Which NHL players are falling out of favor with their teams?
The signs aren’t hard to pick up on if you pay close attention. Players in this category often go through a significant dip in their offensive production, ice time, role or overall impact. They might get demoted down the lineup or even see an occasional healthy scratch. These situations don’t always result in a move, but if a team’s been patient for a while or if the contract’s sizeable, clubs will explore their exit options.
The super obvious cases like Jesse Puljujarvi, Matt Dumba, or Brock Boeser are well documented — we’ll skip over anyone on The Athletic’s trade deadline board for our purposes. We’ll also ignore players who’ve already landed on waivers this season, which includes Jakub Vrana, Cal Petersen, Mike Reilly, Nikita Zaitsev and Craig Smith among others. There’s also no point talking about anchor contracts where the disastrous fit is obvious and has been well-known for a long time, such as that of Marc Edouard Vlasic — we’re instead focusing on scenarios that are actively developing or changing in a meaningful way this season.
Oh, and it’s probably too early to include Alexis Lafrenière on this list despite all the buzz around his name. He’s still only 21 and colleague Pierre LeBrun reported on Insider Trading that the Rangers aren’t ready to move on from him yet.
There are still a lot of intriguing situations. Most of these players probably won’t be moved by the March 3 trade deadline — most of these contracts will be more realistic to shop in the offseason and some of them might not be tradable at all — but a lot of them could end up on new rosters by the start of next season.
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals
On Wednesday, Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. He was pulled out of the lineup because Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom were finally healthy enough to make their season debuts. The decision was curious but the writing was on the wall for a while — Mantha averaged less than 13 minutes per game in his last eight games and was demoted to the fourth line while playing a season-low 9:48 in his last game on Jan 6.
Mantha’s scored 23 points in 42 games, which isn’t shabby considering most of the production is at even strength and because he’s mostly played with Lars Eller, who’s limited offensively. But Mantha’s been frustratingly inconsistent, rarely takes advantage of his imposing size and flat-out doesn’t have the coaching staff’s trust right now. That’s a big problem considering he’s the club’s sixth-highest paid player, making $5.7 million through next season.
Who knows what the Capitals will consider next — if they’ll just hang on to him or consider a change of scenery trade — but in any case, the fit isn’t right and the situation is only worsening.
Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers
Kevin Hayes isn’t flaming out quite as dramatically as some of the other players on this list are: He’s been dynamite offensively, with 36 points in 41 games. Hayes’ all-around game has been lacking though, with some of the worst adjusted two-way numbers in the league, and head coach John Tortorella doesn’t seem to be a fan of that based on the benchings and lone healthy scratch. The relationship between Torts and Hayes doesn’t seem great.
Since the Flyers are best off pursuing a rebuild anyway, it makes sense for them to consider moving on from Hayes before next season.
The 30-year-old playmaking center owns a $7.14 million cap hit for the next three seasons after this one so any potential trade would probably have to go down in the summer, with Philadelphia retaining salary. This will be a complicated situation to resolve as Hayes also has some control with a limited no-trade clause that allows him to submit a 12-team no-trade list.