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What every team should do at the 2021 NHL trade deadline

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp unveil this week's NHL Power Rankings, where the Pens and Isles are coming on strong and Colorado rides 'the best line in hockey' to the top spot.

With every NHL trade deadline projection comes the caveat that anything can happen before the deadline, trades can happen earlier to shake things up, and standings can change quickly.

Take into consideration how no one wants to take on money with the flat salary cap and the upcoming expansion and this might end up a boring NHL trade deadline. But, who knows.

Out of respect for the situation in Vancouver as over half the team recovers from a Covid variant, they’re not going to be included on here. It feels unfair to be speculating about their hockey future at the moment.

For the rest, here’s one move every team should make at the 2021 NHL trade deadline.

Boston Bruins: Get a legitimate scorer: The Bruins have more than one problem but some of that can’t be helped. If they’d kept Zdeno Chara in the offseason, some of their defensive woes wouldn’t exist. Some injury returns, such as Brandon Carlo, would stabilize things for now. They can’t learn how to score, though, and they -- once again -- desperately need five on five scoring.

Buffalo Sabres: Move Taylor Hall for a first: This largely depends on who wants to make a move, but if the Sabres do move on from Hall, they could get a terrific return. To trade a player like Taylor Hall -- sure feels like deja vu, eh? -- there’s going to have to be a good return because he’ll be in demand for any team willing to take on some of his salary. Make sure it’s the best price.

[15 forwards who could be traded]

Philadelphia Flyers: Get anyone who can play defense: There’s some issues with the goaltending for sure and there’s not much they can do in that department. But the defense in front of Carter Hart and co has not made life any easier. The Flyers defense has been decimated and it was already pretty weak. Adding the Blue Jackets’ David Savard could bring some life into the blue line group.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Add a depth scorer: This could have been to add a goalie, but Tristan Jarry seems close to a return. Kasperi Kapanen and Evgeni Malkin remain out, though, and the Pens could use more depth in their middle six. Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell feels like a strong fit.

New Jersey Devils: Trade Kyle Palmieri: It’s time to let Palmieri go. There’s going to be a lot of takers for him out there, even with the flat cap, so they’re going to want a haul in return. It probably starts with a first round pick. [UPDATE: They dealt Palmieri to the Islanders.]

NY Rangers: Trade Brendan Smith: The Rangers aren’t out of it for sure and don’t need to have a fire sale, but the best result is probably to add for the future. Brendan Smith might be their easiest player to move, especially to a team that loses out on Mattias Ekholm.

NY Islanders: Add a scorer. Any scorer: The Islanders one weakness is they go into stretches where they can’t buy a goal. Anders Lee being out for the rest of the season makes that real difficult, too. They have the cap space to do something; maybe Ryan Dzingel joins his former Ottawa teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau. [UPDATE: Lou Lamoriello added Palmieri and Travis Zajac.]

Washington Capitals: Add a depth scorer: There’s not many flaws on the Capitals roster. Adding another top nine scorer can only help, though, for a team that already succeeds by bringing more depth than anyone else. Scott Laughton with the Flyers has a low cap hit.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2020-21 NHL Trade Tracker]

Toronto Maple Leafs: Add Taylor Hall: Why not go all out? Everyone in Leafs Land thinks they have all the answers to the entire league anyways, so might as well. Toronto has mostly dominated the North, but it’ll be a different world when they have to play a team that employs a defense. Going all out and grabbing a scorer like Taylor Hall puts their offense into elite territory unlike anyone else.

Montreal Canadiens: Call up Cole Caufield: The Habs have no cap space and they’ve already made a lot of moves to this point, with their big offseason and then trading for Eric Staal two weeks ago. This is their team, just maybe bring up the top prospect before the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators: Move Mike Reilly: The one thing sellers have an advantage on in this market is defensemen, especially once the top few are moved -- if that happens. If so, the Senators might get a team to overpay for the 27-year-old Mike Reilly. His cap hit is only $1.5 million, they might nab a good return.

Calgary Flames: Seek a return for Sam Bennett: There’s a few things the Flames could do for a return here, such as move David Rittich or Johnny Gaudreau. Moving on from Sam Bennett, though, would give them the best progress. There haven’t been any takers yet but teams get more and more desperate closer to the NHL trade deadline.

Edmonton Oilers: Careful with the cap: The Oilers have to toe the line to bring in any money, but they sure could use some forward depth in their middle six. Luke Glendening might be the best bet.

Winnipeg Jets: Any defenseman possible: There’s a few options for the Jets and it depends on their cap space too but man they need any defense. Brandon Montour is available and the Sabres might even retain some of the salary, which would help.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Florida Panthers: Add a defenseman: Aaron Ekblad’s absence is going to hurt and they’re not going to be able to replace him. Luckily for the Panthers, though, there’s a lot of available defensemen. The best fit for them, though, could be oft-speculated about Nashville defender Mattias Ekholm.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Stand pat?: One of the most annoying things ever is when someone will say a player returning from injury is a team’s NHL trade deadline acquisition but Nikita Kucherov actually fits that description accurately.

Carolina Hurricanes: Get Kyle Palmieri: The Hurricanes are sneaky here. They have picks and prospects to trade, they have cap room, and they’re really good. They are also perhaps just a piece or two away from being downright scary, even in a division with the Lightning. Why not go out and get Kyle Palmieri? It might just put them over.

Nashville Predators: Make any move worth it: The Preds have snuck back into playoff contention so who knows if they’ll move Ekholm, but if they do, they should get as strong a package as possible. That sounds super obvious, but especially if the are contending, they don’t have to move anyone. They should get at least a top pick or prospect to consider moving the most desirable available defenseman in the league.

Detroit Red Wings: Get someone to overpay for Marc Staal: The Red Wings have a few avenues here, such as taking on some bad contracts in return for good rebuilding pieces. They could also probably get an above market return on Marc Staal for teams that get desperate on the defenseman market.

Chicago Blackhawks: Sell: They had a nice run but this team isn’t going anywhere this year. There’s not sense adding a piece, and they can clear some roster room and cap space. Moving someone like Carl Soderberg might be the best thing they can do to get a decent return.

Columbus: See what they can sell: The Blue Jackets don’t historically sell all too much but this is a year they may have to. They’re not going to make progress in that division, Patrik Laine hasn’t worked out, they keep benching guys. David Savard is their most valuable piece and they might get a decent enough return.

Dallas Stars: Be smart: There’s a few options here. Hypothetically they have Ben Bishop coming back which would change things in net. Jake Oettinger has been fantastic and is in their future plans. Might they get a return for Anton Khudobin?

[For NHL Trade Deadline approach, Blues should echo bold moves from past]

Minnesota Wild: Let’s get Wild: The Wild are legitimate contenders. This is such a weird NHL season, who says it can’t be their time to shine? They should go all out and try to add another elite forward. Kirill Kaprizov is leading a fun group that has a chance to do something, even in a tough division, so it depends how far do they want to go. They have two first round picks. Why not make a move on someone like Nick Foligno or Mikael Granlund?

Colorado Avalanche: Add a goalie: While the Avalanche could add another top six forward and make the mega desk version of a hockey team, they could use another goalie while Pavel Francouz is out and Philipp Grubauer gains experience. Calgary goalie David Rittich might be of interest.

Vegas Golden Knights: Who is to say, actually: Common sense says the Golden Knights don’t have to and won’t do anything. They’re a juggernaut and have like, no cap space. But, they always seem to find a way to do something so I guess nothing is off the table. Part of the Vegas charm is doing something out of left field though, so why ruin the fun with a guess?

Arizona Coyotes: Consider if moving Conor Garland is worth it: Garland’s emergence has been a positive in a rough year for the Coyotes on and off the ice. He’s going to get a raise in the offseason, so naturally the Coyotes could consider moving him. If they are ever going to move on, his stock is higher now than it ever has been.

St. Louis Blues: Add a cost effective forward: Snagging someone like Taylor Hall would put the Blues over the edge they need in a tough West playoff push, but, their salary cap won’t allow that. They need a scoring boost, and there aren’t many cheap options out there to make that happen, but someone like Detroit’s Bobby Ryan might fit that description well enough.

[Taylor Hall trade would benefit everybody]

Anaheim Ducks: Hope for a reasonable return for Rakell: Rakell is an important piece for the whole league because there’s not many players available beyond being a rental, and he has a reasonable $3.7 cap hit. He was just put on injured reserve, though, so any team trading for him would be thinking beyond just this season. They likely won’t be able to move Ryan Getzlaf, so this is kind of it for the Ducks.

Los Angeles Kings: Try like crazy to move Jonathan Quick: It’s probably a pipe dream to remove his $5.8 million cap hit, but Cal Peterson is so clearly the guy for the Kings. If they retain some of the salary, this might be the best chance to move on from Quick if a team gets desperate for a goalie right now, and it leaves them someone to leave unprotected in the expansion draft, too.

San Jose Sharks: Load up on prospects: The Sharks are in a unique position where they can take on salary. With just over $6 million in cap space, they could take a bad contract off a team in desperate need to clear, and ask for a decent prospect or draft picks package in return. They should take advantage.


Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.