playoff-bound team's top-6 forward group. But the fact Rakell has a year left on his deal means the price will likely be higher than a rental option.

MATTIAS EKHOLM

With the Nashville Predators in tough to make the post-season and potentially considering a rebuild, the 30-year-old defenceman has emerged as a possible trade piece. With one season left on his contract that carries a $3.75-million price tag, Ekholm would provide any contender a reliable shutdown option on the left side. While not known for his offensive game, the six-foot-four, 215-pound blue-liner had five goals and 14 points in 25 games this season heading into Tuesday night's action.

DAVID SAVARD

The 30-year-old defenceman with a $4.25-million cap hit is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Savard hasn't scored a goal since the 2019 playoffs for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but provides a strong, physical presence on the back end. At six-foot-two and 233 pounds, Savard is built for the grind of post-season hockey. He also sits fifth in the league with 72 blocked shots.

JONATHAN BERNIER

The 32-year-old goalie has put up outstanding numbers behind the miserable Detroit Red Wings, posting an 8-6-0 record with a .918 save percentage this season. In the final season of a three-year, $9-million contract, Bernier would be a solid depth option for a team looking to shore up its crease. He hasn't suited up in the post-season since 2018, but in nine career playoff games, including five starts, he's 2-5-0 with an .885 save percentage.

NICK FOLIGNO

The captain of the Blue Jackets looks poised for unrestricted free agency this summer after nine seasons in Columbus. A 33-year-old winger with a cap hit of $5.5 million, the reliable, team-first Foligno has 12 points in 32 games this season. In 51 career playoff games, the son of former NHLer Mike Foligno has registered 22 points, including two goals and four assists in last summer's post-season bubble.

MIKAEL GRANLUND

The pending UFA centre is another player looking increasingly likely to be on the move out of Nashville. The 29-year-old carrying a $3.75-million cap hit has five goals and 11 points in 28 games this season with the Predators. Granlund is a dependable depth option down the middle with nine goals and 24 points in 49 career playoff games.

TANNER PEARSON

A lower-body injury and the Canucks' improved play of late to get back into the post-season chase might keep the 28-year-old winger in Vancouver, but there's still a decent chance he gets moved before the deadline. Pearson, who also carries a $3.75-million cap hit as he heads toward unrestricted free agency, has six goals and 11 points in 33 games this season. A Stanley Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Pearson registered eight points in 17 games for the Canucks in the 2020 post-season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2021.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press