NHL Trade Deadline: Ranking the Top 10 players available

Watch as Eric Staal gets in a car to pack up and head to Broadway after being traded to the Rangers just before the Hurricanes’ matinee against the Blues.

Steven Stamkos won’t be moving on deadline day, but there’s still plenty of talent up for grabs prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Teams in the playoff hunt tend to focus on short-term acquisitions, due to salary cap limitations, so general managers generally look at acquiring veteran players at the end of their contracts. Yet, sometimes there are exceptions.

So in the spirit of trading season, we took a look across the league and ranked the top 10 players that are expected to be available based on a combination of skill level, production, potential impact, contract status, and age.

Editor’s Note: Andrew Ladd was initially No. 1 on our list before the Winnipeg Jets dealt him to the Chicago Blackawks Thursday evening.

1) Eric Staal, forward
Age: 31
2015-16 salary cap hit: $8.25 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: Staal’s lack of production is concerning considering he’s in a contract year. The veteran centre is on pace for career-low totals in goals and points. However, he could be more valuable playing in a No. 2 centre role for a more talented team as a rental player. At this point in his career, Staal can still be a valuable possession player that can contribute offensively and on the power play. It’s still unclear if Carolina will move him and he has a no-trade clause in his contract.

UPDATE (1:55 p.m. ET Sunday): Staal was traded to the New York Rangers

2) Mikkel Boedker, forward
Age: 26
2015-16 salary cap hit: $3.75 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: Boedker is an impeding free agent, but he stands out among the majority of the rental wingers available due to his age (26). Contract talks between him and the Coyotes have reportedly broken down.

He was extremely hot out of the gate to start the season before his production dipped a bit over the past two months. He should be a valuable depth addition on the wing.

3) Loui Eriksson, forward
Age: 30
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4.25 million
Contract status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: The status of his contract talks with the Bruins remains unclear, which is why he’s considered to be available. Eriksson will be a free agent at the end of the season and is still a valuable offensive player, scoring over 20 goals in each of his last two years with Boston. Considering the Bruins are in the playoff race, it might be more logical for them to hold on to him but his name keeps popping up in trade rumours.

4) Jonathan Drouin, forward
Age: 20
2015-16 salary cap hit: $894,166
Contract status: One year remaining in rookie deal before RFA after 2016-17.
The Skinny: Drouin provides a tantilizing situation. His value is at an all-time low, but he’s a complete mystery in terms of current production. Drouin is high risk, high reward as the third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is loaded with talent but has yet to scratch the surface at the NHL level. He is currently serving a team-induced suspension in Tampa Bay and GM Steve Yzerman said he hopes to move deal him as soon as possible.

5) Scott Hartnell, forward
Age: 33
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4.75 million
Contract Status: Under contract until 2018-19
The Skinny: Despite his age and the term left on his contract, he’s still fairly productive as a top-six forward. Hartnell, who has over 90 games of NHL post-season experience, will exceed the 20-goal mark (and 100 penalty minutes) for the third year in a row and can offer physical play in all three zones of the ice. That’s valuable during playoff time and Hartnell is also considered to be a good guy in the room, despite a few healthy scratches earlier this year.

6) Radim Vrbata, forward
Age: 34
2015-16 salary cap hit: $5 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: After a 34-goal season in 2014-15, Vrbata’s numbers have rapidly declined in his second season with the Canucks. However, he still has qualities that playoff teams will be seeking — playoff experience, scoring ability, and power-play experience. Something to remember: he holds a modified no-trade clause in his contract.

7) Jiri Hudler, forward
Age: 32
2015-16 salary cap hit:
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: Hudler isn’t producing offensively quite as well as last season, but that won’t prevent teams from showing interest in the pesky veteran forward.

The former Detroit Red Wing has appeared in 77 career playoff games and could really fit in with almost any contending team. He still has plenty of speed and his numbers have been much better in the month of February.

UPDATE (3:15 p.m. ET Saturday): The Flames traded Hudler to the Florida Panthers.

8) Dan Hamhuis, defence
Age: 33
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4.5 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: Hamhuis has been a stabilizing presence since coming to Vancouver and would make sense as a depth addition to playoff contenders. He has plenty of big-game experience, an ability to contribute on the penalty kill, and averaged over 25 minutes a game when Vancouver made a deep playoff run in 2010-11. The 33-year-old does, however, have a no-trade clause in his contract but he’s still expected to be moved. He is considered to be one of the the best defenceman available.

9) Kris Russell, defence
Age: 28
2015-16 salary cap hit: 2.6 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: Defencemen are always in demand around deadline time, so it’s no surprise Russell appears on our list. The Flames defenceman is just under 23 minutes per game but hasn’t added much offensively or on the power play after a strong season last year and his possession numbers leave plenty to be desired. Still, he is being coveted by a handful of teams prior to Monday’s deadline.

10) James Reimer, goalie
Age: 27
2015-16 salary cap hit: 2.3 million
Contract Status: UFA after 2015-16 season
The Skinny: We considered a number of forwards for this final spot (Dale Weise for example), but there aren’t too many starting-calibre goalies available at this time of year. Reimer can provide insurance or depth for a team looking to replace an injured or struggling player at the position ahead of the post-season. The Maple Leafs netminder has brief playoff experience and can fill a role either as a starter or a backup. Reimer is a streaky player as indicated by h fantastic start to the 2015-16 season, but his numbers have tailed off a bit in February after an injury.

UPDATE (2:30 p.m. ET Saturday): Reimer was traded to the San Jose Sharks.

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