There is a very important period of time coming up in the NHL—one that will determine the fate of more than a few teams who choose to actively participate in it.
Between 12:00 a.m ET on Monday, Feb. 24 and 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 5, it’s like Christmas for NHL general managers and fans alike. It’s the last time this season that any team can make a trade and have the players be eligible to compete in the playoffs.
Usually all of the action comes on deadline day as the trade market opens up and all kinds of skaters are suddenly in play. Some years the trade deadline is exciting, full of surprises and blockbuster moves. Other times the day is uneventful, the landscape of the NHL barely changing.
This season, with the amount of talent either unhappy, unwilling to compromise or on the verge of free agency, March 5 looks to be a day bustling with activity. While it is hard to predict who will go and where they will end up, here is a list of the 10 NHL players most likely to be moved before the 3 p.m. ET cutoff.
Nobody can blame a player in the NHL for wanting to play for a team that has a real chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. It’s the endgame for those who make a living playing in the top tier of the sport.
That was Washington Capitals forward Martin Erat’s wish when he asked the Nashville Predators to trade him last year. Now it’s starting to become a trend with the 32-year-old Czech winger, who has already asked to be moved from his newest club, the Capitals.
While one goal and 21 assists through 51 contests doesn’t make him the most appealing option, it’s hard to argue against Erat’s eight seasons with 49 or more points. Erat still feels that he has much to offer a team in the hunt for the Cup, and his dissatisfaction with Washington almost guarantees him a trip out of town.
He could be one of the first guys to go on deadline day.
Thomas Vanek has made a few headlines this season.
First, when he was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson earlier in the year. Then again when Vanek turned down a potential seven-year, $50 million contract extension to stay in New York.
The 30-year-old winger made an immediate impact upon his arrival to the Islanders, playing alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. With 15 goals and 40 points through 44 games on Long Island—and a legacy of 41 or more points every season he’s played—the unrestricted free agent is looking to test the waters of free agency this summer.
Tasked with handcuffing his team financially or letting Vanek walk for nothing in return, Islanders general manager Garth Snow has a dilemma on his hands. Having given up an asset to acquire Vanek, it seems unlikely that Snow would be willing to let such a highly desired player go, and thus, a trade is likely.
Make no mistake, Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller isn’t happy where he’s at. Constantly rumored to be on the trade block, Miller has been tasked with backstopping a Sabres squad that sits last in the entire NHL. That's not the easiest thing to do for such a fierce competitor.
Neither is spending your career coming up short.
Buffalo is on the fast track to truly rebuilding from the ground up, and the value of a guy like Miller is too much to pass up should the right suitor come calling. Miller would also likely be willing to waive a no-trade clause should the opportunity be one that gives him a better chance to battle for the Stanley Cup—which narrows the list of potential landing spots to many.
At 33 years old, Miller doesn’t have a lot of time left for the Sabres, making a move sooner than later the better choice for Buffalo.
This season has been tough for Anaheim Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth. Having suffered multiple injuries, the 31-year-old Fasth has played just five games for the Ducks while spending the rest of his time watching from the sidelines as his replacement, Frederik Andersen, has been more than outstanding in his stead.
As Fasth returns from injury, Anaheim is left with the challenge of what to do with three keepers and two roster spots. The way that Andersen is playing, heading back to the AHL would be a detriment to his development, and trading him would mean giving up a lot of potential.
According to comments made to ESPN.com by Ducks general manager Bob Murray, starting tender Jonas Hiller isn’t going to be moved anytime soon either.
That leaves Fasth as potential bait for a move that could give the Ducks enough of an edge to push through last season’s first round exit and deep into the playoffs this time around.
A trend is developing with the New York Islanders, and it isn’t exactly what the club would like to see. First, Thomas Vanek rejected a lengthy offer that would have secured his future with the up-and-coming club. Then, it happened again with defenseman Andrew MacDonald.
According to a report from the New York Post, MacDonald rejected a four-year-contract valued at $16 million. With free agency looming this summer, and many a team looking for help, Islanders general manager Garth Snow cannot afford to see two valuable assists—both in the team’s top five for points—walk for nothing in return.
With little to gain from prolonging the inevitable, Snow shouldn’t have a hard time moving MacDonald and his $550,000 cap hit, gaining draft picks at a minimum and an equally talented player at best in the deal. There are more than a few teams in the NHL seeking support on the blue line.
Calgary is in a bad place this season. Floating around the bottom of the Western Conference standings, there is virtually nowhere for the Flames to go but up. Having fired general manager Jay Feaster, acting GM Brian Burke will look to determine the future of the franchise.
As it sits, moves need to be made, and Mike Cammalleri could be the first to go. At 31 years old, he sits in the middle of the pack in points and could give enough of a boost to a contender to be valuable at the trade deadline—even as a rental.
Cammalleri is expensive and has produced more than thirty points just once in the last three seasons, both of which hurt his value on the market. Despite this, he’s still a capable player with an upside worthy of consideration from a few teams around the NHL looking to add production for a late push.
There are some tough decisions coming up for the New York Rangers, which has both Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan on the verge of unrestricted free agency this summer. Both are currently open to negotiations, but the odds of each getting what they’re looking for is slim, especially with ESPN reporting that progress isn’t being made with the Callahan camp.
While it is always strange to see a captain get traded, that doesn’t make Callahan untouchable. Handcuffed by prolonged contracts to Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh, among others, the Rangers will have to decide who is worth keeping long term.
Of the two, Callahan would be easier to depart with. The disruption to the team is the least invasive, and Callahan is worth a lot to a team willing to take him on as a rental with the potential for a longer relationship.
With all of the trouble that the Buffalo Sabres has faced this season, losing a top-four forward seems like adding insult to injury. The year is over for the Sabres though, and the time to start planning for the future begins now.
Brought over in the trade for Thomas Vanek, 30-year-old left wing Matt Moulson is a valuable asset that will fetch a fine price before the trade deadline. With a potent body of work to lean on, Moulson would be one of the most highly sought after players on the market.
Add to that the fact that he’s an unrestricted free agent and highly unlikely to sign with Buffalo over the summer, and that means a move is imminent. Being injured will certainly hurt the return for Moulson, as questions will be raised about his potential for an immediate impact, but it’s not serious and shouldn’t prevent general manager Tim Murray from pulling the trigger.
All of the first overall draft picks over the course of the last handful of years has done little to help the Edmonton Oilers make a push up the standings. Sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference this season, Edmonton’s management has already started making moves to change the makeup of the perennial loser.
More changes could be on the horizon as the Oilers have just two defensemen signed through the end of the season and no goaltenders held over as well. Making $5 million and likely looking for more of the same this summer, forward Ales Hemsky suddenly seems an enticing move.
The 30-year-old Czech winger has spent his entire career with Edmonton, doing his best to remain consistent despite having little to work with at times. Losing his veteran presence could hurt the Oilers, but his knack for playmaking should bring in a decent return.
His value as a short-term rental makes him a probable move before the deadline.
According to resident TSN expert Bob McKenzie, the Nashville Predators are looking to move leading point scorer David Legwand. The 33-year old center has a history of consistency and contribution, making him a desirable asset for a team needing both.
Responsible on each side of the puck, Legwand could be costly to acquire, but he is the type of player that can put a club over the top for the remainder of the season and beyond. His 10 goals and 30 assists after 59 games this season helps to ease the pain of a high asking price.
Legwand brings some risk with him, as he’s a pending unrestricted free agent but, with Nashville sitting out of the playoff picture, a chance to extend the season with a stronger club could go a long way in strengthening a budding relationship. Expect Legwand to be one of the more popular targets come deadline day.