6 Best Trades From NHL Teams During 2023 Offseason

The Hockey Writers

NHL training camps are getting underway this week, meaning a close to the 2023 offseason. There was plenty of money spent in free agency, but it was less active on the trade market. Still, a few teams did well to improve themselves through trades. Let’s review some of the best deals from the 2023 offseason. 

Reilly Smith to the Penguins

The first of several moves to begin Kyle Dubas’ tenure as Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations and general manager, he acquired Reilly Smith from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for just a third-round pick in the 2023 draft. 

Smith finished last season with 26 goals and 56 points in 78 games and will surely upgrade the Penguins’ scoring depth from a season ago. He’s as consistent as it comes for a second-line winger, as he’s averaged 25 goals and 52 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. He’s been an efficient five-on-five scorer, averaging 1.89 points per 60 minutes over that stretch, a rate you like to see from a second-line winger. 

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Smith has two years left on his deal at a cap hit of $5 million, a very fair price for what he offers. The Golden Knights would’ve liked to keep him in an ideal world, but their salary cap situation reached a point where they couldn’t anymore. That benefited the Penguins and allowed them to acquire him for just a third-round pick. A solid bit of business from Dubas in his first move with the Penguins. 

Anthony Duclair to the Sharks

Coming off an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers used this offseason to move some pieces around to improve their depth. One of those moves to create flexibility was trading Anthony Duclair to the San Jose Sharks for Steven Lorentz. 

Duclair missed most of the 2022-23 season recovering from an Achilles tendon tear he suffered training last summer. He did play in 20 games for the Panthers, totaling two goals and nine points during the regular season. But he came alive a bit during the Panthers’ playoff run, finishing with four goals and 11 points in 20 games. 

Anthony Duclair Florida Panthers
Anthony Duclair with the Florida Panthers (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

An Achilles tear is not an easy injury for any athlete to come back from, especially someone like Duclair, who relies on his speedy skating to play the way he does. The Sharks are betting that he’ll return to form now that he’s a year removed from the injury and will come into training camp fresh and healthy. 

If so, Duclair could be a valuable trade piece at the 2024 trade deadline. The Sharks are highly unlikely to be playoff contenders this coming season, so if it looks like he’s on pace to produce 25-30 goals as he did pre-injury, he could net Sharks GM Mike Grier a solid return. 

Duclair is entering the final year of his contract at a cap hit of $3 million, which should add to his value too. Considering the Sharks gave up nothing of note to acquire him, this move could help them net valuable assets as they embark on a full rebuild. 

Taylor Hall to the Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are not going to be a playoff team this season. But after drafting Connor Bedard first overall and acquiring Taylor Hall in a trade with the Boston Bruins, they should be an improved team, even if they’re still basement dwellers. 

Hall isn’t the player he was with the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils, the latter of where he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, but he’s still a very useful top-six winger. He finished this past season with 16 goals and 36 points in 61 games — a 22-goal, 48-point pace over 82 games. 

Twenty-two goals and 48 points are far from what we’re used to seeing from Hall, but when looking at his microstats from a season ago, he’s still a very effective playmaker and facilitator:

Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall’s microstats for the 2022-23 season

The Blackhawks brought in Hall to support Bedard, so it’s a good bet he becomes a mainstay on his line. It’s unlikely he will put up a point-per-game again, though you can never rule it out. But if he’s playing with Bedard regularly, returning to a 60-point pace isn’t unreasonable. 

The Blackhawks gave up nothing of value to acquire Hall because the Bruins were so tight to the cap. If he produces and supports Bedard, it’s a win. And that could turn into trade bait down the road (he has two years left on his deal at a cap hit of $6 million), which would be another win for the Blackhawks as they look to a new future with Bedard. 

Tyler Toffoli to the Devils

The Devils seem to do well for themselves on the trade market, and this offseason was no different. Looking for more scoring for an already potent offense, GM Tom Fitzgerald acquired Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in the 2023 draft. 

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Toffoli is coming off the best season of his career, totaling 34 goals and 73 points in 82 games. He’s likely to regress from that, but there’s still potential for him to put up close to 30 goals and 55-60 points with a Devils offense that features Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier. 

Toffoli is an efficient five-on-five scorer, but he’ll also help the Devils’ power play, which adds to his value. Even though Sharangovich can score 20-25 goals, Fitzgerald didn’t give up much to acquire Toffoli. It was another solid move that fit the team’s needs and will help them compete with the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division. 

Alex DeBrincat to the Red Wings

It was clear that Alex DeBrincat would be on the move at some point this summer when reports surfaced that contract negotiations between him and the Ottawa Senators weren’t going anywhere. Senators GM Pierre Dorion would end up trading him to the Detroit Red Wings, his hometown team, in exchange for Dominik Kubalik, a prospect, and a couple of draft picks. 

Alex DeBrincat Ottawa Senators
Alex DeBrincat with the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

You could argue the Senators botched the trade, but they didn’t have many options since DeBrincat wanted out. That benefited the Red Wings, as they received a winger capable of 30 goals and even 40, something DeBrincat has done a couple of times during his career. 

The Red Wings may not be the deepest team in the NHL, but DeBrincat will get to play with some of their high-end talent, like Dylan Larkin and perhaps Lucas Raymond. They needed scoring help on the wing, even after signing Daniel Sprong, and DeBrincat will bring that to the roster without the Red Wings having given up much to acquire him. 

Erik Karlsson to the Penguins

After weeks of speculation, Erik Karlsson finally ended up with the Penguins via a trade in early August. The cost was Mikael Granlund and Jan Rutta going to the Sharks and Casey DeSmith and Jeff Petry heading to the Montreal Canadiens to help the Penguins have the necessary cap space to fit in Karlsson’s $10 million cap hit; the Sharks retained $1.5 million of his cap hit. 

Karlsson is coming off the best season of his career, finishing with 101 points and capturing the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. It’s unlikely he will put up 100 points again, but 70-80 points is not unreasonable for someone who’s still one of the top offensive blueliners in the NHL. 

The caveat with Karlsson is that his defensive game has fallen off to the point where it’s almost non-existent. But pairing him up with someone like Marcus Pettersson should help cover up his defensive flaws. And even then, he’s so dynamic offensively that his defensive shortcomings are almost moot. 

The Penguins did give up some NHL talent in this trade, but no player comes close to having Karlsson’s value. Dubas also somehow freed up cap space, even though they took on Karlsson’s contract at a cap hit of $10 million. There’s no specific order to the trades listed in this article, but you could easily argue Karlsson was the best deal of the summer. 

Lack of Trades Could Prevent Playoff Race Shakeup

It was a relatively quiet summer on the trade market. But some of the projected playoff contenders, like the Penguins and Devils, only got better. Still, that lack of movement through trades means playoff races around the league could look similar to 2022-23, so it’ll be interesting to see how the standings unfold. 

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