NHL trade rumors: Jack Eichel among five players who could be traded this season

The NHL’s 2021-22 season gets underway Tuesday but on Monday was when all the fun happened.

Rosters were due to the league by 5 p.m. ET as teams had to get down to 23 players. While Monday’s roster trimming doesn’t immediately impact the wheeling and dealing, per se, it does provide useful hints as to how teams are approaching systems, styles, personnel and overall roster functionality.

Between now and the trade deadline on March 21, the buyers and sellers will emerge and a number of players will be donning new jerseys.

MORE: Watch the 2021-22 NHL season on ESPN+

Sporting News doesn’t own a crystal ball. But the rumor mill never stops and so we scanned the league top to bottom in search of five prime candidates who could be packing their bags and shipping off to a new zip code between now and 3 p.m. ET on March 21. 

Five players who could be traded in 2021-22

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Jack Eichel, C, Sabres

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Maybe one day, when we’re all old and gray, this will have been figured out. A quick synopsis: Eichel needs surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and he and the Sabres cannot agree on the type of surgery. For reference, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the team has the final say. 

The rumor mill has been churning endlessly on the now ex-captain’s tenure in Western New York. Even before he got hurt in March, there were rumblings and grumblings that he was on his way out. The former No. 2 overall pick reportedly asked out in the offseason but there are a few wrinkles. A major hurdle is that he comes with a hefty cap hit (five years left at $10 million AAV), and now, he needs surgery that could keep him out for weeks (the procedure he wants) to months (the procedure the Sabres want).

Injury aside, 24-year-old Hart Trophy candidates don’t grow on trees and the market for his services would surely be robust. A few teams that could be in the mix include the Flames (maybe a swap for another player on this list?), Ducks and Blue Jackets. One team that has long been rumored is the Rangers; however, they may be out now after giving Mika Zibanejad an eight-year extension at $8.5 million AAV.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Flames

Johnny Hockey is another skater whose name has crossed the trade rumor list for a long time. Between the last two offseasons alone, there was big-time speculation he’d be sent south of the border. Now the time may be nigh for GM Brad Treliving to make a move; the New Jersey-born product is in the final year of his six-year, $40.5 million deal.

The Flames have a number of players in search of new deals over the ’22 summer including Gaudreau (unrestricted free agent), Matthew Tkachuk (restricted free agent), Andrew Mangiapane (RFA) and a bunch of minor leaguers who are expected to sport the “Flaming C” in the next few seasons.

Despite some downturn in his play, Gaudreau is a pretty solid trade chip (494 points in 520 career games). If the Flames are out of the playoff picture come the trade deadline expect the 28-year-old to be sent out of Cowtown. Where he could go is anyone’s guess but he does have a modified no-trade clause this season. One team surely on his trade list: his hometown Flyers.

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Mark Giordano, D, Kraken

After 15 years in Calgary, Giordano was left exposed and then selected by the Kraken in the July expansion draft. Unsurprisingly, he was named the first-ever captain in Seattle’s history on Oct. 11.

During the 2021 season, the blueliner was one of the top players for a struggling Flames squad and the inaugural winner of the franchise’s Clayton H. Riddell Award (given to the best defenseman). One of eight players who played at least 25 games and had a positive plus-minus (+5), he was third on the team in shots (142) and had a 51.9 Corsi For percentage. So why is he on this list? 

So you’re probably wondering: why on earth would the Kraken trade their captain? Like his Gaudreau, Giordano is in the final year of his contract (also has a modified no-trade clause) so he could be one-and-done in the Pacific Northwest. If the Kraken are out of the playoffs — and who can really, truly gauge what will happen for a brand-spanking-new franchise right now — he could be a prime trade target for a team looking to solidify their blue line for a run at the Stanley Cup.

Tomas Hertl, C, Sharks

The Sharks are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL in 2021-22 and Hertl is in the final year of his contract. At just 27 (he turns 28 in November), he’s a skilled forward who notched 43 points in 50 games in 2021 but has also dealt with knee injuries in the last few years. 

Right now Hertl is at a $5.625 million AAV. He said last week that while his agent and Sharks GM Doug Wilson have spoken they haven’t discussed terms. Translation: Hertl’s staying put in the Bay Area is far from certain. Another potential deadline target, Hertl would be a marque pick-up in March.

SN PREDICTIONS: Stanley Cup | Calder | Vezina | Norris | Hart 

Joonas Korpisalo, G, Blue Jackets

Another pending unrestricted free agent, Korpisalo could be the odd-man-out in Columbus as the Blue Jackets just signed their other netminder, Elvis Merzlikins, to a five-year, $27 million extension. 

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“That was super, because I had no idea about that,” said Korpisalo, per Brian Hedger of The Columbus Dispatch. “It’s business. But frankly, I don’t give a (expletive) what happened. I’m still going to do me. It’s still the same team, same guys. It’s good to be here and I’m going to push with everything I can. It’s not going to change anything for me.”

Korpisalo and Merzlinkins will via for time between the pipes but it looks like they expect the latter masked man to shoulder the heavier workload. Goaltending is always a hot commodity down the stretch and there could be a number of teams needing an upgrade in that department — looking at you, Oilers GM Ken Holland! The 27-year-old comes with a somewhat workable cap hit of $2.8 million.

Buckle up because once the puck drops, the rumors will only heat up.

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