NHL Trade Rumors: Top Buzz on Eric Staal and More as 2016 Deadline Approaches

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2016

Eric Staal may be getting ready to leave Carolina.
Eric Staal may be getting ready to leave Carolina.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Florida Panthers have had a surprising season that has seen them gain first place in the NHL's Atlantic Division.

They made three moves on Saturday to improve their team, as they acquired forward Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames, defenseman Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings and forward Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers, per CBS Sports.

Those moves indicate the NHL trade deadline, Monday at 3 p.m. ET, is likely to be a busy time. Teams that believe they have a solid chance to make the playoffs want to improve, while teams on the outside may want to gain future assets in exchange for veteran players.

That could be the case for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in. After dropping games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins on Thursday and Friday respectively, it appears unlikely the Hurricanes can improve their position enough to earn a spot in the postseason.

As a result, trading center Eric Staal is a strong possibility. According to the Fourth Period, the New York Rangers would like to acquire Staal and are willing to offer a package that includes winger Chris Kreider.

Dennis Bernstein of the Fourth Period reported an NHL team executive told him Kreider would likely be involved in any trade with Carolina.

Staal has a no-trade clause, and the Hurricanes would have to get his approval before they make a move. However, Staal has not been to the playoffs since 2009, and he is not expected to object to a trade that would allow him to play on the same team as brother Marc Staal.

Eric Staal is scheduled to be a free agent on July 1.

Buffalo Sabres left winger Jamie McGinn is also likely to be traded before the deadline, according to the Fourth Period.

McGinn is not a star, but he is a hard-working grinder who will go into the corners and battle hard for the puck. McGinn has scored 14 goals and 13 assists this season, and he would be capable of filling a role on the third or fourth line of a playoff team.

The report also states the Sabres are also willing to listen to offers for defenseman Josh Gorges and center David Legwand.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators engaged in a big trade earlier this season when defenseman Seth Jones was sent to Columbus for center Ryan Johansen.

Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

The Preds and Blue Jackets are reportedly talking about making another deal involving left winger Scott Hartnell. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets are apparently willing to deal Hartnell, and the Preds would get a proven goal scorer who has three years remaining on his contract beyond the 2015-16 season.

The 33-year-old Hartnell has scored 19 goals and 20 assists this season, and he has scored 20 goals or more eight times in his career. The Predators drafted Hartnell in 2000 before he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007. He has been with the Blue Jackets since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Hartnell recently spoke to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, and he does not like seeing his name in trade rumors:

#CBJ Scott Hartnell on trade talks: "It’s never fun. Obviously there are lots of rumors about myself and Toots. We read the papers ...

— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) February 28, 2016

However, if the move gets made, he may have to change his attitude rather quickly.