Ranking the Best Players Likely to Be Available Before the NHL Trade Deadline
With the NHL's Feb. 29 trade deadline only weeks away, several players could soon be on the move. Pending free agents, like Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (pictured above) and New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle, are among the notables likely to garner considerable attention in the trade rumor mill.
On Jan. 2, we listed the top players likely to be available at the trade deadline.
Trades, re-signings, status of contract talks and addition of new face, like Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin, have brought about changes to the original ranking.
The following slideshow provides an updated ranking of the best players likely to be available at the NHL trade deadline. Stats, skills, contract status and potential value to a playoff contender factored into this ranking.
As always, you can voice your opinion in the comments section below.
Honorable Mentions and Notable Omissions
Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks: A restricted free agent with arbitration rights at season's end, Andersen lost the Ducks' starting goalie job to rookie John Gibson. However, they could retain him as insurance for the rest of the season.
Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes: An unrestricted free agent in July, Boedker's among the Coyotes' top scorers. Even if unsigned by the trade deadline, they'll likely keep him as they push for a playoff berth.
Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames: While Ramo's performance has improved, the Flames are falling out of playoff contention. If they don't gain ground in the standings, this pending free-agent goalie could hit the trade block.
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins: The skilled two-way winger is the subject of growing trade speculation. Though he's eligible for UFA status in July, trading Eriksson could hurt the Bruins' playoff hopes.
Scott Hartnell, Columbus Blue Jackets: In the wake of another lost season, the Blue Jackets could start overhauling their roster. Hartnell could be part of that, though his contract could hamper trade efforts.
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders: Early-season trade speculation about Okposo has faded away. He's eligible for UFA status in July, but he's also the Isles' leading scorer and crucial to their playoff hopes.
James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs: Though hampered by injury, Reimer's put up strong numbers this season. Rather than shop him at the deadline, the Leafs could re-sign the 27-year-old goalie.
Notable Omissions from the Previous List
David Backes, St. Louis Blues: The Blues are currently among the top Western Conference clubs. Though Backes is eligible for UFA status in July, there's little reason for the Blues to trade their captain now.
Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers: The ageless Jagr is among the Panthers' leading scorers and a big reason they're playoff contenders. He's not going anywhere.
Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic, Los Angeles Kings: Kopitar recently signed a long-term extension. Lucic told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun that he wants to stay with the Kings. They won't be on the trade block.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: A free agent in July, Stamkos is determined to remain with the Lightning. He also holds a full no-movement clause. With the Lightning surging in the standings, he has no reason to waive it.
10. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stats and contract status: Appearing in only 19 games this season, Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin has two goals and six assists for eight points. He's in the second season of a three-year entry-level contract.
Analysis: Drouin, 20, is currently suspended without pay for choosing not to play in any more games with Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He's waiting for the Lightning to honor his trade request. Despite his struggles thus far at the NHL level, Drouin has considerable potential as a playmaking forward. As a result, several clubs are reportedly interested in him.
Potential suitors: On Jan. 24, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch listed the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens among the teams looking into acquiring Drouin. The Lightning, however, will take their time evaluating trade offers.
9. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Toronto Maple Leafs
Stats and contract status: After 48 games, Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau has 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points. The 32-year-old is on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: Parenteau continues to enjoy a bounce-back performance this season. It remains to be seen, however, if he has a future with the rebuilding Leafs. Playoff contenders seeking affordable scoring punch could find him a worthwhile rental player.
Potential suitors: The Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues could be among the clubs looking for a scoring forward to fit within their limited cap space. The Leafs' asking price could be at most a second-round draft pick.
8. Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Stats and contract status: After 48 games, Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points. He's in the final season of a two-year, $10 million contract with a modified no-trade clause. The 34-year-old winger is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: Vrbata's production is down considerably compared to last season's 63-point campaign. With the Canucks striving to get younger, he probably doesn't have a future with them. Should they fall further out of playoff contention, Vrbata could be shopped for a draft pick or prospect.
Potential suitors: The Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils could look at Vrbata if the asking price isn't too steep. His former club, the Arizona Coyotes, might consider bringing him back for a playoff push.
7. Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
Stats and contract status: After 47 games, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen has six goals and 17 assists for 23 points. The 24-year-old blueliner is in the final season of a two-year, $2.525 million contract. He's slated to become a restricted free agent in July and has salary-arbitration rights.
Analysis: Vatanen is a very good all-around defenseman. However, the Ducks are this season's lowest-scoring team in the league. To reach the playoffs, they need more offense. They have considerable depth in young defensemen. Vatanen will be due a significant raise this summer, which could prove too expensive for the cost-conscious Ducks.
Potential suitors: The Edmonton Oilers desperately need a top-two defenseman, while the Boston Bruins could use some skilled youth on defense. The Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks also need additional blue-line depth.
6. Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild
Stats and contract status: After 48 games, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin has one goal and five assists for six points. The 22-year-old is in the first season of a six-year, $25 million contract.
Analysis: Struggling to score, the Wild could fall out the playoff race. On Jan. 16, the StarTribune.com's Michael Russo reported that Brodin and Matt Dumba were being mentioned in trade rumors. Russo also claimed that Brodin was offered to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Ryan Johansen before the latter was dealt to the Nashville Predators.
Potential suitors: The Edmonton Oilers desperately need skilled top-four defensemen, while the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks could have interest in Brodin's services. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins still need a replacement for Dougie Hamilton, who was dealt last summer to the Calgary Flames.
5. Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames
Stats and contract status: In 41 games, Calgary Flames center Jiri Hudler has six goals and 18 assists for 24 points. The 32-year-old is in the final season of a four-year, $16 million contract. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: Hudler's production is down significantly compared to last season's career-best 76-point performance. The rebuilding Flames' playoff hopes are also fading. With young stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan due for significant raises this summer, the Flames could part ways with their veteran free agents.
Potential suitors: Hudler has playoff experience, winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 with the Detroit Red Wings. His versatility and disciplined play should make the 2015 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner enticing for clubs in need of scorers. The Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils could look into acquiring Hudler.
4. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Stats and contract status: After 51 games, Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal has nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points. The 31-year-old Hurricanes captain is in the final season of a seven-year, $57.75 million contract and carries a full no-trade clause. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: Staal's production has steadily declined in recent years. Still, he remains a significant name player in the NHL. With the Hurricanes surging in the Eastern Conference playoff race, they could retain Staal even at the risk of losing him to free agency. If they slump in February, however, they could try to convince him to accept a trade.
Potential suitors: Staal's no-trade clause gives him final say over where he could be dealt. The Hurricanes' asking price will also be a factor. Recent trade rumors linked him to the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators.
3. Keith Yandle, New York Rangers
Stats and contract status: After 49 games, New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle has three goals and 23 assists for 26 points. He's in the final season of a five-year, $26.25 million contract. His salary-cap hit this season is $5.25 million, evenly divided between the Rangers and his former team, the Arizona Coyotes. Yandle is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: Despite Yandle's impressive puck-moving skills, he's been used as a third-pairing defenseman and power-play specialist by the Rangers. They also can't afford to re-sign him. That's prompted speculation suggesting Yandle could be shopped for a forward at the trade deadline.
Potential suitors: Because the Rangers' share of Yandle's cap hit this season is only $2.625 million, he could attract interest from teams seeking an affordable rental blueliner. The Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings could be among them.
2. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Stats and contract status: After 49 games, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points. The 30-year-old blueliner is in the final season of a five-year, $26 million contract with a modified no-trade clause. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Analysis: A big (6'5", 260 lbs), physical defender with a good scoring touch, Byfuglien's a key figure on the Jets' blue line. On Jan. 26, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that they could put the emphasis on re-signing Byfuglien over left wing Andrew Ladd. Friedman suggested that the length of the deal could be an issue. Still, that could affect his availability leading up to the trade deadline.
Potential suitors: The Dallas Stars have the salary-cap space and depth in young prospects to swing a trade. Depending on the status of sidelined blueliner Brooks Orpik—the Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan reported that he returned to practice on Tuesday—the Washington Capitals might also come calling.
1. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets
Stats and contract status: After 49 games, Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points. The 30-year-old Jets captain is in the final season of a five-year, $22 million contract and carries a modified no-trade clause. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Analysis: On Jan. 30, the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe reported that the Jets don't appear keen to meet Ladd's asking price of over $6 million per season for six years. While Ladd's performance has declined this season, he exceeded 50 points in four of the last five seasons. He also played on Stanley Cup champions with the Carolina Hurricanes (2006) and Chicago Blackhawks (2010).
Possible suitors: The Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators both need scoring depth to remain in the Western Conference playoff chase. So do the New Jersey Devils and the fading Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference.