As the 2014 NHL trade deadline approaches Wednesday, March 5, the rumors surrounding top stars reportedly on the market have fans across the league anticipating a wild frenzy of trades.
With teams falling out of contention and players on the last year of a deal heading for free agency, there are franchises willing to sell many of their top assets to alleviate some salary-cap pressure while replenishing the farm system.
Here are all the players who must be dealt before the deadline.
When: Wednesday, March 5
Time: 3 p.m. EST
Watch: TradeCentre on NHL Network (8 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST)
Thomas Vanek, New York Islanders
The New York Islanders overpaid for Thomas Vanek in a deal earlier this season, giving up Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick, but it was all supposed to be worth it when the impending free agent re-signed on Long Island.
Which player will be moved first?
Vanek’s willingness to walk away from the team must force the Islanders to trade him before the deadline in order to get anything in return for their investment.
According to Arthur Staple of Newsday, “A half-dozen teams have asked Snow about Vanek, who has no goals and three assists in his last eight games.”
There is little doubt that the team that acquires Vanek this time will underpay for the sniper due to New York’s precarious position, but the Islanders have no choice. After giving up two solid picks and a second-line talent in Moulson, the franchise needs to make up for its mistake.
Vanek understands the trade situation, telling TSN’s Mark Masters about his feelings:
Vanek: "I know what's ahead and what could happen, but once you come to the rink you block it out."— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 27, 2014
With several teams interested in Vanek’s services, New York will likely get a few picks out of the deal, but nothing near what it gave up to acquire the forward initially.
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
There are certain players that transcend the typical classifications fans have for stars in the NHL, and Winnipeg Jets defender Dustin Byfuglien is a perfect example of that.
With the ability to play defense and slide into a role as a winger when needed, Byfuglien is a dangerous, all-purpose weapon.
According to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Flyers' need for another top-tier defender could result in a deal with Winnipeg for Byfuglien coming to fruition:
There are rumblings that he can be acquired for a roster player and a first-round draft pick. With this year's draft in Philadelphia, the Flyers figure to be reluctant to deal their No. 1 choice in 2014 but might be willing to part with one in future years.
Byfuglien was stuck on the Atlanta Thrashers, and now, he is on a Winnipeg Jets team that is no closer to a postseason berth than its southern predecessors. It’s time for a change in the big man’s surroundings, and his hard-nosed attitude would be a welcomed addition in Philadelphia.
The Flyers are perpetually dealing with salary-cap issues due to poor management at times, but there are enough pieces to make this deal happen. Byfuglien would be a perfect fit in Philadelphia.
Jaroslav Halak, Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres dealt long-time starting goalie Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues and received fellow netminder Jaroslav Halak in a package deal. If the Sabres aren’t 100 percent behind Halak, the franchise must move him now and accumulate even more picks and prospects.
According to a report from the Minnesota Star Tribune, the Minnesota Wild are interested in acquiring Halak before the deadline:
Murray is now trying to trade Halak to the Wild. He’s 28, in the last year of his contract and was 24-9-4 with the Blues with a 2.23 goals-against average. But some inside the Wild worry he was a product of the Blues’ stingy system and there’s a reason St. Louis felt Miller, not Halak, was the final piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle.
Buffalo isn’t going to get a great return on Halak after two franchises showed their lack of faith in him, but Halak still has the numbers to prove he is an elite goaltender in the NHL. The stats may be inflated due to the defensive game plan in St. Louis, but Minnesota has a similar mindset.
As the Wild’s former starting goaltender Josh Harding continues dealing with complications from his multiple sclerosis, the team must do what it can to add depth and talent in net to keep the team’s postseason hopes alive.
Harding will have the starting job when he returns, but Halak will be a great backup that can easily fill in for long stretches of time when needed.