Early on, 2022 NHL Trade Deadline marked by big mistakes

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Mistakes — boneheaded or not — are woven into the fabric of any NHL trade deadline, and while it’s early, the 2022 version already features a classic overpay. With days remaining before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline expires, big trades can still drop, and we may be in for tide-turning surprises.

Yet, so far, it’s striking that some of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline’s biggest mistakes involved not buying or selling at all.

In the end, these mistakes might hurt more than wasting a first-round pick on a crummy rental.

Flyers sink more costs into Ristolainen with ill-advised extension

Instead of embracing the obvious need to rebuild, the Flyers decided to “aggressively re-tool.”

If that shaky plan wasn’t bad enough, the Flyers are banking on Chuck Fletcher showing that he’s learned from his mistakes as an NHL GM. Not promising. (When you’re a GM for as long as he’s been and have rarely enjoyed much success … yes, you have plenty of mistakes to choose from.)

Handing Rasmus Ristolainen a comically bad contract extension burns through just about any remaining benefit of the doubt. It’s difficult to shake uncomfortable comparisons between Ristolainen and Tyler Myers, another big former Sabres defenseman who inspires foolish investment after foolish investment.

It’s one thing to look at certain public metrics at Evolving Hockey, Hockey Viz, Natural Stat Trick, etc. and be a bit skeptical. At some point, you’re evoking another meme in acting like that house isn’t on fire.

Ristolainen player card Evolving Hockey
via Evolving Hockey

For Chuck Fletcher, it probably would’ve stung to receive less than you gave up (a first-rounder and more) to trade away Ristolainen. Especially since Fletcher also bribed the Coyotes to take Shayne Gostisbehere, a defenseman carrying comparable value. (Depending upon who you ask, of course.)

Instead of holding his nose and doing the smarter thing, Fletcher sunk more costs into Ristolainen. Brutal.

Going forward, Flyers fans should hope for the best for the rest of Fletcher’s 2022 NHL Trade Deadline moves. Painful or not, trading Claude Giroux should bring in some great assets. And then … maybe avoid selling low on quality players in their primes? Just a thought.

Hertl’s eight-year, $65.1M contract extension makes sense, just not with the Sharks

Whether it’s at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline or with contract extensions, context is key.

Like others, I’ve viewed Tomáš Hertl as an underrated player for some time. And not just because of how, uh, excited he made Joe Thornton. Being that Hertl is already 28, there’s the typical concern about the aging curve. Yet he could easily be worth more than $8.1M-ish early on.

In other words, Hertl breaks from a Ristolainen comparison by at least being undeniably good, right now. The contract makes sense in a vacuum.

Shine a light on the Sharks’ situation for even a second, though, and the decision isn’t easy to defend. (And the Sharks know all about struggling to defend.)

[PHT’s Adam Gretz goes deep on the Sharks’ questionable plan]

Despite quite a few things going right — including Tomáš Hertl enjoying puck luck that sometimes eludes him — the Sharks are set to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They’re missing by quite a bit in a West that’s weak at the bottom, too. Not very promising.

If the Sharks acknowledged their need to rebuild, they could have traded Hertl at a steep deadline price, as the market keeps getting shallower with extensions and other non-moves.

Instead, they invested in a clearly sinking ship. At least Hertl can play some beautiful music after the next iceberg collision.

Stars trade deadline more of a mixed bag with Klingberg, Pavelski (but also similar, too)

Call the Sharks (Hertl) and Flyers (Ristolainen) contract extensions “open-and-shut cases.” I have a lot more time for one player than the other, but both should’ve been traded at the deadline.

Fittingly, perhaps, as one of the NHL’s most puzzling teams, but the Dallas Stars’ situation is more complicated.

The beauty of short-term signings is that, if you’re wrong, you’re not shackled to your bad decision for too long. Truly, it’s absurd that Joe Pavelski is a legitimately outstanding two-way forward at 37. In his age range, the fall can often be drastic.

But considering how Pavelski’s formed one of the NHL’s best lines with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, it makes a lot of sense to simply hope he can approach his high level of play in 2022-23. And a manageable $5.5M price tag accounts for the possibility of slippage.

There’s also an argument to keep John Klingberg, especially with Miro Heiskanen sidelined.

In the grand scheme of things, the Dallas Stars must take a long look in the mirror. Projection models put the Stars in the 56% to 60% range to make the playoffs, so the postseason is no guarantee.

Also, would a playoff appearance but a quick exit really be worth watching John Klingberg leave for little-to-nothing?

History repeating?

The Stars have both a distant and recent history of being timid to trade players at the deadline. Last year, they kept Jamie Oleksiak, strangely added Sami Vatanen, and missed the playoffs. Then the Stars lost Oleksiak anyway.

Way back in 2011, the Stars decided not to trade Brad Richards. They missed the playoffs, and Richards left for nothing.

Would it really be worth it to the Stars to keep Klingberg, knowing that they could miss the playoffs, or get booted easily? (Honestly, as reasonable as the Pavelski extension is, there’s an argument for trading both Stars players.)

Perhaps there’d be room for the Stars to trade John Klingberg, yet make the playoffs anyway. The Sharks pulled off a pretty impressive juggling act with Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe in 2013. There’s also the idea of trading Klingberg, then trading for defensive help elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s not an easy situation. If the Stars bungled this, they wouldn’t be alone in making shaky trade deadline decisions.

The Panthers make the traditional overpay for a trade dental rental

As the March 21 deadline approaches, we’re most likely to see the more standard temple for trades. That would be hungry contenders giving up too much for rentals/short-term fixes.

Is Ben Chiarot better than his numbers indicate? Perhaps. It could be crucial that the Panthers may deploy him in a role that masks certain weaknesses.

But it’s still difficult to stomach the first-round (and more) price.

At least the Panthers/Canadiens Ben Chiarot trade makes sense for both teams, though. Whether it succeeds in pushing the Panthers to the next level, and whether the Canadiens find a good prospect with that first-rounder, remains to be seen.

Stranger things have happened, but some of these other trade deadline moves already look questionable for the Sharks and especially the Flyers.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.