What makes the first quarter of the NHL Regular Season so fun is the sheer level of chaos on a day-by-day basis. With a timely win here or an unfortunate losing streak there, fan bases can completely flip on the narrative of the previous week. A player performing well will draw point projections in the hundreds, a team struggling will begin to have ever-so-premature speculation of a rebuild start to follow it everywhere it goes, and whichever Coach finds their team in an early spiral will see the term “Hot Seat” popping up every time they encounter sports media local to their organization.
Every team could use something to either improve on success, fill injury holes to maintain their performance, or to get them back on track. Let’s look at what each team in the Pacific Division might be looking for on the trade market to make their general manager’s life a little more peaceful at night.
Record: 9-12-0, 18 pts
Current Cap Space: $9,717,132
Much like the Flames, early season comebacks were a hot topic in Anaheim. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the two teams led the league with four wins a piece when trailing after two periods.
The unfortunate truth that follows said topic is that you need to be down by a goal or two to meet the requirements of a comeback win. Anaheim has trailed heading into the third period 15 times this season (T-1 with Calgary) and has lost 11 of those games.
The Ducks need to find another reliable defensive defenseman to help settle things down in their own end. Adding Radko Gudas during the off season was a start, but their lack of depth on the back end has started to show. Rookie Jackson Lacombe, 22, is a –16 in 20 games and could use an AHL stint to reset things. Cam Fowler is a sublime puck-mover in his own right but is getting overwhelmed with the minutes he’s playing. The 31-year-old has been outscored 9-21 this season at 5v5.
The smart move might be to eat the losses, take the high draft position and pursue a UFA during the off season. With that said, the rest of this season still carries invaluable development time for their young core. Pursuing a veteran with term such as Columbus’ Erik Gudbranson ($4,000,000 AAV until July 2026) would be a shrewd move by General Manager Pat Verbeek.
Record: 9-10-3, 21 pts
Current Cap Space: $2,286,667
Looming ahead in Calgary’s future is that four out of six of their roster defensemen are pegged to be unrestricted free agents this off season. Management must decide on whether they’ll keep their group intact past the deadline or if they want to recoup value out of departing assets.
Accepting that Conroy doesn’t want to lose out on retaining such a great deal of asset value, the Flames should be pursuing younger NHL players with RFA control. 2019 10th overall pick Vasili Podkolzin would be a solid return if Calgary were to send one of their pending UFA defensemen to Vancouver. The 22-year-old Russian has five goals and four assists over ten games with the AHL Abbotsford Canucks this season. Podkolzin is a bulldozing left-shot right winger that could slot into the Flames lineup sooner rather than later.
Dallas’ Thomas Harley, 22, would be a blue line asset to go after that would mitigate the potential 2024 off season exodus. The 18th overall pick in 2018 has three goals and five points in 16 games this season while playing on the Stars third pairing.
Record: 7-12-1, 15 pts
Current Cap Space: $150,000
Edmonton’s trade needs are well-publicized at this point. Defending. With Mattias Ekholm struggling with a hip issue through the first quarter, the group needs another veteran defenseman or two to help right the ship.
Unfortunately for GM Ken Holland, the Oilers already have five defensemen carrying a cap hit of $2,750,000 or more. All five are also signed until at least the end of the 2024-2025 season. The Oilers would need to add value to one of said contracts to shoot for an upgrade. Taping draft capital to, say, Cody Ceci ($3,250,000 cap hit until July 2025) might get Edmonton into the conversation for a defenseman such as Dylan DeMelo from the Jets. The 30-year-old carries a cap hit of $3,000,000 until the end of the season. Throwing Winnipeg a 2024 second round pick and a 2025 third round pick might buy their way out of an extra year of Ceci’s cap hit as well as iron out some poor defensive habits.
Record: 13-3-3, 19 pts
Current Cap Space: $1,880,833
There aren’t many complaints coming out of LA lately – at least in terms of hockey. A 1st place offence (4.00 goals per game) and second place defense (2.37 goals against per game), a great record, and young core that is mostly locked up for the next few years.
One thing that GM Rob Blake could go after is a bit of goalie insurance.
33-year-old Cam Talbot is having a career season. It doesn’t get much better than going 10-3-1 and posting a .931 save percentage through the first quarter. Oh, and Cam is set for a UFA payday at season’s end. LA’s backup, Pheonix Copley, who hails from North Pole, Alaska, has a less impressive .868 save percentage, but is yet to lose in regulation with a 3-0-2 record.
Both net minders are over the age of 30 and showing some tread on their tires, bringing in Samuel Montembeault from Montreal could pay off as the group plays into the first round of the playoffs and beyond. The 27-year-old is 4-3-1 on the season and has a .908 save percentage over 533:16 of ice time.
Record: 5-15-2, 12 pts
Current Cap Space: $2,019,588
The Sharks turned a corner on Nov. 7 after a dismal start and are now 5-5-1 in their last 11 games. Despite the sudden fortune, there is just too much dead weight departing at the end of the season to peg this group any higher than “Basement Dweller”.
The Sharks are best off dealing what veterans they can find interest in for draft capital and prospects. Kevin Labanc, Mike Hoffman and Anthony Duclair are all likely heading towards greener pastures after 2023-24. If the team were to look at swinging something big, acquiring an extended Noah Hanifin would help them move forward in a positive direction. The return would likely be comparable to Jakob Chychrun return: a conditional first-round draft pick in 2023, a conditional second-round pick in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2026.
Record: 8-9-5, 21 pts
Current Cap Space: $2,740,780
It’s been an underwhelming start for the organization who surprised the hockey world last postseason by beating the reigning Stanley Cup Champion, Colorado Avalanche in seven, then following that with a seven-game round two loss to the Dallas stars.
This season’s Kraken has had issues holding leads. Seattle is currently tied with Pittsburgh for first place in losses after starting the second period with a lead (4). They also lead the lead the league in overtime losses when leading after 40 minutes.
Much like Anaheim, Seattle needs another calming, defensive presence on the ice. If Calgary were to decide to trade Chris Tanev before the deadline – Seattle would likely step up as a bidder. They have the cap room to accommodate his prorated cap hit of $960,909 on March 8, 2024.
Record: 14-7-1, 29 pts
Current Cap Space: $1,581,250
Vancouver has had zero issues putting the puck in the net. Their 4.00 goals per game ties them with the Kings for tops in the NHL. Their defense isn’t too shabby (2.55 goals against per game) either, but certainly could be optimized. Leaning too hard on the pairing of Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek could backfire down the stretch drive and into the playoffs. Tyler Myers’ $6,000,000 cap hit for the remainder of the season could be shipped with other assets for a defenseman with more proficiency at keeping the puck out of the net.
Sources say that Vancouver and Calgary have been in talks regarding both Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev. Either would fit right in with Head Coach Rick Tochett’s system.
Record: 14-5-3, 31 pts
Current Cap Space: $62,516
The Golden Knights have had issues in November and it’s beginning to affect their record. A 26th place offence (2.67 goals per game) in 12 games is the primary culprit when assessing their 5-5-1 record on the month.
Should they make a trade to address the problem? Probably not. The Golden Knights have a proven method of success and have stayed calm through cold streaks in the past. One area they could insulate is their blue line, which is constantly shuffling due to injury. Even then, the Golden Knights would need to either use LTIR space or go dollar-for-dollar to capacitate an acquisition.