Early Look at the Top NHL Trade Deadline Targets in 2014-15

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistNovember 21, 2014

Early Look at the Top NHL Trade Deadline Targets in 2014-15

0 of 10

    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    NHL teams are beginning to assess their chances of making the postseason in 2014-15. If it looks like they're going to be outside the playoffs, that means upcoming free agents may be made available leading up to the trade deadline.

    It's difficult to know which teams are going to be selling this early in the year. The prevailing wisdom suggests teams need to be within a couple games of a playoff spot by Thanksgiving weekend or it's not going to happen for them.

    There will be impressive talent available this year for contending teams. Here's an early look at the top players who could be available and why teams will seek them this year.

10. Viktor Fasth, G, Edmonton Oilers

1 of 10

    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Viktor Fasth is struggling in his backup role with the Edmonton Oilers. His save percentage is below average, and the Oilers aren't winning many games.

    Why He's Available: Edmonton has Ben Scrivens signed for next season, but Fasth is a free agent at the end of the year.

    What He'll Cost: Fasth won't cost much. A late-round pick will get the job done. He may not be trade bait if he continues to struggle. However, he does have a solid resume, and there's not much of a sample size this early. There's a good chance an NHL team will come calling at the deadline.

9. Andrej Meszaros, D, Buffalo Sabres

2 of 10

    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    What He's Doing This Season: Andrej Meszaros is a veteran defender who brings size and skill to the blue line. He's playing 19 minutes a night for the Buffalo Sabres this year, including power-play time.

    Why He's Available: Meszaros is coming up on free agency and is unlikely to return to the rebuilding Sabres.

    What He'll Cost: He is not performing at a high level, but veteran defenders always have some value at the deadline. Buffalo should be able to cash in on Meszaros for a late-round pick.

8. Jordan Leopold, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

3 of 10

    Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Jordan Leopold is a veteran NHL defenseman with plenty of miles. He recently moved from the St. Louis Blues to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade and is playing sparingly.

    Why He's Available: At 34, Leopold is in the journeyman stage of his career. He'll be attractive to a contending team looking for veteran depth.

    What He'll Cost: Every trade deadline has veteran depth defensemen changing uniforms. Columbus gave up a fifth-round selection in 2016 to get him, and he will command at least that much in return.

7. Michal Neuvirth, G, Buffalo Sabres

4 of 10

    Adam Wiepert/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Michal Neuvirth is a goaltender with a solid NHL resume. His play for the Sabres this season has been outstanding, and contending team will certainly have noticed.

    Why He's Available: The Sabres may choose to sign him before the deadline, but Neuvirth may be worth more in a trade to help their rebuild than acquiring some of his free-agent seasons.

    What He'll Cost: A goaltender has extreme value at the deadline, and Neuvirth had a solid playoff run with the Washington Capitals in 2010-11. The Sabres should be able to acquire a pick inside the top 50 selections in 2015.

6. Antti Niemi, G, San Jose Sharks

5 of 10

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Antti Niemi is the No. 1 goalie for the San Jose Sharks. That fact hasn't stopped the team from openly auditioning other goaltenders, and the early results are encouraging for the new hires.

    Why He's Available: Niemi and the Sharks have had some success and plenty of disappointment during their time together. With his contract expiring in the summer, the Sharks may decide to offload the veteran no matter what their playoff situation is.

    What He'll Cost: Sharks management could keep Niemi for playoff security, but the club appears to be impatient to turn the corner. A pick inside the top 50 might get Niemi this deadline.

5. Drew Stafford, RW, Buffalo Sabres

6 of 10

    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Drew Stafford is a veteran winger for the Sabres. He's been scoring well this season compared to his teammates.

    Why He's Available: After arriving in the NHL to stay in 2006, Stafford has proved to be a consistent winger with two-way ability and a physical edge. Stafford is 29 now and is unlikely to be interested in hanging around for a rebuild when he reaches free agency in the summer.

    What He'll Cost: A player like Stafford has increased value compared to his statistics because of his veteran status and proven ability. A team attempting to acquire Stafford will need to bring a combination of a prospect and a pick to complete a deal.

4. Jiri Tlusty, RW, Carolina Hurricanes

7 of 10

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Jiri Tlusty is an effective offensive winger for the Carolina Hurricanes. Tlusty is enjoying a productive start to the year, scoring eight goals in the first 19 games of the season.

    Why He's Available: Tlusty is a pending free agent, and the Hurricanes have several top-heavy contracts. They may not retain their scoring winger. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen linked Tlusty to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a recent article.

    What He'll Cost: A team calling about Tlusty should be ready to pay a steep price. A top-flight prospect is the likely cost. In Pittsburgh's case, one of the Penguins' excellent young defensive prospects might satisfy the Hurricanes.

3. Jeff Petry, D, Edmonton Oilers

8 of 10

    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Jeff Petry is a quality NHL defenseman just coming into his own with the Oilers. He plays close to 20 minutes a night and is enjoying a solid year. 

    Why He's Available: The Oilers have Justin Schultz and Mark Fayne on the right side of their defense and appear to have decided Petry is the odd man out. Petry's next contract will be expensive, as he'll reach free agency at age 27. 

    What He'll Cost: The Oilers hurt Petry's trade value by allowing him to sign a one-year deal leading into free agency. The club should be able to acquire a top 50 pick or a quality prospect from a contending team.

2. Nick Foligno, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

9 of 10

    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Nick Foligno is enjoying a quality season with the Blue Jackets. He leads the team in goals and ranks second in scoring.

    Why He's Available: Foligno is in the final season of his contract and is about to reach free agency. Columbus must protect its interests, and that often means trading a player before the deadline.

    What He'll Cost: He's 27 and brings a range of skills, including complementary offense. Columbus should be able to pry a pick and a prospect from a team looking to add a quality winger.

1. Andrej Sekera, D, Carolina Hurricanes

10 of 10

    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    What He's Doing This Season: Andrej Sekera is an effective veteran defenseman for the Hurricanes. He plays top minutes in all three disciplines and scores well in the possession metrics. He possesses a wide range of skills and has been in the NHL since 2007.

    Why He's Available: Sekera is in the final season of his contract and may be looking elsewhere when free agency arrives next summer. The Hurricanes might be forced to protect their interests by trading him before the deadline.

    What He'll Cost: Every contending team is looking for this kind of defenseman. Carolina should be able to charge a premium for Sekera. It's unlikely he'll fetch a first-round selection in a strong draft, but the return will be substantial.