This year’s NHL trade deadline may be one of the more difficult to predict in years. Just trying to separate the buyers from the sellers is a chore as teams such as St. Louis and Arizona — left for dead weeks ago — now find themselves knocking on the door of a wild-card spot.
Meanwhile, those such as Colorado, Dallas or Buffalo who looked like near-locks for the post-season a month and a half ago have since gone through extended stretches of mediocrity and are now either out, or on the precipice of being out, of their conference’s top eight. How will those teams approach the Feb. 25 deadline?
There aren’t many teams that have locked down a playoff spot, which makes the line between buyer and seller a little blurred. At the very least, some teams that turn out as buyers may only take a tepid approach.
Recent history suggests some of the biggest names won’t be traded until the off-season or around the draft, when teams have more fluidity with the salary cap. But there are a ton of possibilities floating around this year’s deadline.
Here are the top 25 names potentially available (minus Jake Muzzin being crossed off):
Dougie Hamilton, Carolina
Contract: $5.75 million through 2020-21
Playing second- (and sometimes even third-) pair minutes for a team that struggles to score has hurt Hamilton’s offence this season and he’s on pace for his worst point total since he was a second-year player with the Boston Bruins. But make no mistake: He’s as much an analytics darling as ever. His plus-162 is the best 5-on-5 shot differential among Carolina blueliners and, given his usage, you can reasonably expect he’s capable of putting up better stats. Why is he in trade rumours again? Hamilton’s character has been in the crosshairs before, but this situation seems to be more about roster requirements. The Canes need more goal scoring up front, are stacked on the blue line, and it just so happens that Hamilton is the guy who could bring back exactly what they’re after.
Micheal Ferland, Carolina
Contract: $1.75 million through 2018-19
Put him on a line with an offensive stud or two and Ferland, who would otherwise be a third-liner, becomes a very reliable contributor who puts in 20 goals and adds sandpaper to a top line. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos has previously reported that it was believed Ferland was seeking Tom Wilson-type money ($5.16-million cap hit), which could make him a straight-up rental for any buyer. But what he would bring in the final months of the regular season and in a playoff run is exactly what many teams are looking for. You want size and a good baseline of skill? Ferland is your guy.
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia
Contract: $3.975 million through 2018-19
Speaking of skill and sandpaper, you could argue Simmonds brings a little more of both than Ferland. From 2015-16 to today, only Alex Ovechkin (63) and Jamie Benn (45) have more than Wayne Simmonds’ 44 power-play goals, so if you need help on the man advantage, he’s a good player to look into. In that same span, he ranks 26th among all NHL forwards in hits, showing the six-foot-two, 185-pound winger’s physical side.
Mark Stone, Ottawa
Contract: $7.35 million through 2018-19
The biggest question of the trade deadline is whether or not the Senators will even make Stone available. The 26-year-old is one of the best, if still underrated, two-way players in the game with 22 goals and 50 points in 50 games. Stuck on a bottom-feeding team, Stone has the league’s best relative CF% at 5-on-5 and makes everyone around him better. His plus-42 5-on-5 shot differential is 30(!) better than the No. 2-ranked Senator. The only issue is he’s on an expiring contract so the return would be far higher for Ottawa if an acquiring team can get a new deal worked out.
Matt Duchene, Ottawa
Contract: $6 million through 2018-19
Along the same lines as Stone, there is still some question as to whether or not the Senators will re-sign Duchene rather than trade him since the team has no incentive to throw away this season — remember, Colorado has their 2019 first-round pick. Either way, with 47 points in 41 games, he’s on the best points-per-game pace of his career and could reach 30 goals for just the second time. As a centre, his trade value will be inflated, with many teams looking to add at the position. The Sens will be hard-pressed to get back as much as they gave up for Duchene in the first place, but don’t underestimate what that return could be.
Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa
Contract: $1.8 million through 2018-19
Just three goals and three points shy of career-highs already, Dzingel is easily having the best season of his career. He’s tied for third on the Senators in individual scoring chances and sits second in high-danger chances. Thirty-one of his points have come at even strength, which isn’t far off what Duchene or Stone has done. His 18 shooting percentage may be high, but it’s not far enough away from his career average (15.4) to expect a major downturn is coming. If you want depth scoring for your second or even third line from the wing, you could do worse than Dzingel.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton
Contract: $925,000 through 2018-19
This season will bring Puljujarvi’s entry-level contract to a close and we still don’t know what kind of an NHLer he’ll be — or, perhaps, if he’s an NHLer for the long-term at all. Two respected coaches have presided over him and neither has given him quality minutes for any meaningful duration. Depending on your viewpoint, that could either mean he doesn’t have ‘it’ at this level, or that his offence hasn’t turned on because he hasn’t been used favourably. That’s the issue when considering the 20-year-old as a trade chip. As a fourth-overall pick just three years ago, his potential remains high even if it’s just declined since. Any team picking him up will be getting somewhat of a project player whose future is unclear. The Oilers want to do something, but don’t have a ton of valued assets to deal.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
Contract: $5.8 million through 2022-23
The goalie market is interesting again for the first time in years, but most of the teams looking for one are in need of a backup. If Quick were to be made available by the Kings he would change the fortunes of a team that wants to contend, but lacks a proven No. 1. The Kings’ season was never on the rails and with the playoffs out of reach it means all kinds of trade options could be on the table. Over the past five years, of goalies who have at least 200 games played, Quick’s .918 save percentage is tied for ninth, right among the best at the position. This might be more of an off-season move if it happens at all, but Quick can singlehandedly carry a team through the playoffs.
Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles
Contract: $4 million through 2019-20
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Alec Martinez, Los Angeles
Contract: $4 million through 2020-21
He won’t wow you with point totals or big hits, but the 31-year-old Martinez does everything pretty well. A second-pair defenceman and left shot who played the right side next to Muzzin before he was dealt, you can feel good about deploying Martinez in all three zones, plus he comes with the added bonus of having two more years of control after this season.
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Contract: $6.5 million through 2019-20
A first quarter Norris favourite last season has become a potential trade piece this season. Pietrangelo has gotten better as this year has unfolded, though, and shouldn’t be considered as anything less than an elite top-pair blueliner if he gets dealt. The Blues get 54.04 per cent of the shots when he’s on the ice, but just 47.76 per cent of the goals, which is due to the fact St. Louis’s goalies have stopped just 88.9 per cent of the 5-on-5 shots with Pietrangelo out there, a team-low. He averages 24:07 per game and is heavily leaned on for both special-teams units. His points are well off his career average, but he does have eight in 14 games since returning from injury. Still just 28, anyone trading for Pietrangelo now will vastly upgrade their blue line for two playoff runs.
Pat Maroon, St. Louis
Contract: $1.75 million through 2018-19
Even as the Blues are quietly slinking back into the playoff hunt, don’t count GM Doug Armstrong out as a seller. They were in the hunt last season and it didn’t stop them from trading out pending UFA Paul Stastny, and two years ago they made the playoffs after trading Kevin Shattenkirk, another pending UFA, at the deadline. Maroon isn’t the same quality, but he too is on an expiring contract and could bring a pick back to the Blues. With good linemates he could score anywhere between 10-20 goals in a season and, just maybe, his former team in Edmonton would be interested in putting him back with McDavid.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis
Contract: $7.5 million through 2022-23
From 2014-15 through 2017-18, only Ovechkin scored more goals than Tarasenko. This year’s been a different story for the 27-year-old, though. All the focus is on his struggles to put the puck in the back of the net, and how often he’s missing the target altogether. Still, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, Tarasenko has had 57 high-danger scoring chances himself in 2018-19, which is tied for 15th in the league, sitting alongside the likes of Connor McDavid, Brayden Point and Johnny Gaudreau. With six goals in his past 10 games, the anticipated turnaround may already be starting. It’s not often a scorer like this in his prime is traded at the deadline, especially when you consider he’s got a long-term contract in hand.
Kevin Hayes, NY Rangers
Contract: $5.175 million through 2018-19
With younger centres pushing for time from within the organization, the rebuilding Rangers are considering trading pending UFA Hayes to add some pieces and make room for the future. For his part, Hayes’ play has only increased his value and he leads the Rangers in primary assists per 60 minutes. Teams are always looking for depth at the centre position and may be able to get Hayes for less than most of the others on the list. If you need a third-line centre, Hayes is a pretty good pickup for a few months.
Jeff Carter, LA Kings
Contract: $5.875 million through 2021-22
You’re not getting prime Carter anymore, so don’t bank on adding a 40-goal man here — in Carter’s past 76 regular season games he has 23 goals. But, he is a versatile player who can play both wing and centre and within a better offence than Los Angeles there may be more offence to tap here. He just turned 34 on Jan. 1 and has another three years of control beyond this one, which could be a blessing or a curse. If you’re going after Carter you’re probably looking for size, offensive upside, and a playoff veteran.
Mats Zuccarello, NY Rangers
Contract: $4.5 million through 2018-19
At 31 and a pending UFA, many are expecting Zuccarello to get traded by the deadline, but he recently told the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks that all the rumours had been negatively effecting his play. In the three seasons prior to this, Zuccarello had the 41st-most primary assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and in the one season he fell short of 50 points over the past five seasons he ended up at 49. His stat line won’t look that pretty this year after a slow start, but don’t sleep on him.
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis
Contract: $5.125 million through 2019-20
The Blues acquired Schenn from Philadelphia for Jori Lehtera and a first-round pick, so they’d want to at least recoup that selection in one of the next two drafts. Following a career season, Schenn is now on his worst pace since 2014-15. The good thing about him is, like Carter, Schenn can play either centre or wing and bring a little grit, too. He’s signed for another season after this one, so an acquiring team can take a couple of shots with him.
Alex Edler, Vancouver
Contract: $5 million through 2018-19
Edler has full no-trade protection, so he’d have to sign off on any potential deal. He and his agent have made it clear in the past that they’d rather stay in Vancouver, but maybe the team deals him now and tries to re-sign him over the summer. Averaging 23:19 per game, Edler is Vancouver’s workhorse, the kind even a rebuilding team needs to protect its young players from being forced into roles they’re not ready for. Edler may only be a true rental for some team and his minutes would surely be scaled back with someone else in a depth role. With Vancouver back in the running, they may just keep him, too.
Chris Tanev, Vancouver
Contract: $4.45 million through 2019-20
Averaging 20:35 per game, Tanev is the other solid, veteran defensive blueliner the Canucks lean on for key minutes. Just as with Edler, though, the question is if the Canucks make him available or would rather keep him around the kids. No Canuck averages more shorthanded time than Tanev and, in fact, only seven others in the league play more on the PK than the 29-year-old. The knock on him is injuries — he hasn’t played 70 games in a season since 2014-15 — but there is no shortage of teams looking for the defensive help the right-shot Tanev would bring.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles
Contract: $6.25 million through 2020-21
If he could do it again, Kings GM Rob Blake probably wouldn’t give Kovalchuk the same three-year contract to woo him back from the KHL he did over the summer. The 35-year-old has been everywhere from the first line to the fourth line for the Kings, playing as few as 6:20 in a November game. He scored twice on Dec. 22 in his first game back from an injury that kept him out three weeks, and has only two goals in 14 games since. If the Kings trade Kovalchuk it’s hard to imagine the receiving team not also wanting Los Angeles to retain some of his salary.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
Contract: $7.425 million through 2018-19
Even before the puck dropped on this season clouds had formed around Bobrovsky’s future in Columbus. Since then, he’s hung up a below-average .901 save percentage and was unofficially suspended one game by the team in January. Since returning from that brief time off, Bobrovsky has allowed 16 goals in four games and has an .864 save percentage. His playoff history is pedestrian (.891 career SV%) and his status as a pending UFA complicates things.
Artemi Panarin, Columbus
Contract: $6 million through 2018-19
Just like Bobrovsky, Panarin’s future in Columbus has been in doubt all year and that intensified this week when his agent tweeted that Panarin wasn’t interested in negotiating a new contract before the end of the season. Columbus is in a tricky spot. Do they go for a run at the Cup, and the franchise’s first playoff round win, with what they have or do they absolutely have to trade these two players before they potentially lose them for nothing in the summer? Panarin could potentially bring in a big return, but do the Blue Jackets have to take a step back and recover futures in order to get a deal done? Is it better, in that case, to just go for it?
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit
Contract: $4.75 million through 2018-19
Although it’s been four years since Nyquist had his career-high 27-goal, 54-point performance, he is well on his way to setting a new personal best in points and seems a good rental pickup for someone needing secondary scoring. Nyquist is one of three Red Wings with a CF% above 50 (Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are the others) and leads the team with 32 assists. Red Wings GM Ken Holland has set an early asking price of a first-rounder for Nyquist and Jimmy Howard (also a pending UFA), which may only put the teams at the very top in the running. If the price can move off that pick, though, more teams could get in.
Thomas Vanek, Detroit
Contract: $3 million through 2018-19
Vanek has been traded the past two trade deadlines and three of the past five so, facing another expiring contract, odds are he could be on the move again this time. He’s just shy of a 20-goal pace this season and has pretty consistently been a 40-plus-point player the past few years — though last year he posted 56 with Vancouver and Columbus. If you need a boost on the power play, Vanek may be attainable for a fairly cheap price, but don’t count on him in a defensive role. He’d fill a very specific need.
Derick Brassard, Florida
Contract: $3 million through 2018-19
His cap hit is a little lower than it otherwise would be because Vegas retained $2 million in salary in the three-way trade conducted with Ottawa last season. Florida acquired Brassard Feb. 1, but given they are well out of the playoffs it’s likely they’ll flip him again by Feb. 25. Brassard doesn’t have the point totals to show it this season, but he’s a better fit as a second-line centre than a third-liner in a defensive position. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said after the trade that he believed Brassard had trouble shifting into that role on Pittsburgh’s third line.
Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim
Contract: $3.75 million through 2018-19
Anaheim GM Bob Murray may prefer to re-sign pending UFA Silfverberg, but in a recent 31 Thoughts column Elliotte Friedman noted that the “tagging” rule, where a team’s future spending can’t go past a certain limit, may complicate the situation. The Ducks’ poor play that was hidden by John Gibson’s efforts early on has finally started to catch up to them, and we know that Murray has been open to making fairly big changes with his team since the end of 2017-18. It appears many options could be on the table, but if Silfverberg’s contract is a concern he’s an obvious candidate to move out. Though he’s struggled to produce offence this season — and has dealt with an injury recently — his track record is that of a 20-goal, 40-point support scorer.