NHL trade bait lists are popping up everywhere as the NHL season nears the halfway points, maybe sometime next month. Hopefully, sometime next month. There are quite a few exciting names still lurking on the 2022 UFA board, including several quality centers capable of scoring roles. First or second-line centers typically command exorbitant prices on the trade market, but maybe teams find a bargain this season because there will be several on the free-agent market.
The top five players on the NHL trade market include high-profile wingers and a Pittsburgh Penguins winger. While I initially disagreed with Daily Faceoff and Frank Seravalli, the emergence of Evan Rodrigues and an expiring contract makes Bryan Rust one of the top players featured on the trade boards.
Without further delay, it’s time to unwrap the presents…
Top 5 NHL Trade Bait Players
5. Jake DeBrusk
The potential power forward has vanished from the Boston Bruins’ future portrait. After a breakout in the 2019 Stanley Cup run, he’s regressed to a perimeter player. Injuries and illness have created opportunities for DeBrusk to remain in the lineup despite occupying space in head coach Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse.
DeBrusk asked out of Boston, but according to our colleagues at Boston Hockey Now, the Bruins trade ask is “equal value” in return. In 25 games, DeBrusk only has eight points (5-3-8), but his potential to return to an impact player in a different situation is compelling.
4. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
The former 27-goal scorer popped over 20 for a second consecutive season last year. This year has been a nightmare with a pair of lower-body injuries limiting him to just 12 games. The gritty top-line winger has essentially worked his way up from the mailroom to the top floor corner office. He was a light scoring fourth liner during the Penguins Stanley Cup runs (but had a statistical anomaly of scoring series-clinching goals).
However, Rust’s four-year, $14 million contract expires in July, and the two sides have not found common ground. A 20-goal player with Rust’s all-around game and speed can ask for six years and $36 million, though the team doesn’t have to give it.
The Penguins need to clear cap space to have a full 23-player roster when Evgeni Malkin returns, perhaps in January. Rust should be back by then, too.
A rental of Rust’s quality can easily fetch a second-round pick, most likely multiple picks, or a first-rounder.
3. Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
A leader, a top-pairing defenseman, and an expiring contract on a non-playoff team. Giordano was the rare established NHL player on the Seattle roster. He’ll play his 1000th game later this season and adds a pinch of offense to go with top-flight defense.
Defensemen usually command a couple of picks, perhaps a second, third, or fourth. A Norris winner like Giordano may also require a prospect in the package with a high pick. Seattle GM Ron Francis has not yet made a splash on the NHL trade market, but Giordano could be the first.
2. Claude Giroux
The Philadelphia Flyers suddenly, and again, more sideways than Tomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti. Giroux is now in his mid-30’s and Philadelphia doesn’t have the past success and history pushing them to keep Giroux. Friend of PHN, Sam Carchidi, opined in the Philadelphia Inquirer that it’s time to part ways.
Giroux could be the big get on the rental market. His $8.275 million cap hit will require the Flyers to be creative, but Giroux has 25 points (11-14-25) in 29 games. His eight-year contract expires in the summer.
The Flyers are 10 points back of the Penguins for the top wild-card spot and four points behind Detroit for the second. Giroux could be prime rib on the NHL trade buffet if Philadelphia fell further back.
1. Tomas Hertl
The San Jose Sharks are falling out of the playoff picture. Tomas Hertl is in the prime of his career but is unsigned for next season. Hello, king’s ransom. San Jose would undoubtedly like to keep Hertl, but things have gone sour in San Jose since they tried the two-headed monster blue line with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. The Evander Kane situation also hangs over the franchise.
Hertl could easily fetch a top prospect and a top pick. That’s a lot to decline for a non-playoff team. In the wild card race, the Sharks are five points back of Edmonton and Colorado–two good teams. The playoffs don’t appear to be on the table, so what does San Jose do now? They can’t afford to lose a top center like Hertl for nothing, and they don’t need a rental.