NHL trade deadline: 5 impactful under-the-radar players still on the market
The 2023 NHL trade deadline was already one of the best in recent memory, led by an arms race in the East and a collection of already sold big names that would be enough to create a playoff-level team.
Given the quality and quantity of trades already made, you might wonder what else is left. These names are not so flashy, but there are a number of players who can help the teams. Here are five to keep an eye on.
Lars Eller: Washington Capitals
There are potentially many good, useful players to be poached from the Washington Capitals. While there are bigger names and better seasons, Lars Eller remains interesting for a number of reasons.
Marc Bergevin always said: “Some players turn you on, and some through [the playoffs]”. Eller was one of the players he referred to who helps you get through. He belongs to that rare category of players whose postseason productivity really increases. His 0.39 points per game in the regular season to 0.51 in the playoffs. He is having the least productive season of his career since his debut campaign, playing mostly with Anthony Manta and Markus Johansson (also traded). In fact, in calendar year 2023, he has one point in 22 games.
He also has the highest defensive start of his career and still plays over 15 minutes per game. There’s little gas left in the tank, and he’s playing in the premium position – Eller even wins a career-high 54.6 percent of faceoffs. He has been the center of play driving for nearly his entire career. You can never get too deep in the middle, and the prospect of adding a player with legitimate playoff pedigree who has consistently shown he can improve his game should be enticing for any team.
John Klingberg: Anaheim Ducks
It’s been a nightmare season for John Klingberg. Replaying in free agency, he signed a one-year contract with the young but experienced Ducks. The message was clear: he would have every opportunity to rebuild the team and be surrounded by experienced players where he could score points and turn that into a lucrative contract offer sometime in 2023.
Instead, Klingberg is on pace with all-time lows in points per game, time on ice and shot share. He is also close to the worst in PDO’s career.
This is where it gets interesting. Anaheim is one of the worst teams in the league. Maybe V worst. He is having the worst season of his career and is under UFA review again. Players are always interested in getting paid, but in this situation, you have a player who really needs to prove something, and he will come motivated and inspired just by leaving Anaheim.
Like Chicago’s Patrick Kane, he’s trying to show it off by picking up a scoring record lately with nine points in his last nine games. He has not forgotten how to suddenly play the majority and knows how to shoot pucks (eight goals at the moment is his highest result since the 2018/19 season). If you need some point offense, especially a power play quarterback, you can get some value here.
Jordan Greenaway: Minnesota Wild
Jordan Greenaway is potentially a very interesting name. He is a massive player at 6ft 6in and weighs 231lbs. Only 10 forwards in the league are that tall and only one is taller. Greenaway is also only 26 years old. So why is it available at all? He has six points in 43 games and signed for two more seasons at $3 million each.
The production never worked out for Greenway. He scored 12 goals as a rookie and hasn’t reached that mark since, although technically he did score at a slightly higher rate last season in fewer games. Greenway is playing in a controlling, tough match alongside Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno and that cannot be discounted. They have a lot of responsibility for defense and that’s what they’re focused on. Foligno has just 15 points and 11 of Eriksson Ek’s 21 goals came on the powerplay.
It’s fair to wonder how much Greenaway’s performance can jump into a role with more offensive capabilities. In the COVID bubble season, he had a career-best 0.57 points per game, so he shone early.
When he gets the puck low, you can’t take it away from him. Watch Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Lilliegren bounce the ball in the video below. Greenway can create space with the puck and keep it in the offensive zone for long periods of time. He occupies a place in the defensive zone and is strong enough to win battles. There is a useful player here.
Carson Soucie: Seattle Cracken
On the subject of a large and useful Carson Soucy. The 6’5″ guard can do a little bit of everything and would be a welcome addition to any blue line. It is especially useful that he has experience playing on both the left and right sides. He even scored a record 10 goals last season.
The Kraken covers him up so he looks more like a third pair defender, playing only 16:16 per game. He is at the peak of his career in starts in the offensive zone, and he is far from their closing, the doubles match. There is some jam in his game and the Kraken has occasionally used it to close out competitions. He is the second penalty in Seattle.
Sushi offers depth. He’s not going to move the needle for anyone, but the old adage “you’ll never have enough defenders” is especially true in the playoffs. Having a big blueliner at your disposal who has at least some puck control, can play either side, and has the ability to score penalties.
Mikael Granlund: Nashville Predators
Mikael Granlund is the best player on this list and he can be a bit of a needle. He is a player who can actively produce, lift the line and play at the top of the playoff roster. He also scored 32 points in 59 playoff games.
He is a pass-first winger who can also play in the center if needed and can really do a little bit of everything. He is the best player on the powerplay, he is a minor penalty killer, and second among all Predators forwards in equal amount of time on the ice per game. Granlund had the second highest scoring season of his career last year but returned to reality in 2022-23. What will intrigue teams is its speed and versatility.
Watch how he breaks the ice right here and hammers the net leading to an easy goal. It flies right in the middle.
Speed is still there and having players along with the talent to back off defenders and create offense is a weapon.
Granlund signed for two more seasons for $5 million a man, which is fair market value for a 31-year-old, although not necessarily acceptable for most applicants who would like to add. If the buyer can talk someone (Nashville or anyone else) into keeping, then potentially three rounds of the playoffs could be of great value. This is a player who can be moved around the squad and asked to do a little bit of everything.