The 2021-22 NHL season is now a month old and yet there is still a long way off till the March 21st trade deadline. There are some unrestricted free agent defensemen who may find themselves in different locations by or before then.
These UFA’s are enticing to NHL teams for a variety of reasons. Fit and cap hit are just two of the main ones. Quite a few trades will be just for picks. Some trades should happen but may not for a variety of reasons.
The clock is ticking as the next four months or so and will speed by faster than anyone expects. Let’s take a look at which names may be on our list.
Eastern Conference UFA Defensemen Trade Deadline Targets
P.K. Subban — New Jersey Devils
Cue the inevitable trade talk as P.K. Subban quietly is putting up some decent numbers this season. Subban has seven points on the season, with 26 shots in 14 games. The blueliner is playing nearly three minutes less a night for New Jersey. It is too soon to speculate as to which teams may be interested.
Teams will want New Jersey to retain close to half that deal ($9 million AAV). That should not be an issue for the Devils. Again, it is about which teams are willing to take on Subban. His physical nature aside, Subban can still generate a little offense. The real question involving the Devils might be, does Damon Severson hit the market?
Mark Pysyk — Buffalo Sabres
Could Mark Pysyk be a name to watch come March 21st? Absolutely. The Buffalo Sabres’ defenseman is performing admirably for the Sabres despite a 34% offensive-zone utilization rate. That means he sees a ton of defensive zone ice time. Teams like that.
Pysyk comes in at under $1 million AAV as well. That makes any move rather palpable and easy to make. He can be dealt at any time leading up to the deadline for a team in need. Teams can always use a second or third-pairing defenseman.
Keith Yandle — Philadelphia Flyers
Some pundits thought that the Keith Yandle signing just was not worth it for Philadelphia. The argument can be made that the defender in his mid 30’s still carries value. Again, his AAV is under $1 million. If Philadelphia is not opposed, he could be flipped for a pick of prospect.
While a trade to a division rival is unlikely, there are a few other teams in the East that could use his services. Even a few teams out West would at the least kick the tires on trading for Yandle. He can still skate and Yandle can still contribute to a power play.
Nick Leddy — Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman gets paid a hefty salary ($5.5 million). Detroit can just retain salary for any kind of deal to happen with him or even for fellow defenseman Danny DeKeyser. He does have some offensive upside still. Leddy has six assists in 17 games.
Leddy will get some looks on name recognition alone. Teams will eventually line up for the Detroit blueline. However, it may take some convincing on Steve Yzerman’s end to facilitate some kind of move.
Nick Holden– Ottawa Senators
There is little doubt that Nick Holden will be somewhere else come the Trade Deadline. It is a case where Holden is being used as a bottom-pairing insurance policy on defense.
Holden will likely get dealt as close to the deadline as possible to maximize cap space for wherever he goes. The 34-year-old blueliner could get Ottawa a mid or probably late-round pick. Finally, the team that deals for him will get a nice, complimentary piece that can play 17-18 effective minutes a night.
Some final thoughts on other Eastern Conference UFA Defensemen
This is going to be a bit of a chaotic deadline with a soft date right before the Olympics. Now, will there be an Olympics? That’s an even greater question. With that in some jeopardy, teams are going to spend more time gauging the market. It is going to be a wild ride.
Next up will be the Western Conference UFA forwards and probably some players many may expect.