Think the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season is already hectic enough?
In two weeks, think again.
With the trade deadline—Wednesday, Apr. 3, at 3:00 PM ET—rapidly approaching, off-the-ice transactions will replace actual games on the hockey universe's center stage.
The pre-deadline hype and speculation will, as usual, far overstate what will truly happen that day.
Nonetheless, 2013 could be one of the more frantic deadlines in recent memory. This summer's class of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) appears particularly impressive, and that often leads to a busy stock exchange of two-month player rentals come April.
Which players are most likely to be on the move? An examination of 10 pending free agents who could be involved in a deadline deal—along with our far-fetched predictions for where they might go—falls on the coming slides.
Few players with zero goals in over half a season have ever drawn more trade interest than San Jose's Ryane Clowe.
Clowe, 30, remains scoreless through 25 games but has managed nine assists on the year. He's a lot better than that stat line sounds, however, having accumulated at least 17 goals and 45 points for four consecutive years.
At 6'2", 225 pounds, the lifelong Shark is also a noteworthy and imposing physical presence, currently ranking second on the Sharks with 61 hits.
If that description sounds like every Boston Bruins player in existence, you probably won't be surprised to hear that Clowe could soon be headed to Beantown. Per Sportsnet's Joe Haggerty:
"The Bruins have had multiple scouts trailing the San Jose Sharks over the last couple weeks, and Peter Chiarelli has always had a fondness for the size, toughness and skill package of left winger Ryane Clowe. He’s in the last year of his deal with the Sharks and has struggled out of the gate, but a move to Boston could be exactly what both parties need to address their needs."
Projected Destination: Boston Bruins
The 24-2-3 Chicago Blackhawks wouldn't be anywhere close to where they are today without the quiet heroics of backup goaltender Ray Emery, who has posted a perfect 11-0-0 record in relief of Corey Crawford this year.
The 30-year-old is one of the most unheralded goaltenders in the league today. He earned at least a point in 19 of 28 starts for Chicago in 2011-12 and has upped his game even further this winter, posting a .916 save percentage and 2.26 GAA along with that aforementioned unbeaten record.
With a number of teams in need of some serious goaltending help, Emery could soon find himself in a potential starting role in a new city.The 'Hawks now have Crawford to handle most of the goaltending duties and could add an asset or two elsewhere in exchange for Emery, whose contract is up after this season.
The Southeast Division might be a likely destination. The Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning have a combined zero goaltenders with save percentages of .910 or better, and all three reside outside the conference's top eight for the moment.
Projected Destination: Washington Capitals
Jarome Iginla has played his entire career, so far, with the Calgary Flames.
When he retires a few years down the road, he may still be boasting that ultimate commitment.
But he also might not. Over the next two weeks, Iginla's name will probably pop up in more trade rumors than Gary Bettman's name will appear in hate mail—and that's saying a lot.
The 35-year-old winger has scored at least 28 times in every season since (incredibly) 1997-98 and is already approaching the 1,100 career points milestone.
He's a wonderfully consistent scorer and playmaker who can also juggle captaincy duties and the pressures of a success-starved Calgary market. Even at 35, Iginla still has 20 points in 27 games to date.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that the "Penguins, Predators, Sharks, Red Wings and Bruins will make a pitch" for him, but there's really no franchise in the league who wouldn't love to add Iginla to its roster.
The only question is his willingness to leave, and, even with potential UFA status looming on the July horizon, that answer may be a no.
Projected Destination: Calgary Flames
The Dallas Stars are quickly beginning to resemble the NHL's retirement halfway house.
Among the team's cast of forwards sit grizzly veterans Jaromir Jagr (41), Ray Whitney (40), Erik Cole (34), Brenden Morrow (34) and wearing-down Derek Roy (29).
GM Joe Nieuwendyk has clearly taken a "win now" attitude for the ongoing season.
Unfortunately, though, the 13-12-3 Stars aren't exactly winning.
If this slump continues for much longer, expect a firestorm sale to erupt in Dallas as Nieuwendyk scrambles to get a return for pending UFAs Jagr, Morrow and Roy.
All three forwards can still add plenty to any playoff contender.
Jagr, even at this age, falls just one point short of the team lead with 10 goals and 18 assists in 27 appearances.
Roy ranks first on the Stars with 13 assists and a plus-seven rating.
Morrow, despite missing at least 25 games in three of the past six seasons, scored 33 goals as recently as 2010-11.
They'll all be sought-after targets by squads looking for a boost of experience and offense in time for the stretch run, even if the Stars are only willing to part with one or two.
Projected Destinations: Morrow stays with Dallas, Jagr to New Jersey Devils, Roy to Minnesota Wild
Dynamic winger Mason Raymond, set to hit the open market in just a few months anyway, could soon become a victim of the Vancouver Canucks' mediocre first half.
Raymond has a respectable 14 points and a plus-three rating through 28 games, but GM Mike Gillis—undoubtedly disappointed with his club's mere 13 wins to date—seems certain to shake things up at the deadline and could be inclined to dangle Raymond.
The 6"0, 185-pound forward is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL today and is still young at just 27; however, his production has headed downhill ever since a 25-goal, 53-point breakout campaign in 2009-10.
Few teams could use Raymond's influx of speed and talent more than the Nashville Predators, who rank 29th in the NHL in scoring and have just one forward with more points than Raymond to date.
Projected Destination: Nashville Predators
2012 offseason addition Mike Ribeiro has been one of few bright spots so far for the inconsistent Washington Capitals.
Ribeiro, 33, leads all other Caps by seven points with 10 goals and 21 assists through 28 games, including five scores and 11 helpers on the power play.
Washington has shown some flashes of life over the past month but continues to struggle to string wins together and climb out of the Eastern Conference cellar. The Caps still have the capabilities and the time to make a late playoff run, but—if they can't pull together soon—Ribeiro, a UFA in July, could fetch a hefty return via trade.
There are few teams who wouldn't want the NHL's eighth-leading scorer, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have surfaced particularly often in rumors regarding his name. Per Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star:
[A]nother name making the rounds around the Leafs is Mike Ribeiro, a top-six centre.
The Leafs are said to be interested in adding a centre and a top-four defenceman.
Projected Destination: Toronto Maple Leafs
At 35, defenseman Mark Streit naturally seems like the kind of player the Islanders would look to trade.
He's not parallel at all with their ongoing youth movement, not in the midst of a fantastic campaign (he has minus-10 plus/minus and -3.06 Corsi rating) and would fetch a significant return if shopped.
But that logic assumes that the Isles aren't true playoff contenders, and—given that they stand just three points below the line with a game in hand—it doesn't look like that will be the case.
GM Garth Snow may want to keep Streit, the team's captain and a consistently unheralded offensive defenseman, for as long as he can—presumably, until his contract expires later this calendar year.
Projected Destination: New York Islanders
The 2012 Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils have had an unimpressive 2013 to date, winning just 13 of their first 29 games overall and only three of 12 games since Feb. 22.
It's hard to fathom that the Devils could really contemplate rebuilding, but, if this pace continues for much longer, it's definitely a possibility.
Thirty-six-year-old first-pairing defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who came over last deadline from Minnesota, might be one of the first to go.
He's fourth on the Devils with 20:15 in average TOI and leads all New Jersey defensemen with 13 points; the Devils could shop him as an experienced blueliner with good puck-moving skills and find plenty of takers.
For the moment, the Devils are at a critical juncture in their season. Turn it around, and they'll look to bring in a rental or two (see Jagr on slide No. 5); keep skidding towards April, and Zidlicky & Co. might be buying a few unexpected one-way tickets.
Projected Destination: Edmonton Oilers