NHL trade deadline buzz: Noah Hanifin, Jake Guentzel and the goalie market

ByEmily Kaplan ESPN logo
Friday, March 1, 2024

The NHL trade deadline is a week away, and while calls around the league are heating up, expectations are being tempered. I spoke to one general manager this week who cautioned that things seem "a little slow." He called it a thin market, with few impact players available as rentals.

"But it could mean we get more surprises of players being moved that you don't expect," the GM said. "And that could be exciting."

Here's what I'm hearing could transpire over the next seven days.

THECALGARY FLAMEShave held the keys to the NHL trade deadline. The domino effect is always real at this time of year. Calgary kicked off the trading season when it moved Elias Lindholm to Vancouver on Jan. 31. Two days later, the Jets traded for Sean Monahan, one of the next-best centers available. As you can see, one team sets the market, then others -- who missed out on that player -- move quickly to their next option.

The Flames likely got things started again after trading Chris Tanev to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. Several teams need a right-shot defenseman and Tanev, 34, was atop most of their lists. Tanev has 41 games of playoff experience, and ranks second in the league in blocked shots. So who are the best available options now?

The next day, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for Ilya Lyubushkinfrom Anaheim.

Sean Walker is likely the next man up.Philadelphia FlyersGM Danny Briere told me he'd like to re-sign both Walker and his defense partner, Nick Seeler, but he didn't know if it would be possible. With little traction for new contracts, it appears they're poised to be moved -- especially Walker. Other right defensemen who are definitely available: Matt Dumbaand Tyson Barrie. Other right defensemen who are possibly available: Alexandre Carrier and Erik Johnson.

YES, THE FLYERS are in playoff position and it seems counterintuitive to be sellers. But general managers typically get one chance to rebuild their team from the foundation up, and it's right away when they start. The Flyers would like to make the playoffs, but would rather build the team sustainably to contend for several years -- and management clearly thinks they're at least another season, but more likely two or three, away from that.

Briere was adamant with me that he is not shopping Scott Laughton, but rather fielding calls on the center (who has two additional years remaining at a $3 million cap hit) because of how attractive he is to other teams, and it's bad business not to consider recouping value.

So far, it doesn't seem any team has been willing to step up to the steep asking price.

NOAH HANIFIN PASSED on a contract extension with Calgary in hopes of exploring the open market. The Massachusetts-born defenseman would like the chance to play in the United States. That devalues his market, as some teams might not want to trade for Hanifin without the wink behind the scenes that he'd sign an extension with them. It's almost inevitable Hanifin will be traded, but also trending toward Calgary not getting its ideal return. Keep an eye on both Florida-based teams, and potentially Boston and New Jersey here.

ON THE GOALIE front, the Wild let teams know that Marc-Andre Fleury is committed to stay in Minnesota. Fleury had control of the situation with a full no-movement clause, and he wants to see it through with the Wild. From what I understand, the Devils are the only team to make a significant offer to Calgary for Jacob Markstrom. Those talks fell through, but the expectation was New Jersey may re-engage.

The Devils also called Nashville about Juuse Saros, though those conversations didn't appear to get as far. The Predators are comfortable holding on to Saros, tabling any potential trade talks for the summer.

The Boston Bruins have wanted to keep both goalies, but enough teams have called on Linus Ullmark that it's worth mentioning as a possibility.

Montreal's Jake Allen and San Jose's Kaapo Kahkonen might be the only two goalies on the move.

WHAT I KEEP hearing about the Predators, after they won six straight to separate themselves in the wild-card race -- they're not sold on anything. Take for example, Tommy Novak. The 26-year-old center is a late bloomer just coming into his own offensively. At less than $1 million a season, Novak has become a hot name for several teams. Nashville would still listen on offers if someone were ready to wow them, but it seems likelier that they'll try to get an extension done and make Novak part of their future.

THE PANTHERS AND HURRICANES are in similar situations. They don't want to trade away first-round picks (though the Canes have way more draft capital). But they do have significant salary cap space available. So they're telling teams: Call us, we're open for business. Both teams seem to be circling around on impact players, wishfully hoping the prices will drop.

I KNOW MANY opposing fans (and teams) rolled their eyes when Mark Stone was placed on long-term injury reserve, giving the Vegas Golden Knights the perfect opportunity to spend his cap space and welcome him back in the playoffs -- the exact same situation as 2023. But when Stone was ready for Game 1 of the opening round last year, a team lodged a complaint. I'm told the NHL investigated, and found nothing sketchy about the timeline.

Stone's new injury (not related to last year's back surgery) was described to me as so serious, the entire first round is in question for him -- and maybe even beyond that. Even still, there are sure to be eye rolls again because the Golden Knights are aggressively looking for top-end wingers.

This could be the destination for Jake Guentzel,Pavel Buchnevich or Jordan Eberle. And don't discount a Reilly Smith reunion.

THE EXPECTATION AROUND the league is that both Guentzel and Smith will be on the move from Pittsburgh. Though Guentzel loves Pittsburgh and has the utmost respect for Sidney Crosby, it's probably time -- especially considering the road ahead for the Penguins to be top contenders again. Guentzel is already skating and it sounds like he'll be good to go on March 10 when he's eligible to come off LTIR. I don't think anyone has matched the Penguins high asking price for Guentzel (two first-round picks, or the equivalent) but it sounds like several teams are circling, including Edmonton, Colorado, Detroit, Carolina, Vegas and Florida.

THE COLORADO AVALANCHE move stealthily. They were a serious contender for Tanev. I'm told they're looking to add and have been scouting nearly all of the top targets at forward, specifically at center. After looking at Lindholm and Monahan, they've also scouted Adam Henrique and Laughton. Not sure what the Avs are going to do, but it sure feels like something.

THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS have been one of the busiest teams over the past two seasons in terms of trades. But all is (mostly) quiet in Chicago entering the deadline. The Blackhawks re-signed of their most desirable trade chips in Nick Foligno, Jason Dickinson and Petr Mrazek. GM Kyle Davidson told me he's receiving calls about his other pending UFAs, but those would be minor deals if anything.

The Blackhawks have one space remaining to retain salary as a third-party broker. But even that might not happen. Plenty of teams have stepped up in the third-party broker game (now that it's in vogue, it's much easier to get the sign-off from ownership). Also, the Blackhawks have 17 draft selections over the first three rounds in the next three years -- how many more picks do they need?

THENEW YORK RANGERSwill probably be one of the more aggressive teams, looking for both a center and a right wing (filling the spots lost for the season by Filip Chytil and Blake Wheeler). I was told the Rangers are fine parting with their first-round pick, as long as the deal is worth it, though their top two prospects in Gabriel Perreault and Brennan Othmann are off-limits.

Flexibility is also important, as nobody knows whether Chytil will be ready for next season. When it comes to the Rangers, fans are always curious about reunions. I heard Pavel Buchnevich is likely not happening. But other players who left --Frank Vatrano, Vladimir Tarasenko -- are options. Tarasenko, who has a no-trade clause, is trending to be on the move. More than one league source suggested the Islanders could be a fit there.

AS WE TALK about draft picks on the move, I asked one director of amateur scouting to give a quick rundown of what to expect talent-wise. He said the 2024 draft is considered good, and defensemen-heavy. The top is strong, but not as generational as the Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli trio we saw in 2023. As for the 2025 draft? Similar to 2024, but no Macklin Celebrini or Bedard, Carlsson or Fantilli. He said his gut is that after picks 5-6, for the next two years the player pool from picks 10 to 40 is very similar.