The NHL trade deadline is an opportunity for Stanley Cup contenders to load up and fill their roster needs. It’s also a chance for rebuilding franchises to acquire prospects and picks.
Every year, between the buyers and sellers, however, are a group of players looking for a fresh start, and teams looking to salvage a return from the players they’ve invested in who have not worked out.
Perhaps no young player in the NHL fits this unique combination better than Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina.
Zadina was originally thought of as a top three pick in 2018. A unique pure goal scorer to become a cornerstone of any team. When he slipped to the Detroit Red Wings at 6th overall, many were shocked, including Zadina himself, who pledged to make the teams who passed on him pay.
“If they will pass on me, I’m going to fill their nets with pucks,” he said at the time.
Unfortunately for Zadina and the Red Wings, that has yet to happen.
In his third NHL season, Zadina is only 22-years-old and shows offensive flare, which is why it might be time for Steve Yzerman to shop the young player before his value falls farther. This season, Zadina has remained quiet on a Red Wings roster featuring budding stars Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider who came in and stole the show immediately.
If Zadina goes another NHL season without scoring 20 goals, his value will be gone. Before that happens, he could be a key trade piece for the Red Wings who are only a few moves away from contending for the playoffs next season.
Staying in the Eastern Conference, another player who fits this category is Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny. After three consecutive 24-goal seasons, Konecny fell out of favor in Philadelphia last season, and again this year. He’s been a healthy scratch, and without a miracle, will come nowhere near to the 20-goal mark.
Konecny was another first-round pick, and thrived for some time, but is in desperate need of a new home. There are plenty of teams who would welcome a top-six talent in the prime of his career, but Philadelphia, similar to Detroit, needs to act before his value drops. Depending on how the Claude Giroux saga plays out, Konecny could be packaged in a blockbuster or could find a renewed opportunity.
Signed through 2024-2025 at a $5.5 million cap hit, Konecny could turn into a bargain, but his role in Philadelphia has changed.
In Florida, Owen Tippett sits in a similar position to Zadina. Too good for the AHL, Tippett has not been able to steal a spot among the Panthers’ talented forward corps. Florida could use Tippett as the carrot to secure the final piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle. They are definitely in a win-now situation, and Tippett at 23, the former 10th overall pick has many years left to help a rebuilding team in a central role.
Whether they stay or go, the clock is ticking on these three young players as they sit precariously between stardom and bust before the March 21 deadline.