There are always a ton of rumours around the NHL trade deadline and, often, the deadline day itself fails to live up to expectations. This season feels different, though, with not only a number of big names floating around the rumour mill, but teams considering blowing things up.
For instance, the Anaheim Ducks have been in a free fall for months now, but if they decide to become sellers a whole bunch of difference-making players could become available and re-shape the Stanley Cup race. Los Angeles, who already traded out Jake Muzzin, could continue moving out key players if they decide to restructure.
Even though we’ve seen a few trade dominos fall already, the potential for some other big moves is very real.
Here are the top 25 names rumoured to be available (with some who’ve already been traded crossed off), ranked by the likelihood they’ll be traded on Feb. 25:
1. 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 28 goals and 62 points in 59 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. 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 an extension worked out.
2. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia
Contract: $3.975 million through 2018-19
If you’re after skill and sandpaper, Simmonds is one of the best options out there. 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.
3. Kevin Hayes, NY Rangers
Contract: $5.175 million through 2018-19
TRADED TO WINNIPEG JETS
4. Marcus Johansson, New Jersey
Contract: $4.583 million through 2018-19
Well out of the race, the Devils will sell, sell, sell. Injuries have prevented Johansson was hitting on his potential since coming to New Jersey from Washington two years ago, but he’s heating up lately with 12 points in his past 13 games.
5. Cody Ceci, Ottawa
Contract: $4.3 million through 2018-19
Not at all thought highly of in the analytics community, Ceci was nonetheless Ottawa’s most leaned-upon blueliner when it came to matching up against the opponents’ best and his shot shares show it — when Ceci has been on the ice this season, the Sens have generated just 42.66 per cent of the shots at 5-on-5. On top of that, he’ll be an expensive re-sign as an RFA this summer with an already expensive cap hit. That said, he is a 25-year-old right shot defender and perhaps used further down the lineup in a less onerous role will do him some good. Ceci was made a healthy scratch Sunday for precautionary reasons ahead of the deadline.
6. 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.
7. Mike Hoffman, Florida
Contract: $5.187 million through 2019-20
Through 60 games, Hoffman is having a career year and could very well score 30 times for the first time. Still, he’s mostly been slotted in on Florida’s third line, and with a clearer need for defencemen and a goaltender on Florida’s radar it might be a good time to sell high on the 29-year-old. Still with one more season on his deal, he’s not even a rental, which should up the price. Considering Florida got him for picks in the second, fourth and fifth rounds, it’s a flip they should easily win.
8. Artemi Panarin, Columbus
Contract: $6 million through 2018-19
Panarin’s future in Columbus (along with Sergei Bobrovsky) has been in the air all year and while it’s still possible he’ll get moved on Feb. 25, it now appears more likely than before he’ll stay. Columbus has made a couple moves to bring in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel already, with GM Jarmo Kekalainen saying he wanted to send a message to his players and fans that the Blue Jackets were going for it. He also shot down the idea of trading Panarin for picks. Still, a pending UFA with extremely high value, if Kekalainen can get something that helps Columbus now, he didn’t close the door on the idea of moving Panarin.
9. Jimmy Howard, Detroit
Contract: $5.29 million through 2018-19
GM Ken Holland’s reported ask has been a first-round pick for Howard, who is slated to be a UFA this summer. He hasn’t played more than half the games in a season and finished with a save percentage above .910 since 2012-13, but is above league average this season. Not someone you want to have to lean on as a No. 1 through a playoff run, Howard is a security blanket for some team with struggling or underperforming ‘tenders. But is the cost too prohibitive?
10. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina
Contract: $5.75 million through 2020-21
Playing second-pair minutes for a team that has struggled to score most of the season, Hamilton’s offence has slowed 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. Although the Canes have been rolling for a while and even starting to score, GM Don Waddell still said he was after a forward and acknowledged he had the depth on defence to possibly do something. Hamilton may as well be the representative for any Carolina bliueliner here — if it’s not him that goes for a forward, it could be Brett Pesce or Justin Faulk.
11. Adam McQuaid, New York Rangers
Contract: $2.75 million through 2018-19
A right-shot pending UFA defender, McQuaid can be trusted with PK minutes and probably best fits as a third-pair depth piece to complement a partner with more offence in his game. McQuaid has reached 10 points just once in the past seven years, but has 68 games of playoff experience and won a Cup with Boston in 2011.
12. 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. Even the Canes, now in a favourable position for a playoff spot, may just keep him as their own rental.
13. Alex Chiasson, Edmonton Oilers
Contract: $650,000 through 2018-19
The Oilers would just want to get a late draft pick back for Chiasson, who is one of the obvious candidates to leave Edmonton on an expiring contract. A decent depth piece for the bottom-six, Chiasson had a good run of success in Edmonton that has led to a career-high 17 goals already, plus he has the experience of winning a Stanley Cup just last spring with Washington.
14. Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks
Contract: $4.55 million through 2020-21
The Blackhawks would do well to shed some salary and while they’d need clearance from the player in order to get that done with Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith, Anisimov only has partial protection in that he can submit a list of 10 teams to which he’ll accept a trade. He’s a big, 6-foot-4 centre who probably fits best on a third line now and that might mean Chicago has to retain some salary to get a deal done, but whatever they can shed would be worth it. He’s a capable penalty-killer and can still approach 20 goals and 40 points.
15. Cam Fowler, Anaheim
Contract: $6.5 million through 2025-26
Everybody is always looking for puck-moving defencemen and the theme around this year’s deadline seems to be GMs looking for players with term on their contracts. Fowler checks both of these boxes. Like most everyone on the Ducks, Fowler has struggled this season but can usually be counted on to approach 40 points. Don’t be surprised if he returns to form in a new destination. GM/interim coach Bob Murray has already moved off Brandon Montour to Buffalo, but moving Fowler would be a distinct step away from the current core. Is that kind of overhaul in the cards for one of hockey’s most disappointing teams?
16. Mikkel Boedker, Ottawa
Contract: $4 million through 2019-20
When Boedker was made a healthy scratch Sunday night, it heightened the possibility he’ll be moved before Monday’s deadline. Still speedy with some offence, Boedker is quietly having his best offensive season in a few years as the Senators’ style has really opened up this season. Mostly a bottom-six player, Boedker can move up the lineup in a pinch and could help give a boost to someone’s power play in a complementary role.
17. Jason Zucker, Minnesota
Contract: $5.5 million through 2022-23
If teams are going to pay up to get a skilled player with control, Zucker could bring the Wild back a nice haul. He’s got speed to burn and had easily his best season in 2017-18 with 33 goals and 64 points, so we’ve seen him at his best. Last year’s success hasn’t carried over to this season, though, and this regression is one of the factors contributing to Minnesota’s struggles. But he’s 27 and had been on the rise four years in a row before this one. Already with some younger pieces traded out, the Wild could choose to move on from another player in his prime, though if they do so with Zucker they should get their best return yet.
18. 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 Jake 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.
19. 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 80 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.
20. Alexander Wennberg, Columbus
Contract: $4.9 million through 2022-23
In Matt Duchene’s first game as a Blue Jacket, Wennberg was made a healthy scratch and he’s been called out by coach John Tortorella more than once this season. There doesn’t appear to be room on the centre depth chart in Columbus for Wennberg anymore and though he likely won’t bring back much in a trade, he could perhaps return some kind of future asset to begin to make up for what Columbus gave up in their other deals. He’s two years removed from his breakout 59-point performance, but hasn’t come within 20 points of that since. A playmaker first, is there a team out there in need of a centre that’s willing to take a chance on the 24-year-old being sold low?
21. Julius Honka, Dallas
Contract: $863,333 through 2018-19
The Stars have a lot of defencemen on their roster and Honka hasn’t been able to break through and earn any consistent minutes. Once thought very highly of within the organization that picked him 14th overall in 2014, he now hasn’t played a game in more than a month, nor got a point since mid-December. The Stars made one trade for Mats Zuccarello, but after he got hurt in his very first game, perhaps they turn to this 23-year-old blueliner to try and net some other production. Honka is a right-shot defenceman who’s still young and worth a gamble.
22. Eric Staal, Minnesota
Contract: $3.5 million through 2018-19
As the Wild continue to plummet it’s looking more likely they’ll trade their biggest rental player. Coming off a 42-goal season, Staal is back scoring at a level he was before coming to Minnesota, when he looked like someone in decline. But could another deal to a contender push him to better levels? Teams are always looking for depth centremen and the 34-year-old, Cup-winning Staal could still provide good value.
23. 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 six goals in 25 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.
24. Chris Kreider, NY Rangers
Contract: $4.625 million through 2019-20
The rumoured asking price is high, and why not? Kreider has 26 goals and 47 points in 62 games that has him on pace to easily set career highs, and he’s got another season on his contract before becoming UFA. The Rangers don’t have to trade him and, in fact, the case has been made they should keep him and re-sign him in the summer to be part of the core to move ahead with. But if a team comes along and pays up for an aggressive power forward they can take two playoff runs with, the Rangers could perhaps be persuaded to let him go if it improves their rebuild.
Matt Duchene, Ottawa
Contract: $6 million through 2018-19
TRADED TO COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa
Contract: $1.8 million through 2018-19
TRADED TO COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles
Contract: $4 million through 2019-20
TRADED TO TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Mats Zuccarello, NY Rangers
Contract: $4.5 million through 2018-19
TRADED TO DALLAS STARS
Brandon Montour, Anaheim
Contract: $3.38 million through 2019-20
TRADED TO BUFFALO SABRES
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit
Contract: $4.75 million through 2018-19
TRADED TO SAN JOSE SHARKS