NHL Trade Deadline: Western Conference UFA Forwards Who May Move
The 2021-22 NHL season plows through the late stages of January and yet there are now exactly two months till the March 21st trade deadline. There are some unrestricted free agent forwards who may wind up on other teams by then.
These UFA’s are enticing to NHL teams for a variety of reasons. Fit and cap hit are just two of the main ones. Quite a few trades will be just for picks. Some trades should happen but may not for a variety of reasons including salary and NTC or NMC clauses.
Teams are still mostly in the chatter phase right now. Things may heat up a bit around the All-Star break in a couple of weeks but who knows. Sometimes a trade can occur out of nowhere. Yesterday we touched on the Eastern Conference UFA Forward Trade Targets, and now on to the West.
Western Conference UFA Forward Trade Deadline Targets
There is always talk of Reilly Smith going somewhere because, at some point, Jack Eichel will return. Remember, the Vegas Golden Knights have very limited to almost no salary cap space ($3.38 million of LTIR cap space – no actual cap room).
This could get interesting sooner rather than later as Eichel ups his on-ice skating regimen and begins to practice more and more. Smith could be one of the casualties because of salary and yes ability. He is enticing. After all, he has 11 goals and 29 points in 41 games this season so far.
There expects to be a decent return for Smith and he has no trade clauses which would complicate matters. Those were only available in years 2-4 of this contract. The 31-year old still has a good bit left in the tank
Could Ryan Getzlaf consider moving out of Anaheim to pursue another chance at the Stanley Cup? With the chances that Anaheim could fall out of the playoff picture, would Ducks management consider the unthinkable?
The dollars are not much of an issue but he can play center at a solid level still. This season has seen him notch 22 assists and 24 points in 34 games. He has a solid possession rate despite being deployed just 40.3% of the time in the offensive zone.
The one snag is the no-move clause. Would Getzlaf waive it if an offer came?
If Anaheim does not move Jacob Silfverberg or Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell may be the most likely target. Teams like his shooting potential. The last 3+ seasons have been rough for the winger as he has shot below 10% in each of those campaigns. He has eight goals and eight assists in 32 games so far this season.
Rakell can easily fit on almost any power play and top-six unit. He is averaging nearly three shots per game which has been consistent since the 2017-18 season. Teams will line up for his right-handed shot, especially for that underrated one-timer. Again, nothing is automatic but Rakell has a higher chance of being dealt than not.
The Arizona Coyotes’ forward has been pretty good offensively this year, even at the age of 34. He has 27 points in 38 games including five goals. While his numbers are a bit off from last year’s 20 goal season in 56 games, Kessel has been a bit unlucky. He has just those five goals on 80 shots (6.3%). He has never shot that low before.
Though Kessel is aging and his defensive deficiencies are well documented, he has helped Clayton Keller and Arizona’s top lines. Keller is back to the player he was a couple of seasons ago. The Coyotes’ right-winger does have a modified no-trade and no-move clause. He would control where he winds up.
Kessel, in the end, could very well move the day before or trade deadline day. It just has to be the right fit.
Andreas Athanasiou– Los Angeles Kings ($2.7 million AAV)
There were some definite rumblings involving Andreas Athanasiou. The problem is he still is battling a nagging lower-body injury. This has caused him to miss ten games at press time. The forward has only played 11 games in 2021-22. He has three goals and three assists.
Would Rob Blake and Los Angeles consider making such a move? They did not pay a ton for him in the first place. He does not have any clauses in his deal, so trading Athanasiou would be simple. The question is will Blake pull the trigger? That answer is not known at this time.
Some final thoughts on other Western Conference UFA Forwards
Again, there is that makeup period of games where a balanced schedule will at least keep players fresh. There is no break to worry about players getting sloppy habits, etc.
We have been keeping a keen eye on what is going on with injuries as certain teams may be pressed into needing a player. Again, there are two months until the trade deadline. The expectation is that trade chatter may not pick up heavily until the end of February.
This is just the beginning as we dig deeper into free agency in the near future.