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Fantasy Nuggets Week 22

Claude Giroux

Claude Giroux

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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We know one player who won’t be moved before the NHL’s March 21st trade deadline: The Philadelphia Flyers inked Rasmus Ristolainen to a five-year, $25.5 million contract that will kick in for the 2022-23 campaign. That’s a signing that’s already attracted a lot of criticism. On a surface level, Ristolainen seems like a fairly valuable blueliner. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s not afraid to block the puck, and he’ll get involved offensively. In terms of analytics though, he’s frequently looked bad, particularly defensively, and at the age of 27 with 591 NHL games under his belt, that’s unlikely to change, so making a long-term commitment to him is questionable from that perspective.

Any Flyers fans who were hoping the team’s struggles this season might spark a rebuild are also going to be disappointed by this signing. While the Flyers are still likely to trade Claude Giroux over the next two weeks, this signing could be read as Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher feeling that the team’s core is fundamentally fine, just in need of a bit of retooling. If so, that’s a sentiment he shares with Ristolainen.

“The expectations were very high early in the year. The team is good on paper,” Ristolainen said, per Giana Han. “It’s a big disappointment, but i really believe it’s only one year.”

It is absolutely true that the Flyers fell below expectations this season and some of that’s on some bad luck in the injury department. However, the Flyers weren’t an amazing team that underperformed, they were an okay team that did and that’s why some may be frustrated with the organization. They don’t seem to be built to chase a championship so much as they are built to battle for a Wild Card spot and the most likely scenario for next season just seems to be falling back into that mediocrity bubble.

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Regardless though, if they trade Giroux as anticipated, that should help them a lot in the long run. The Flyers are reportedly looking for a first rounder, an asset, and a prospect in return for Giroux, according to TSN’s Insider Trading. That’s not too surprising. Even if Giroux is on an expiring contract, for a team looking to compete now, he’s an ideal option. He’s a major offensive threat, one of the best players on the faceoff in the league, a guy with plenty of playoff experience, and someone who should be a good locker room presence. The one X-Factor here is Giroux himself. He has a no-movement clause, so if he ultimately decides that he doesn’t want to move then that’s the end of the conversation. Even if he is willing to be traded, Giroux has the right to pick and choose what teams he’d be willing to be moved to and if he ends up providing the Flyers with very limited options, then that could lessen the return the Flyers get for him.

One of the other big names on the trade market is Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun. He’s a very different situation because he’s just 23-years-old and signed through 2024-25 at a reasonable $4.6 million cap hit, so he’s far more than just a rental. He also has no current trade protection, so that’s not a factor here. Instead, if he doesn’t move before the deadline, it’d be because the Coyotes never received a deal they loved. They hold all the cards here and there’s no reason for Arizona to move him for less than they want when they still have the option to move him in the summer instead or simply keep him long-term. All the same, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him traded soon.

TSN’s Darren Dreger’s recently reported that there are eight serious suitors for Chychrun, including Los Angeles, Boston, Florida, St. Louis, Carolina, and Anaheim. All that interest could make this an ideal seller’s market for Arizona, but Dreger did caution that with the package the Coyotes want, this one might come down to the wire.

One major name on the trade market that might ultimately not get moved though is Marc-Andre Fleury. Although he’s on an expiring contract and could help some contending teams – the Edmonton Oilers are among those that come to mind – the Blackhawks reportedly had a handshake agreement with him that he wouldn’t be traded without his okay. Although management has changed since then, new Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson intends on honoring that agreement. For his part, it remains to be seen if Fleury will give the greenlight to be traded, but so far it’s sounded like he’s pretty reluctant. Perhaps he could be swayed if the right fit comes around, but his preference may be to simply play out the remainder of his contract and then make a decision about his future this summer.

Another potential big name that might end up staying where he is would be Tomas Hertl. The Sharks certainly wouldn’t want to potentially lose him for nothing over the summer and he would command a great price on the trade market, but it wouldn’t be surprising if San Jose was able to re-sign him instead. That’s what the Sharks’ focus has been and Hertl did recently call those talks “positive.” That’s not a guarantee that he’ll re-sign of course, so you’ll want to keep an eye on that situation, but if I was placing odds, I’d set him staying with San Jose as the most likely scenario.

As you can see at this point, there’s no shortage of big names to talk about in the leadup to the 2022 trade deadline. I’ll close out with one last player to keep an eye on: John Klingberg. Back in January, Klingberg said that the reports he requested a trade weren’t entirely true, but he wasn’t happy with the state of his contract negotiations. If the Stars can’t see eye-to-eye with Klingberg on a contract extension, then trading him before he walks over the summer would certainly make some sense. The complicating factor here though is that the Stars are very much in the running for a Wild Card spot and that will likely make them at least somewhat reluctant to trade him. Personally I’ve never been a big fan of sacrificing future assets in an attempt to squeak into the playoffs because it’s rare that leads to a championship, but the allure of the playoffs is strong and no general manager wants to compromise a serious battle for a postseason spot at the deadline.

So I could see Klingberg ultimately staying with Dallas for now, but if the Stars do decide to move him, he’d certainly attract a fair amount of attention as a puck moving defenseman who shoots right.