Three teams must come to the difficult decision to trade away a talented hockey player before this year's April 3 trade deadline.
For various reasons, these tough decisions must be based with an eye on the future, and the trades must be made sooner rather than later.
Here are the three players who must find a new home.
In 2009, the Maple Leafs gave up two firsts and a second-round pick to acquire Phil Kessel. While he has largely lived up to expectations, the 25-year-old winger is a free agent at season's end, and he will certainly be looking to break the bank.
Given this, it should be no surprise that Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe reports that "rumors persist in Toronto that general manager Dave Nonis may unload Kessel."
At 13-9-0, the Maple Leafs are turning in a decent run, but they aren't close enough that they should be jeopardizing their future for a win-now mentality, and holding onto Kessel would be doing just that.
While Kessel has consistently put up solid numbers, he is not nearly consistent or dominant enough that the Maple Leafs should dump a ton of money into a long-term contract, which is the kind of deal it would undoubtedly take for Kessel to return to Toronto.
Don't underestimate the emergence of Nazem Kadri here, either. As he begins to produce more on the offensive end, Kessel becomes more expendable.
Toronto should move Kessel before they watch him walk in free agency or overpay him to prevent that from happening.
All good things must come to an end, and so should Jarome Iginla's run with the Calgary Flames. Iginla has spent all 17 of his NHL seasons with the Flames, but he is 35 and his contract is up at the end of the year.
At 7-8-4, the Flames are just one team away from the cellar of the Western Conference standings. This team has to start building toward its future, and they can do that by shipping out Iginla.
This may be easier said than done.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported that teams are getting scared away from this deal due to the high asking price combined with the fact that Iginla is showing signs of aging and it is completely unclear how he would handle transitioning to another team.
While it is reasonable for the Flames to start off with a high asking price, they must bend to what the market dictates. It won't do them any good to hold onto Iginla.
Ryan Whitney is having a hard time cracking the Edmonton Oilers lineup. He recently was a healthy scratch for several games.
However, he can still play, and he showed that by scoring a goal last Friday against St. Louis in his first action since his string of scratches.
Given his inactivity, it is not a shock that Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported that there was no market developing for the 30-year-old defenseman.
At 8-8-4, just one spot ahead of the Flames in the West, the Oilers' season is going nowhere. They need to let Whitney get some run and prove he still has value—like he did on Friday.
Then they need to trade a player who they appear to have little interest in making a part of their team.