Even though the NHL trade deadline is still a month away, teams on the playoff bubble will probably have to start making decisions soon about whether or not to dip into the trade market. Early April could end up being too late.
The playoff races in both conference are extremely close. It's a product of only facing conference opponents during the shortened season and the three-point games. That means one key trade might make the difference between qualifying for the postseason and falling short.
Let's take a glance at some of the players being thrown around the rumor mill and analyze their chances of getting moved in the coming weeks.
Although Kessel has started to rebound from a slow start, the winger remains well below his usual goal-scoring pace with just four tallies in 22 games. His struggles haven't hindered the Toronto Maple Leafs, though, as they sit in sixth place in the East.
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe reports the latest rumblings out of Toronto are that Kessel could be moved because the team isn't convinced he's a core player. His numbers this season would play into that storyline.
Kessel has scored at least 30 goals in four straight seasons, including the last three in Toronto after starting his career with the Boston Bruins. It would still be a surprise if he gets moved. The Leafs should at least give him some time to heat up before entertaining that option.
Which player would be the best trade target?
Iginla has spent his entire NHL career with the Calgary Flames. Plenty of trade rumors have come and gone during that time, and he always remained in the Flames jersey. Alas, with the Flames fading, he's a popular topic once again.
The winger, who's scored 16 points in 20 games, is being targeted by multiple teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. The Penguins want him to play alongside Sidney Crosby.
Staying with one team for an entire career is becoming increasingly rare, so it would be hard to fault Iginla if he decided to stay in Calgary. But playing with Crosby might get him to consider Pittsburgh, and it would make the Penguins top Stanley Cup contenders.
Gaborik is off to a reasonable start with 14 points in 20 games, but the New York Rangers as a whole are struggling. They currently sit outside the top eight in the East after winning the conference's regular-season crown in 2011-2012.
Garrioch reports the team will consider shaking things up to provide a spark and Gaborik is one name that has been brought up. He says the Rangers are checking around the league to gauge his market value.
We're talking about one of the league's premier goal scorers, so he certainly wouldn't come cheap. He finished third in the NHL with 41 goals last season. With that said, it doesn't hurt for New York to see if they can get a king's ransom for him and provide the team with the boost it needs.