NHL trade deadline: Six teams that could ignite an exciting day

Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston look at some of the bigger stories in the NHL as the trade deadline approaches, touching on Tyson Barrie and what the Flames may be looking for.

The trade deadline is upon us, where just about anything can happen. Chris Kreider, Joe Thornton…Matt Dumba and Tyson Barrie? There is no shortage of names who could get traded by the deadline, and we’ll watch it all unfold up until 3 p.m. ET on Monday.

While a lot of teams could be looking to make minor additions, there are six teams in particular who could make a big splash to make this an extra exciting day. Here are our six teams to watch:

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Could the Maple Leafs actually be deadline sellers?

That question has been asked a lot over the past two weeks and was escalated again following Saturday’s game in which — in case you’ve been living under a rock — the Maple Leafs lost to a 42-year-old Zamboni driver. It’s hard to comprehend Toronto becoming a traditional seller, moving out a pro player for futures to hang on to, but with how often the word “embarrassing” has been used to described the team’s play recently, it’s also hard to see how GM Kyle Dubas would want to be a traditional buyer as well.

If Dubas does move a player off his roster, there’s no shortage of options. Kasperi Kapanen has been a regular one mentioned, though his spirited performance in Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh is perhaps the exact kind of spunk Toronto needs these days. Alexander Kerfoot is another, but the name everyone is talking about is Tyson Barrie.

Linked to Vancouver, Calgary and Vegas, Barrie is a pending UFA, puck-moving blueliner who just hasn’t worked in Toronto. With a Jake Muzzin re-signing reportedly on the horizon, it is extremely unlikely the Leafs will also keep Barrie next season. Dubas has to weigh if it’s better to get the assets he can now and lose a top-four defenceman in a playoff race, or just keep him for the run?

“I think the big question now is with the way the Maple Leafs performed in their last game before the deadline, does this make them say we’re sellers, or we’re more willing to do this and I think that’s going to be one of the storylines over the next 36 hours,” Elliotte Friedman said on the late edition of Saturday’s Headlines segment.

Even though they should be a Cup contender, nothing about this team’s recent run makes it seem like they are. The Leafs will be a fascinating case at the deadline and it’s quite possible they do nothing at all. But they could raise a white flag, which would have to be one of the more shocking developments of the season if it happens.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

When you’re talking about trade possibilities, you have to keep in mind most “buyers” don’t really have a lot of cap space to work with. This is where Colorado is set apart from everyone else: According to Cap Friendly, the Avalanche have about $27 million in space, which is more than all but sellers Los Angeles, New Jersey and Ottawa. They have the desire to push in some chips on this team and take a run at the Stanley Cup and, boy, do they have some chips to use.

Bowen Byram, the fourth overall pick from last summer, seemingly could be had. Martin Kaut, their 2018 first-rounder (16th overall), could also be in play. Conor Timmins and Tyson Jost, both 21 years old, also could be used as young assets to bring back an impact player of need, not to mention their 2020 first-round pick.

Last week GM Joe Sakic admitted he was in the market for a depth goalie in the wake of Philipp Grubauer’s injury and insisted he wasn’t feeling any pressure to make a deal due to injuries to his skaters such as Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri, since everyone is expected back in time for the playoffs.

But if the right deal comes along, the Avalanche have all the ingredients necessary to make a big splash.

“I’d rather not (move a first-round pick), but I won’t rule anything out,” Sakic said. “It all depends on what packages are out there and, to be honest with you, I’d prefer a hockey trade.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Neck and neck with the Maple Leafs in that battle for third in the Atlantic, the Panthers have the same need for defence help as Toronto. There is a clear mandate to make the playoffs in Sunrise, after a busy summer included hiring Joel Quenneville as coach and paying Sergei Bobrovsky a $10 million AAV to join the team from the free agent pool.

But there are also a ton of pro player names being bandied about in the rumour mill, including second line centre Vincent Trocheck, defenceman Michael Matheson, and a couple pending UFA forwards in Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. But it would seem unlikely the Panthers would trade any of those pieces for picks and prospects — rather they would have to be in the market for a hockey deal that improves their lot right away.

As the Leafs struggle, so are the Panthers, who head into the deadline with just three wins in their past 11 games. They don’t have much cap room, but that wouldn’t be so much of a concern if they’re open to moving these NHL players out to accomplish an upgrade.

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CALGARY FLAMES

After winning the Pacific Division last year, it’s nothing short of a massive disappointment that Calgary is clinging to life in a tight playoff race. With a growing sense that if this team either doesn’t make it, or is bounced early again, big changes could come this summer, is there a chance GM Brad Treliving finds something by the deadline that shakes up his team?

“I think they’re a team…that would like to do a hockey deal if possible,” Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Saturday night. “More than just acquiring a rental. I think there’s some big names that are part of the conversations they’re having this weekend. Those are typically tough deals to make at the deadline, but we’ll see if they can get something done.”

TJ Brodie has been in the rumour mill all season, though blue line injuries called that into question. Travis Hamonic has been in that category as well since reports have surfaced that contract extension talks haven’t been smooth.

Since trading Michael Frolik to Buffalo in early January, Treliving has said he had every intention of using that freed-up cap room to help his team. A second line scoring winger is the clearest need, though that could also now extend to the blue line.

And above all, the reason why Calgary could make this an exciting deadline is just because Treliving has made a few impact trades in the recent past. He acquired Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm for a trade that included sending Dougie Hamilton to Carolina, and the year before he sent a first and two other draft picks to the Islanders for Hamonic. Granted both of those happened in the summer, but the current dire and desperate situation of a team with high expectations teetering on the edge of the playoffs may spur him into action mid-season.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

The Islanders are one of the teams in on the scoring winger market, which would include interest in some players of divisional rivals. New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri could be a fit, as could the rival Rangers’ Chris Kreider.

The Islanders have been slipping too, with just one win in their past fives games. Scoring is an ongoing issue (they rank 22nd in the league) so it makes sense why they’d be in that market. Prying Palmieri away from the Devils would probably mean a big deal given he has another year on his contract, while Kreider will supposedly be the most expensive rental player to get.

Part of the reason the Islanders are on this list is that GM Lou Lamoriello doesn’t let info leak out, but there’s smoke around this team. And on the most recent edition of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast, Friedman mentioned that it’s possible Lamoriello could accomplish a three-team deal.

“I do think (Lamoriello’s) in on Kreider. My hunch is that he knows if he’s going to get him out of New York it’s gotta be a big deal. But I had someone say to me do not underestimate his ability to maybe involve someone else in this,” he said.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Interim GM Tom Fitzgerald made it very clear last week on Hockey Central he wasn’t here to go all scorched earth on the Devils’ roster. While acknowledging the fact he’s a seller — which the Blake Coleman trade also made clear — he also said a young team needs “men” on it to play minutes and set the tone and expectation for younger players.

But he’s also got some attractive assets. One thing GMs around the league have talked about a lot in the lead up to this deadline is a distaste for paying up to enter the rental market and instead having interest in players with term. Palmieri would fall into that category as he’s signed through next year and he has a proven track record as a consistent goal scorer in the NHL. If the Devils got the same package offer for Palmieri as they did for Coleman, could they pass it up?

Fitzgerald has a couple of rentals, too, and Wayne Simmonds’s name has been heard fairly regularly attached to the Vancouver Canucks. Though Simmonds has a stated desire to stay in New Jersey to the end of the season, the business side would suggest he’s far more likely to go than stay. And although Sami Vatanen is currently hurt, he’s also on an expiring contract and is a puck-moving, right-shot defenceman that many teams will crave.

P.K. Subban’s name is nowhere in the rumour mill, but you have to wonder about the possibility. The Devils got him for nothing under GM Ray Shero and, especially if they retained some of his $9 million AAV through 2021-22, would some team offer a collection of prospects or picks that make trading Subban a must?

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