Notable Trades and Free Agent Signings Before the 2023 NHL Draft
NOTE: The following moves occurred on June 28 prior to 6 pm ET. Any subsequent notable trades involving NHL players during the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft will be duly noted in a separate post following the completion of that round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier, 26, is now the highest-paid forward on the Devils and the second-highest-paid player next to Dougie Hamilton ($9 million AAV).
New Jersey Devils winger Timo Meier (NHL Images).
Joining the Devils in a trade from the San Jose Sharks before the March trade deadline, he had nine goals and 14 points in 21 regular-season games with the Devils. Including his totals with the Sharks, he finished the regular season with 40 goals and 66 points in 78 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With limited salary-cap space, the Golden Knights are forced to trade one of their few remaining “misfits” from their original expansion roster to free up the dollars to re-sign Barbashev.
Smith, 32, was a reliably productive top-six forward for Vegas, coming off his fourth 50-plus point season (56) in six years. He carries a $5 million AAV through 2024-25. He has a 12-team no-trade clause for 2022-23. In all likelihood, the Penguins weren’t on it.
The Penguins are trying to build around aging stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for a quick turnaround after missing the playoffs this season. Smith should be a solid fit alongside Crosby or Malkin on their top two lines. He likely replaces pending UFA winger Jason Zucker.
Barbashev, 27, is five years younger than Smith and plays a more physical style. He’s a year removed from a 60-point performance with the St. Louis Blues.
Acquired from the Blues before the trade deadline, he had 16 points in 23 regular-season games with Vegas, finishing the season with 45 points. He also had 18 points in 22 playoff games helping the Golden Knights win their first Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche wasted little time filling the gap after trading Alex Newhook to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Colton, 26, is a versatile middle-six forward with Stanley Cup experience who should fit in well with the Avs. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights but should be an affordable re-signing.
Salary-cap constraints force the Lightning to lose yet another player as their roster depth continues to whittle away. Some folks envisioned Colton as a potential replacement for Alex Killorn if he departs as an unrestricted free agent.
This move also gives the Lightning one pick in the first five rounds. The second-rounder originally belonged to the Canadiens, who shipped it to the Avalanche in the Newhook deal.
Wyshynski noted that Kyle Dubas referenced the Tkachuk trade during his final press conference as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager when talking about the possibility of shaking up the Leafs’ “core four” players.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).
The Leafs could be on the other side of such a deal if they go that route with someone like Auston Matthews, who is a year away from unrestricted free-agent status. Wyshynski believes Matthews wants to stay in Toronto but the ground has shifted under his feet with Dubas’ firing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames got Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in exchange for sending Tkachuk to the Panthers. The latter had a career-best performance this season and is a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Huberdeau and Weegar, meanwhile, struggled with their new club as the Flames missed the playoffs this season.
This trade could still work out for the Flames. Huberdeau and Weegar are both on long-term contracts and their respective performances could improve under a new head coach. Nevertheless, there’s no question the Panthers are the early winners of this trade. It’s possible that Huberdeau and/or Weegar have already played their best hockey and are on the downside of their careers.
Like Tkachuk, Matthews is in his playing prime and will remain an elite player if he ends up with another team. The Leafs, on the other hand, could get a return that looks great on paper but fails to meet expectations.
DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin recently cautioned that the Leafs might not win any trade involving one of their core four of Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner or William Nylander.
Larkin also cited the Tkachuk trade but pointed out that it’s rare that a contending team as the Panthers were last season can blow up their core and stays competitive in the present.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan wondered if Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman would attempt to bolster his scoring by pursuing one of the Leafs core four.
Khan considers acquiring Matthews to be a pipe dream as he believes the Leafs will do everything they can to re-sign him. He also thinks they would want Wings defenseman Moritz Seider as part of the return.
Tavares has two years left on his contract with an average annual value of $11 million and a no-movement clause. Khan doubts he’d be of interest to a rebuilding club like the Wings.
If the Leafs extend Matthews, Khan wondered if the Leafs would do the same with Marner at a slightly lower number by the time his deal expires in 2025.
Nylander would be the most sensible acquisition for the Wings. If the Leafs make him available, Khan noted the Wings have the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft plus one or two of their second-round picks to offer up as trade bait.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman is expected to go shopping for scoring punch this summer. He could look into acquiring someone like Nylander if the Leafs decide to part ways with him. If the Leafs stick with those core forwards, Khan believes Yzerman can find plenty of other options in what could be a busy summer trade market.
PROPOSED FREE-AGENT TARGETS FOR THE CAPITALS
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir looked at some possible free-agent targets for the Washington Capitals to bolster their forward lines this summer. He doesn’t expect GM Brian MacLellan to pursue expensive older stars like Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko or Ryan O’Reilly.
The Capitals have roughly $6.5 million in projected cap space to spend this summer. El-Bashir anticipates they could find a way to shed some salary via a trade, buyout or burying a contract in the minors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou, Brown, Engvall and Rodrigues could be the most affordable options. There could find plenty of competition for Barbashev, Bertuzzi and Domi as they’ve elevated their free-agent value with their solid performances in this postseason. Bunting and Compher could also prove difficult to land because of their regular-season play.
Speculation over Evgeny Kuznetsov’s and Anthony Mantha’s future with the Capitals, the latest on the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson plus possible off-season free-agent targets for the Canucks in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
UPDATE ON KUZNETSOV’S FUTURE IN WASHINGTON
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir cited a report out of Russia on Saturday claiming Evgeny Kuznetsov has requested a trade from the Washington Capitals. He cautions that such reports tend to be inconsistent when it comes to accuracy. Nevertheless, he expects Kuznetsov will be asked about it following practice on Monday.
Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (NHL Images).
El-Bashir noted Kuznetsov’s name surfaced in the trade rumor mill in 2021. Nothing came of it and he enjoyed a bounce-back 78-point performance in 2021-22. This season, however, the 30-year-old center is struggling again with 53 points in 73 games and a team-worst plus-minus of minus-19.
If the Capitals are open to trading Kuznetsov in the offseason they’ll have a difficult time moving him. His struggles this season combined with his $7.8 million annual average value through 2024-25 and 10-team no-trade list will affect his future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: El-Bashir also wrote about Kuznetsov’s uncertain future with the Capitals last week. If he has asked for a trade I don’t like their chances of moving him unless they’re willing to retain some salary, bundle him with a draft pick or a prospect, or take back a toxic contract in return.
MANTHA ALSO FACES UNCERTAINTY WITH THE CAPITALS
El-Bashir also noted Anthony Mantha’s on-ice difficulties this season has made his future with the club feel tenuous. The 28-year-old winger has 11 goals in 64 games, including just two thus far in 2023. He’s also been a healthy scratch several times this season.
Mantha’s future with the Capitals could depend on whether they bring back Peter Laviolette as head coach. Perhaps he’ll improve under a new bench boss.
El-Bashir doesn’t see the Capitals buying out Mantha this summer. He has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.7 million. Buying him out would count as $1.3 million against the cap for 2023-24 and $2.1 million for 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mantha would also be difficult to move in a trade. He lacks no-trade protection and his cap hit is much lower than Kuznetsov’s but his performance this season won’t help his value in the trade market. They might have to keep him and hope for a bounce-back effort next season.
LATEST ON ERIK KARLSSON
THE ATHLETIC: Corey Masisak was asked in a recent mailbag segment if there was a scenario where Erik Karlsson remains with the San Jose Sharks beyond this offseason. He believes the issue that made the 32-year-old defenseman difficult to move this season (his expensive contract) will continue to hamper any effort by management to trade him this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Masisak acknowledged that teams will have more salary-cap flexibility in the offseason. Nevertheless, he’s correct that Karlsson’s contract will remain very difficult to move.
Karlsson’s $11.5 million annual cap hit through 2026-27 is too rich for most teams unless the Sharks retain a healthy chunk or they accept one or two salaried players in return. His no-movement clause also limits where they can peddle him.
WHO COULD THE CANUCKS TARGET IN THIS SUMMER’S FREE-AGENT MARKET?
Dhaliwal said the Canucks have made it clear they’ll be looking for a third-line center when the unrestricted free-agent market opens on July 1. He believes Ivan Barbashev of the Vegas Golden Knights is worth keeping an eye on.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could use Barbashev and Gavirkov. Whether they can land either guy remains to be seen. They will draw plenty of interest in this summer’s free agent market. Dhaliwal also acknowledged that the Canucks would have to shed some salary to make room for those players.
Recaps of Sunday’s games, Barry Trotz to replace David Poile as Predators GM, Tanner Jeannot to the Lightning, Ivan Barbashev to the Golden Knights, Evgenii Dadonov to the Stars, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov tallied a hat trick (including the game-winner in overtime) to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2. The win propelled the Wild (33-21-6) into second place in the Central Division with 72 points, one point up on the Colorado Avalanche. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 41 shots as the Blues Jackets fell to 19-35-6 on the season.
A five-goal second period lifted the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin each had a goal and an assist as the Penguins as they improved to 29-21-9 and hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 67 points. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point also had a goal and an assist each for the 37-18-4 Lightning as they’ve dropped four of their last six and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 78 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov reached 700 career points and sits fourth all-time among Lightning scorers with 701.
The Buffalo Sabres dumped the Washington Capitals 7-4 as Dylan Cozens tallied his first NHL hat trick while Tage Thompson netted his 40th goal of the season. The Sabres (31-23-4) sit one point back of the Penguins. Dylan Strome collected two points and Alex Ovechin scored his 33rd of the season for the Capitals as they’ve slipped to 29-27-6 and sit three points behind the Penguins and two points behind the Sabres.
New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 23 saves to shut out the Winnipeg Jets 4-0. Bo Horvat, Alexander Romanov, Brock Nelson and Adam Pelech were the goal scorers as the Islanders rose to 31-25-7 and hold the first Eastern wild-card spot with 69 points. The Jets (35-24-1) have dropped four straight games and fell into the first Western Conference wild-card berth with 71 points.
The New York Rangers got two goals and an assist from Vincent Trocheck in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Igor Shesterkin turned aside 26 shots as the Rangers (34-17-9) snapped a four-game losing skid and sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 77 points. Phillip Danault collected two assists for the Kings as they fell to 33-20-8 and remain in second place in the Pacific Division with 74 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller was ejected in the first period for spitting on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Miller reached out to Doughty following the game claiming it wasn’t on purpose and he felt bad about it.
The Rangers also sat Ryan Carpenter and Braden Schneider for salary-cap purposes as they continue to work toward an expected trade for Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews scored two goals to defeat the Seattle Kraken 5-1. Mitch Marner had three assists while Ilya Samsonov kicked out 26 shots as the Leafs improved to 37-15-8 as they moved to within one point of the third overall New Jersey Devils with 82 points. Vince Dunn scored the only goal for the Kraken (32-21-6) as they dropped into the final Western wild-card berth with 70 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kraken were jockeying for first place in the Pacific Division not too long ago. They’ve dropped seven of their last 10 games which could prompt general manager Ron Francis into making a move before the March 3 trade deadline to bolster his roster.
The Nashville Predators got two goals by Roman Josi in a 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Josi finished with three points as did Matt Duchene and Tommy Novak as the Predators (29-22-6) sit six points behind the Kraken with 64 points. The Coyotes are 20-30-9 on the season.
THE TENNESSEAN: A source said Nashville Predators general manager David Poile intends to retire at the end of this season. He’s been their GM since the club’s inception in 1997 and sits third all-time in wins (1,519) among NHL general managers. His replacement is expected to be Barry Trotz, who was the club’s first head coach during its first 15 seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be the end of an era for the Predators. Poile’s tenure was mostly a successful one, qualifying for the playoffs 15 times since their inaugural season in 1998-99. They reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018. Since then, however, the Predators have been in a slow but steady decline. They risk missing the playoffs this season for the first time since 2014.
THE TENNESSEAN/TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of the Predators, they traded forward Tanner Jeannot to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a first-round pick in 2025, a second-round pick in 2024, a third, fourth and fifth-rounder in 2023 and defenseman Cal Foote.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s one helluva haul for Jeannot, a middle-six power forward who had 24 goals and 41 points as a rookie last season but slumped to five goals and 14 points in 56 games this season. The 25-year-old winger is a restricted free agent this summer.
The Lightning appear to have overpaid for Jeannot. However, Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin points out that they could see something awesome in him just like they did with Brandon Hagel, Nick Paul, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at previous trade deadlines. If he helps the Lightning return to the Stanley Cup Final it will be considered a wise investment, especially if they re-sign him to an affordable extension.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW/STLTODAY.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights acquired winger Ivan Barbashev from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for prospect Zach Dean.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A versatile forward who can play center or wing, Barbashev should provide a boost to the Golden Knights’ middle-six lines. Dean, 20, is a 2021 first-round pick who was ranked third among Vegas’ top prospects in The Athletic’s midseason prospect pool rankings.
The Golden Knights might not be done dealing as they still have over $7 million in projected deadline cap space. However, their lack of sufficient draft and prospect capital to use as trade bait could hamper efforts to acquire a more notable talent.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS/MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Stars traded winger Denis Gurianov to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for winger Evgenii Dadonov. The Canadiens also retain half of Dadonov’s $5 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gurianov is a former 20-goal scorer who struggled over the last two seasons with the Stars. If he regains his form in Montreal, the rebuilding Canadiens could re-sign him or use him as a trade chip in the offseason.
Dadonov has only 18 points in 50 games but enjoyed a 20-goal, 43-point performance last season with Vegas. He could rediscover his scoring touch with the playoff-bound Stars.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW/NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks traded defenseman Jack Johnson to the Colorado Avalanche for blueliner Andreas Englund. Johnson played for the Avalanche last season and helped them win the Stanley Cup.
DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen is sidelined indefinitely with an injured kneecap.
TSN: The Vancouver Canucks placed defenseman Ethan Bear (upper body) on injured reserve.
Which teams could be destinations for Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk? What next for the Wild and Blues before the trade deadline? Could the Capitals move Dmitry Orlov? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk (NHL Images).
Carchidi noted that van Riemsdyk lives in Minnesota during the offseason so the Wild seems like a good fit. He speculates the Flyers could get a second-round pick in return. He’s in the final season of a five-year deal with an average annual value of $7 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Giana Han believes the Flyers will probably have to retain part of van Riemsdyk’s cap hit to facilitate a trade. They also believe he could fetch a second-round pick or perhaps a combination of lower picks. Olivia Reiner believes the return for van Riemsdyk will depend on how much of his cap hit the Flyers are willing to retain.
As for the Wild, they have the cap space to acquire van Riemsdyk. Whether they will or not remains to be determined.
LATEST ON THE WILD
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani noted that Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin weaponized his salary-cap space by brokering the three-team trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly from the St. Louis Blues to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blues retain half of O’Reilly’s $7.5 million cap hit with the Wild and Leafs splitting the other half. In return, the Wild received a 2025 fourth-round pick.
It’s unclear if Guerin intends to use his remaining cap space to acquire a big name or continue being a third-party broker for other clubs. Mizutani believes that will become clearer over the next two weeks with the March 3 trade deadline approaching.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Wild still has over $12 million in projected trade deadline cap space. Guerin’s decision could be based on his club’s performance over the next two weeks as they continue to jockey for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
BLUES IVAN BARBASHEV LINKED TO THE BRUINS
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty recently cited St. Louis Blues insider Andy Strickland reporting the Boston Bruins are among the clubs interested in Ivan Barbashev. The 27-year-old winger is due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He wants to play for a postseason contender and isn’t interested in signing a contract extension before the March trade deadline.
Haggerty said the Bruins appear more interested in landing a defenseman before the trade deadline. However, he doesn’t dismiss the possibility of them adding a forward even with sidelined winger Jake DeBrusk due to return soon to the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Bruins have $3.25 million in trade deadline cap space but that’s going to vanish once DeBrusk returns to action. They’ll have to get creative to find a way to free up sufficient cap room to acquire Barbashev ($2.25 million cap hit) or a defenseman.
CAPITALS ARE NOT CLOSE TO RE-SIGNING ORLOV
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Sammi Silber cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reporting the Capitals have had contract extension discussions with Dmitry Orlov. The 31-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
LeBrun reported the two sides aren’t close to reaching an agreement on a new contract but Orlov’s name hasn’t come up in trade talks. He believes the Capitals intend to be buyers at the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Orlov won’t be going anywhere with the Capitals jockeying for a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
What’s next for the Blues and Rangers following the Tarasenko trade? How does that move affect the trade market for Patrick Kane? What’s the latest on Timo Meier and Tyler Bertuzzi? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
Armstrong didn’t rule out making other moves if they make sense leading up to the March 3 trade deadline. He also wants to see how his players respond in the coming weeks to the Tarasenko trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The status of Blues forwards Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and Noel Acciari remains uncertain. Like Tarasenko, the trio are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and have been the subject of growing trade speculation as the trade deadline draws near.
TSN’s Darren Dreger believes the trade market is heating up for Barbashev. He’ll also be watching to see what happens with O’Reilly when he returns to action later this month. Dreger isn’t ruling out the possibility of O’Reilly re-signing with the Blues.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Rangers GM Chris Drury might not be done dealing after acquiring Tarasenko. They’ll have around $1.6 million in cap space once Libor Hajek either clears waivers today or is claimed by another club before noon ET. Brooks speculates Drury could look at bolstering the fourth line or the defense before deadline day.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane (NHL Images).
HOW WILL THE TARASENKO TRADE AFFECT THE MARKET FOR PATRICK KANE?
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Charlie Roumeliotis noted a report by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan that the Rangers felt the asking prices for Patrick Kane and San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier were too high. They also had some concerns over Kane’s reported hip injury but Roumeliotis felt that was overblown, pointing out it’s an ailment that the winger’s been dealing with for years. He believes the decline in Kane’s production this season is due to the Blackhawks’ deplete lineup.
TSN: Chris Johnston believes the odds of Kane leaving Chicago by the trade deadline got slimmer with the Rangers’ acquisition of Tarasenko. He pointed out there’s only a small handful of teams that the winger considers acceptable trade destinations and the Rangers were thought to be among them.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the return that the Blues got for Tarasenko throws cold water on the possibility of the Blackhawks getting a first-round pick and a top prospect for Kane. He also noted that Jonathan Toews’ recent illness could affect his value in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane and Toews are reportedly supposed to make their decision by mid-February on whether to waive their no-movement clauses. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tarasenko trade prompts Blackhawks management to press Kane for a decision before then.
Pope speculated that Western Conference clubs like the Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights are still “theoretically logical fits for Kane”. However, he also thinks the Tarasenko return may have set the market for the Blackhawks star.
THE LATEST ON TIMO MEIER
TSN: Pierre LeBrun believes the Tarasenko trade could increase the chances of the San Jose Sharks trading winger Timo Meier before the trade deadline. If an extension is to be part of a trade, LeBrun believes this will have to be done a few days before March 3.
There’s also sufficient interest in Meier that the Sharks have a good idea of his value in the trade market. LeBrun said the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes remain very keen on the Sharks winger but there is interest from other clubs as well. He thinks a Meier trade will take place before March 3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Tarasenko trade will encourage clubs with an interest in Meier to move more quickly now. Sharks GM Mike Grier could be hoping for a bidding war as that’ll dive up the potential return.
The Devils have the depth in promising young assets to tempt the Sharks. The Hurricanes have sufficient trade deadline cap space to take his entire cap hit off the Sharks’ books for the remainder of this season.
RED WINGS GETTING CALLS ABOUT BERTUZZI
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Detroit Red Wings are getting calls on Tyler Bertuzzi. The 27-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He’s struggled through injuries this season but reached 30 goals last season. Dreger said Wings GM Steve Yzerman is weighing his options to decide if the Wings are better off trading Bertuzzi or signing him to an extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Bertuzzi’s going to be traded. Yzerman’s main focus seems to be on getting pending UFA center Dylan Larkin under contract.