The 2021 NHL Trade Deadline is coming up on April 12, but like the season itself, it won't be anything like trade deadlines we've seen in the past.
One overlying complication is the quarantine period among traded players. In most situations, players must quarantine for at least seven days after arriving with their new team (though this can be avoided).
Complicating things even further, if the trade involves a Canadian team acquiring a player from a U.S. team, Canadian rules require a two-week quarantine period, further limiting the usefulness of an acquired asset in a trade. Especially for trade predictions regarding potential unrestricted free agents (UFA's).
What is the NHL Trade Deadline?
The NHL Trade Deadline is a set date for teams to complete any trade deals, whether on the buyer's or seller's side. Completing the trade before the deadline is a requirement for player playoff eligibility, meaning that any players acquired after the deadline would be ineligible for postseason play in that season.
To work around the trade deadline of April 12th, while factoring in the new complication of quarantine periods, teams may allow more time in advance before the deadline to maximize a potential return on a trade to avoid any issues.
Furthermore, with the NHL expansion draft following the season, teams may be looking to move or acquire players to better position themselves for the draft. Every team except the Vegas Golden Knights has the option of protecting either seven skaters, three defensemen, and one goaltender OR eight skaters and one goaltender (Vegas is exempt from the expansion draft, having joined the league in 2017).
Teams also must expose at least one forward, two defensemen, and one goaltender, with specific contract and NHL experience requirements for those players.
Keeping that in mind, here's what I'm expecting heading into the trade deadline.
NHL Trade Predictions
Islanders Will be Buyers
The Islanders got heartbreaking news Wednesday when captain Anders Lee was put on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) after tearing his ACL. However, the grey cloud comes with a silver lining.
By moving Lee to LTIR, the Islanders can exceed the salary cap by up to Lee's $7 million contract's total value. Lee is the team leader in goals (12) and second in points (19), and with New York tied for first in a loaded East Division, I expected the Islanders to make a move to bring in a scoring winger.
Possibilities include Nashville's Filip Forsberg (10 goals, 17 assists, $6 million cap hit over next two seasons), New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri (four goals, eight assists, $4.65 million cap hit, a free agent in offseason), and Columbus' Max Domi (five goals, six assists, $5.3 million cap hit over next two seasons) are all viable targets.
Buffalo's Taylor Hall, another pending UFA, could be in the mix here as well, but the Islanders would need to send back a player to have the Sabres retain salary to make the money work out.
Jack Eichel Staying Put with the Sabres
Two weeks ago, a Jack Eichel trade deadline deal seemed imminent. Eichel was scratched after skating during pre-game warmups and did not appear to be hurt. He played four more games after that, but he is now hurt with an upper-body injury that will keep him out "for the foreseeable future."
While the injury isn't expected to be season-ending, the Sabres will miss the tenth straight season's playoffs, shy of a miracle. They lost their 12th consecutive game Tuesday and are currently 18 points out of a playoff spot.
With the complications around his injury, the looming expansion draft, and COVID-19 complications, it's hard to see a way for Eichel to be moved at or before the trade deadline.
While it's not impossible, it seems incredibly unlikely at this point. However, I think there's an excellent chance he is moved after the expansion draft, perhaps ahead of or at the NHL draft.
New Jersey Devils on the Move
The Devils are a team on the rise. They've made the playoffs once since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and have a young core of players to build around in Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Mackenzie Blackwood, Ty Smith, and more. This team is gearing up for a possible Stanley Cup run.
However, they're only six points ahead of Buffalo in the East and falling further behind. They've landed two No. 1 overall draft picks through the lottery in the last four years, but they're at least another year or two away from being playoff contenders.
Entering the trade deadline, the Devils have a projected $9.3 million in cap room and have 45 players under contract (limit is 50), according to CapFriendly. I think the Devils will take on a bad contract or two in exchange for extra draft capital, allowing other teams who are in contention to free up room for other signings.
I could also see Palmieri, Ryan Murray, or Sami Vatanen available as rental pieces to a contender, as all are on expiring contracts.
Who Will Most Likely Win the 2020 Stanley Cup?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently the odds on favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The Lightning is well situated to repeat as they have been playing well recently and are currently leading the Central Division while also having incredible roster depth and talent.
These factors combined with their playoff experience bode well for the Lightning as they try to repeat. Naturally, anything can happen throughout the season, but the team looks solid and focused on their goal to repeat and secure a third franchise championship.
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For all the reasons listed earlier, I think there will be fewer moves made at the trade deadline this season. While there should still be a few teams making moves to compete, the free-agent market is less lucrative this year, through no players' fault.
Some trusted betting sites may offer a bet on how many deals are made and how many players are traded on April 12. For my money, wherever they set the line, take the under.