Montreal Canadiens' Hal Gill lines up New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuck
With only two weeks to go until the trade deadline, teams looking to add to their rosters are deciding upon their needs. Some teams will look to add a top six forward; others will look to add depth whether it be a forward, defenseman or goaltender.
There are, however, some teams that will look to add a defenseman that can be a reliable contributor, play big minutes and solidify the blue line.
On this list are the 10 best defensemen that could be on the move by the February 27th NHL trade deadline.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are arguably the best defensive tandem in the NHL. Both of their contracts are also set to expire at the end of the season. While Weber will become a restricted free agent, Suter will become an unrestricted free agent.
Over the past few months, trade rumors have circled both of the elite Nashville Predators defensemen. Nashville is in a tough spot with both players, as both have publicly made it clear that they will not re-sign with the Predators before the deadline.
With Nashville sitting confidently in fifth position in the Western Conference, the consensus is they will hang on to Weber and Suter for their potentially last significant playoff run, and then try to deal or re-sign the players before free agency.
Bryan Allen is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and with the Carolina Hurricanes out of playoff contention, he could very well be on the move.
Allen has a no-trade clause but according to Sportsnet's Dan Murphy, "[Allen] will waive it for the right situation, and the Canucks fall into that category."
Allen would be a great fit for the Vancouver Canucks, providing some much-needed toughness and solidifying their blueline.
Allen is a big bodied defenseman that would provide veteran presence as well as defensive stability to any team's blueline. Some other teams that are rumored to be interested are the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins.
With Nicklas Grossman set to become a UFA at the end of the season, the Dallas Stars, who are currently sitting 11th in the Western Conference, may look to move Grossman before the deadline.
Grossman is a big, solid, and smart defenseman—teams looking to make an upgrade to their blueline will be fighting over his services.
The Philadelphia Flyers are rumored to be a front-runner for Grossman's services.
In the beginning of December, Jaroslav Spacek was traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Tomas Kaberle. In two weeks, he could be on the move again.
Jaroslav Spacek is a highly regarded defensman throughout the NHL. His services would be greatly appreciated by any team in need of defense, and as the trade deadline grows closer, trade talks are bound to heat up. His contract is also set to expire at the end of the season, so it may be in Carolina's best interest to deal him.
The teams rumored to be in on the Spacek sweepstakes are the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. All three of these teams are looking to make a deep playoff run, and all three are looking to upgrade on defense.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a very disappointing season, currently sitting at 12th in the East and eight points out of a playoff spot.
Pavel Kubina has remained solid, however, and is a big, veteran defenseman that many teams are targeting. Set to become a UFA at the end of the season, there is a good chance Kubina will be on the move.
Joni Pitkanen's name has been tossed around in trade rumors for the past few years leading up to the deadline. This year is no different, and being one of the top veteran defensemen in the league, there is no wonder why.
Joni Pitkanen is a solid top-four defenseman who can provide both leadership and stability to a team's back end. There is one catch, though, as Pitkanen is currently out indefinitely with a concussion and is not expected to return until March.
TSN's Darren Dreger said via Twitter: "Pitkanen’s injury may not interfere with a trade."
Marek Zidlicky has not had a good year in Minnesota. In 38 games played, he is goal-less with 22 points. From an offensive defenseman, that is not good enough.
But the problems aren't confined to his play; they extend into his relationship with Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo. Zidlicky has made it clear that he is unhappy playing under Yeo.
"It wasn't me. It wasn't my style," Zidlicky said of Yeo's system. "I tried to explain it to him couple times, but he wants something different. I don't think I can change something when you are like 34 years old." - The Fourth Period.
Marek wants out of Minnesota, and the odds are that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will give it to him. He would be an excellent addition to a Cup-contender's blueline.
Sportsnet discusses Zidlicky's availability in the trade market.
Luke Schenn's name has been tossed around in trade rumors for a while now leading up to the trade deadline. Those trade talks originated with a deal that would see Schenn going to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for James van Riemsdyk. But now because of van Riemsdyk being sidelined with injury, that deal looks like it may not go through.
Still, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is not afraid to make a big deal. Burke will not give him away, however, so an interested team will have to make an offer that Burke can't refuse.
A trade rumor that is circulating still involves the Flyers, but instead of van Riemsdyk being the player involved, it is Jakob Voracek. The Flyers would also likely have to include a pick to sweeten the deal.
Jack Johnson is only in the first year of a seven-year, $30.5 million contract, but that doesn't mean the LA Kings won't trade him
The Kings are rumored to be shopping for a top-six forward, using Johnson as trade bait.
Jack Johnson is a highly-skilled offensive defenseman who can proved scoring from the blueline for any team in need. He is effective on the powerplay and has the ability to consistently contribute offensively. In 57 games played thus far this season, he has eight goals and 24 points.
In order for the Kings to trade Johnson, the offer will have to be significant.
The teams rumored to be interested in Johnson's services are the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.
Hal Gill will be one of the most sought-after defensemen come the trade deadline due to his size, reliability, defensive capabilities and experience. He is one of the top shut-down defensemen in the NHL and has a lot of playoff experience.
Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren says, "Gill has a Stanley Cup (Pittsburgh), which makes him more valuable to a Cup contender."—CSNPhilly.com
Set to become a UFA at the end of the season, Montreal will undoubtedly try to keep Gill, but there is a good chance the Canadiens deal him to ensure they receive something in return.
Sportsnet discusses the potential destinations where Hal Gill could end up come February 27th. The teams include the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhaws, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and the Boston Bruins.
The most prized defenseman available leading up to the trade deadline appears to be Lubomir Visnovsky of the Anaheim Ducks.
Visnovksy is one of the league's elite offensive defensemen who can put up big numbers from the blueline. He can quarterback a power play and consistently make things happen five-on-five.
He has one year left on his contract, which should increase his value, but has a no-movement clause that he will need to waive in order for a trade to be completed. With playoffs seeming like a stretch for the Ducks at this point, there is a good chance he would waive it in order to join a Stanley Cup contender.
The teams rumored to be pursuing Visnovsky are the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.