The NHL Trade Deadline is less than a week away, and there have already been a couple of moves made involving defenseman this week. The Arizona Coyotes traded Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames for a 2017 3rd round pick and a conditional 2018 5th rounder while the Carolina Hurricanes sent Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins for minor leaguer Danny Kristo and a 2017 2nd round selection. While neither move is seen as one that will make or break a team’s fortunes, both provide excellent defensive depth, especially in Pittsburgh’s case, as Trevor Daley is expected to be out for six weeks due to knee surgery.
However, there are several players, a few of them All-Stars, that have been in the rumor mill for quite some time leading up to the trade deadline. Whether or not any major deals get done is another story in itself, as the majority of the league’s teams are still fighting for playoff spots. Several teams are facing a salary cap crunch and there are more buyers than sellers at this point. With that being said, lets take a look at some of the top players that could be on the move by the deadline at 3 pm on March 1.
Blues D Kevin Shattenkirk: An unrestricted free agent this offseason, he’s been a hot name on the rumor mill since last summer. He’s in his prime at 28 and has all the skills that teams crave in a defenseman: right-handed, puck mover, power play QB, good defensively, and better offensively. St. Louis is in a tough spot, as they might not be able to afford his price tag in the offseason. Last offseason, they kept Troy Brouwer and David Backes for their run to the Western Conference Finals and ended up losing them for nothing as UFA’s. However, they’ve been red hot since Mike Yeo took over as head coach, and Shattenkirk remains an important piece for them should they feel like they can make another deep playoff run. The price to trade for him would probably be steep (high draft pick, top prospect, and a roster player), but if a team trades for him and is able to sign him long-term, that deal could be worth it as he can be a difference-maker for a contending team’s blue line.
Avalanche C Matt Duchene: The third overall pick in the 2009 draft, he’s in his prime at the age of 26, and Colorado is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. This is a team that could very well end up being the worst of the salary cap era, and the rebuild needs to happen. Duchene is an All-Star player, as he is fast, has skill, and can play either center or wing. Has a cap hit of $6 million through 2018-19, so not everyone can afford him. But teams in desperate need of help up front will definitely kick the tires. Montreal, Carolina, Nashville, and even Pittsburgh have been rumored as possible destinations, although the asking price will be steep. If Duchene is dealt, expect a top-flight defenseman or defensive prospect as part of a package.
Avalanche LW Gabriel Landeskog: The 24-year-old captain of the Avalanche is a player that combines scoring touch with physical play, but Colorado isn’t going to just give him away for free due to fact they’re looking to rebuild and need to stock up on assets. He has been mentioned in rumors of possible talks with Boston, but the asking price has apparently been too high for their liking. Has a $5.57 million cap hit through 2020-21 and has scored at least 52 points in 4 of the last 5 seasons. A very good, but not elite player.
Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury: Has a no-movement clause, meaning he must be protected in the expansion draft. The Pens have Matt Murray and don’t want to give him up since he’s the future, so they’d rather trade Fleury and get something for him. His contract runs out in 2018-19 with a $5.75 million cap hit. It’s somewhat similar to Tampa Bay’s situation with Ben Bishop, but not quite, due to the fact that Fleury isn’t going to be a UFA like Bishop is. If he ends up on the move, the usual suspects like Dallas, Calgary, and Philadelphia will probably be in play.
Coyotes C Martin Hanzal: At 6’6″, think a slightly shorter, less gritty, yet slightly more skilled version of Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle. A good two-way player and excellent on faceoffs, he’d slot in perfectly as a third center on a contender. When you think of trade deadline rentals, Hanzal fits the bill perfectly. Would be a good fit with the Montreal Canadiens, as they need help down the middle.
Red Wings LW Thomas Vanek: The 33-year-old has been one of the Wings’ few bright spots as an impending UFA, but he’s also been a guy that has failed to show up in the playoffs. However, he has looked rejuvenated this season despite missing some time due to injury. Look for him to be on the move with Detroit’s playoff hopes in serious jeopardy, although there’s a strong chance he could end up back in the Motor City this summer. Would fit perfectly on a contender’s bottom six forwards.
Lightning C Brian Boyle: He’s not the top center that might potentially be on the move, but he’s a guy that is big, skilled, physical, and can provide leadership as well as 100 games of playoff experience, 95 of them since 2012. Toronto, Columbus, and Edmonton have all been rumored to have been kicking the tires on a deal for Boyle. However, with the Lightning riding a seven-game points streak, they’re now back in the playoff hunt and may not end up being sellers at all. Boyle will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Islanders G Jaroslav Halak: The 31-year-old has a $4.5 million cap hit through next season and was demoted to AHL, but has been tearing it up since being sent down as he awaits a trade. Has had trouble staying healthy, but when he’s on, he has shown that he can steal a playoff series. Might not be a long-term option as a starter, but could be a short-term solution or even a high-priced backup for a team in need of backup goaltending help.
Lightning G Ben Bishop: Rumors of him being dealt go all the way back to last summer when he was reportedly almost sent packing to Calgary, only to see the deal fall through when a new contract couldn’t be agreed on. The impending UFA has a $5.95 million cap hit and doesn’t appear to fit in Tampa Bay’s long-term plans due to the presence of Andrei Vasilevskiy. But with the Lightning on a roll as of late, they might consider keeping him around if they feel like they can get back into the postseason and make another long playoff run.
Stars RW Patrick Eaves: The 32-year-old Eaves has already set a career-high with 21 goals and 35 points and is set to hit the open market during the summer. He might not reach this year’s offensive production again, but for now, he is a highly intriguing rental option that could end up being a fantastic addition for a team looking to add more offense for the playoffs.
Coyotes RW Radim Vrbata: At the age of 35, his prime years are behind him, but the impending UFA leads the Coyotes with 41 points and is still a player that can produce offense. Would be a good addition as a second line player and as a power play contributor.
Stars LW Patrick Sharp: He has dealt with some injuries this year, but can still put the puck in the net, and would fit in anywhere on a team’s top three lines. Plenty of playoff experience, has three Cup rings from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. Don’t rule out the possibility of a return to the Windy City.
Canucks LW/RW Alexandre Burrows: He’s 35-years-old, carries a cap hit of $4.5 million, and is due to become an unrestricted free agent. But he’s one of those guys that you love if they’re on your team and despise if they’re not. Guys like him that play with an edge are invaluable in the playoffs, and he can still contribute some offense in a third or fourth line role.
Avalanche RW Jarome Iginla: In the twilight of a Hall of Fame career, he could still provide veteran leadership and a respected voice in the room for a contender or upcoming team. Hello, Edmonton or Calgary.
Coyotes RW Shane Doan: Same as Iginla, and has said he’d prefer to stay in the Pacific Division if he were to get moved. Would be a good bottom six forward for any of the three California teams for a playoff push, or maybe even Calgary or Edmonton.
Stars D Johnny Oduya: Has had a rough season and has been sidelined by an ankle injury, but he’s an impending UFA that has two Cup rings. That’s experience that some playoff contender would love to pay for if he can come back healthy. He’s a guy that can handle big minutes and move the puck.
Blues C Patrik Berglund: The 28-year-old center is a good two-way player and impending UFA with a cap hit of $3.7 million. He’s a guy that could bring an offensive element to a team’s third line. He’s in a similar situation to Shattenkirk, and could fetch a good return in a deal, but there’s also a good chance he re-signs for the long term. UPDATE: The Blues have re-signed Berglund to a five-year contract worth $19.25 million.
Jets RW Drew Stafford: At 31, he’s never been a big-time point producer, but he can provide depth along the wing for teams that are struggling with injuries or teams that need depth on their bottom two lines.
Devils RW P.A. Parenteau: The well-traveled 33-year-old’s contract expires after this season, and there’s a chance he could be joining his sixth team since 2012. He can provide some bottom line offense and depth for a team looking to make a playoff push.
Sabres D Dimitry Kulikov: Like many on this list, he’s also due to hit the open market in the offseason. Despite having a rough season, the 26-year-old is still a useful second pairing defenseman that can play plenty minutes and provide a good defensive presence on the blue line.
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