As NHL teams try to improve to make a playoff run, certain NHL talent will become available prior to the trade deadline.
We all know about the big names being thrown around, like Roberto Luongo and Jarome Iginla, but many teams will see an opportunity to improve by adding depth players and young talent. More often than not, the trade block is populated with high-potential players who have struggled with their current teams and could fetch a nice return from a club willing to take a gamble on their development.
This list is a brief look at some lesser-known names that could be on the trade block before the deadline. They are essentially bait with a significant upside, available for someone to take a chance on.
A Denver Post report from Adrian Dater identifies a number of potential reasons for the breakdown in negotiations between the Colorado Avalanche and RFA Ryan O'Reilly, including the notion that the Avs chose to withhold any chance of the team captaincy from O'Reilly.
The breakdown in talks seems to indicate that the Avs will be better off trading O'Reilly than trying to re-sign him. Unless another team makes an offer that Colorado is unwilling to match, O'Reilly will only be playing in the NHL this year if his rights are traded and he finds better negotiating grounds in his new destination.
O'Reilly is not worth a gigantic payday, but he is a valuable asset for a team that needs two-way depth in order to compete for a playoff spot. Look for Colorado to be opportunistic when other squads get desperate.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have finally and mercifully hit the reset button on the franchise in the last year, trading away figurehead Rick Nash and firing failed GM Scott Howson.
With fresh blood in the front office in the form of Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets will be building from the ground up, and that could mean trading forward Derick Brassard.
Brassard was selected sixth overall in 2006, but the 25-year-old has yet to pan out at the Jackets expected.
Borderline playoff teams are consistently ready to gamble on wily veterans and underachieving high draft picks, and Brassard fits the profile of the latter. With the team unable to contend for the Cup in the immediate future, the name of the game is getting as much talent to build around as possible.
Last year, anytime the Philadelphia Flyers were interested in an opposing stud, the asking price included either Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier or both (via Pierre Lebrun of ESPN h/t SB Nation). GM Paul Holmgren was uninterested in moving his young talent and nothing ever came of it.
This season, the Flyers are struggling to stay afloat as the team lacks offensive chemistry and defensive reliability. The team remains within striking distance of a playoff spot, but it is clear that the current squad won't be barreling through the Eastern Conference anytime soon.
Even though Schenn is second on the team in points, he may have to become expendable for the Flyers. He has proven to be streaky, but his value is still high and he could be a part of a trade that brings a big talent back to Philly.
The Schenn-sation may no longer be untouchable.
Regehr has been underappreciated throughout his career, but is one of the league's most imposing, physical defensemen. His lack of offensive production gets him overlooked, but he will prevent as many goals as almost any given shooting defenseman will add.
Buffalo is in the midst of some major unexplained struggles, and with Regehr facing free agency, the team will be looking to shop him to another franchise that needs to tighten up in the defensive end.
After three straight playoff appearances, including a Western Conference Finals appearance last season, the Phoenix Coyotes are finally looking like the very mortal Coyotes of old, and this cash-strapped squad could be sellers at the trade deadline.
One of Phoenix's underrated assets is center Boyd Gordon, who finished last season eighth in the league in faceoff win percentage and sits above 56 percent this season.
Gordon is a true bottom-six specialist and will be a valuable penalty-killer for a team in need of a more well-rounded squad. His contract with Phoenix runs dry this season and the team could get a low draft choice in exchange, or include him as part of a larger deal.
Teams in rebuilding mode tend to be the biggest sellers at the deadline, and the Calgary Flames are a franchise looking to start from scratch and build a brand new, competitive squad.
Anton Babchuk is the sort of puzzle piece that could get a long look from more relevant teams. Babchuk is a monster on the blue line, standing 6'5" without skates, and he is capable of a little offensive production from time to time.
Babchuk is scheduled to become a free agent, and Calgary needs to determine whether or not it is worth investing in him long term. If the teams feels they will gain more by saving the money and looking elsewhere, then Babchuk could be on the block before the deadline rolls around.