NHL trade rumors: Leafs inquired about Karlsson, Ekholm; Oilers made pitch for Meier

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and we're starting to hear some reports about deals that didn't quite come to fruition.

The dust has finally started to settle after a chaotic NHL trade season. Big names like Patrick Kane, Jakob Chychrun, Timo Meier and Ryan O'Reilly all changed teams leading up to the deadline, while a number of teams tinkered around the fringes of their rosters in preparation for the playoffs or draft lottery.

But what about some of the trades that ultimately didn't come to fruition? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek rattled off some fascinating scenarios during Saturday's 32 Thoughts segment: the Oilers putting their names in the Meier hat, the Maple Leafs inquiring about Mattias Ekholm and Erik Karlsson, and lots more.

Let’s break down some of the most intriguing bits, including rumblings that could spill over to the next opportunity for big trades: 2023 NHL Draft weekend.

Timo Meier (28) was traded at the NHL trade deadline, while Erik Karlsson stayed with the Sharks. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)
Timo Meier (28) was traded at the NHL trade deadline, while Erik Karlsson stayed with the Sharks. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images)

Oilers poked around about Meier; Flames wanted an extension with any talks

Following weeks of messaging that prompted concerns that the Oilers would squander trade deadline opportunities, general manager Ken Holland instead provided a pleasant surprise with the beneficial Ekholm trade.

Apparently that wasn’t the only splashy move Edmonton considered. While specifics of an offer weren’t laid out, the Oilers reportedly made a "legitimate pitch" for Meier. Crucially, the Oilers were willing to make a move even without an extension lined up, which is something that seemingly scared off a team like the Flames.

To remind you that Holland is still at the controls and the market’s grit obsession remains active, Marek noted the Oilers were also interested in hard-nosed, marginal Philadelphia Flyers forward Zack MacEwen, who ultimately ended up with the Los Angeles Kings.

Busy Maple Leafs couldn’t make money work for Ekholm/Karlsson

Imagine the potential chaos of Karlsson as a Maple Leaf. It could’ve been the ultimate, unholy marriage between a sublimely talented defenseman whose flaws often get exaggerated, and a talented team whose playoff failures are obsessed about.

While Friedman reports that Toronto inquired about Karlsson, it couldn’t make the money work. The Maple Leafs renovated what was already a sneaky-deep defense with a flurry of trade deadline moves, but also fell short of a bolder addition in Mattias Ekholm with cap space being an obstacle.

It would be fascinating to learn how close Toronto got to either move, because both would rank as the sort of “all-in” gambles that could have changed the complexion of a playoff race. With O’Reilly and a ton of defensive pieces, the Maple Leafs certainly weren’t idle during deadline time, though.

Could the Flyers make big trades during the 2023 NHL Draft?

Speaking of sitting idle, that’s a good way to describe the Flyers. As other teams rebuilt or retooled, the Flyers only traded away spare parts, with the failure to get anything for pending free agent James van Riemsdyk looking especially glaring.

For whatever it’s worth, beleaguered Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher claims there just weren’t any deals out there for JVR. At least head coach John Tortorella is sticking by his GM.

Marek and Friedman indicate that if the Flyers are able to make big moves, it might be easiest to do so during the offseason. Considering rumblings about “soft talks” with the Columbus Blue Jackets regarding Kevin Hayes, that’s the sort of contract that could require some creative accounting. Hayes, 30, carries an unsightly $7.143-million cap hit through 2025-26, making you think a proper return would be “anything.” However, the Blue Jackets badly need a center, so maybe Fletcher and Co. could redeem themselves.

Then again, should Fletcher really receive yet another chance when he seems far behind the curve time after time?

With the Flyers, no one should be off limits. Their entire defense lacks trade protection, opening the door for a potentially merciful end to the failed Ivan Provorov experiment. As refreshing as this breakthrough season has been for Travis Konecny, it’s probably wise to sell high considering how the 25-year-old’s prime doesn’t line up well with the Flyers getting back on track.

Overall, you can make excuses for the Flyers failing to pull off individual trades. Still, the big picture isn’t pretty. Maybe they’ll unveil an actual plan during 2023 NHL Draft weekend, but they haven’t earned much benefit of the doubt.