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6 NHL Players Most Likely to Be Traded

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

6 NHL Players Most Likely to Be Traded

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    The trade market is likely to be quite active this year.

    A 48-game season could lead to several unexpected teams contending for playoff spots as well as a number of teams that may disappoint.

    As the April 3 trade deadline approaches, teams will make moves to improve their overall play and cover up weaknesses.

    Contract status will be a major factor. Teams will be ready to move free agents, and other players that have big cap hits in future years may also be available.

    Here's a look at six players who are likely to be traded this season.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Phil Kessel deserves to be on the trading block for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As Dougie Hamilton makes a positive impression as a rookie with the Boston Bruins and Tyler Seguin remains a mainstay for this Eastern Conference power, Kessel is slumping for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Through the first week-plus of the season, the Maple Leafs lack a front-line center who can lead this team to a spot in the playoffs.

    Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox has urged Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis to hold onto the team's 2013 first-round draft pick and not trade it for a player who could make the Leafs better this season.

    At the same time, Cox said it's difficult to see Kessel remaining with the Leafs beyond this year. "Kessel appears ill-conditioned, isolated, troubled or simply massively unlucky, or some combination of those," Cox said in his Jan. 28 column.

    Look for the Leafs to move Kessel before the end of the season. He has yet to score a goal this season.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

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    Roberto Luongo remains on the trading block.

    That means he is still a member of the Vancouver Canucks. The longer he pulls on his Canucks jersey, the tougher the environment for goalie Cory Schneider.

    Luongo has been on the trading block since the Canucks were eliminated from the 2012 playoffs, but general manager Mike Gillis has not pulled the trigger on a deal.

    Gillis said he won't be bullied into completing a trade until the Canucks get solid value for Luongo (source: ESPN.com), but the presence of the veteran netminder makes life tough for Schneider.

    Gillis may say that he won't be pressured, but the sooner he can complete a deal for Luongo, the better off the Canucks will be.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

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    Corey Perry is one of the NHL's best goal scorers. As the trade deadline approaches, Perry may become one of the league's most sought after players.

    Right now, he remains a key part of the Ducks' game plan. However, if Anaheim plays itself out of playoff contention as the April 3 trade deadline approaches, look for general manager Bob Murray to make a move.

    Perry is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $5.25 million (pro-rated) this season. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, so a trade would mean that the Ducks could at least get something in return for Perry rather than just letting him walk.

    Murray will likely try to create a bidding war for the high-scoring Perry—50 goals in 2010-11 and 37 goals last year—if the Ducks find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture.

Simon Despres, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins are willing to trade defenseman Simon Despres, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

    The Penguins are interested in acquiring a forward and would be willing to move Despres if they could find one that meets general manager Ray Shero's standards.

Ryan O'Reilly, Colorado Avalanche

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    Ryan O'Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche are at a full-fledged contract impasse.

    While it is still possible for O'Reilly and the team to find common ground, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports that the two sides are still about $8 million apart on a potential contract.

    Sooner or later, the Avs may decide to trade him. Right now, they are maintaining the position that they don't want to move him, but the longer the impasse goes, the greater the chances are.

    O'Reilly led the Avs with 55 points last year.

Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers are off to a very tough start a year after winning the Southeast Division title.

    While it's too early to write off the Panthers, they may not have enough firepower or consistency to make a real run at the playoffs.

    If general manager Dale Tallon comes to the conclusion at a certain point that his team is not going to make the playoffs, he may trade center Stephen Weiss.

    While Weiss currently contends with a minor lower-body injury (source: Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel), it is not a long-term injury. Rather than lose Weiss to free agency, Tallon could at least get something for him by making a trade prior to the trade deadline.

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