The Top Players Likely to Be Available at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2015

The Top Players Likely to Be Available at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    NHL teams are starting to make their moves, adding help for the long playoff season that in some cases can run into late June. The David Perron trade this week—as reported by The Associated Press (via TSN.com)—signals the beginning of sell-off season, and we could see some major names dealt before March 2.

    The big names are unlikely to be traded until very close to the deadline, with teams wanting to increase value and create bidding wars. Unrestricted free agents will definitely be in play, as teams prefer expiring contracts they can rent without worrying about tacked-on seasons.

    Here are the top players who could be available at this year's trade deadline.

8. Martin Erat, RW, Arizona Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Why Does He Have Value? Martin Erat is an established veteran with skill and versatility. He can play either wing and, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, has been an effective possession player (54.3 Corsi-for percentage) this season.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Teams with specific needs on the wings, like the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, would be interested in Erat. He struggled last season but has recovered enough to fill the role as a complementary offensive player—and he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

    What Will It Cost? Erat's value was damaged during his stay with the Washington Capitals, and that may still impact the return at this year's deadline. A third- or fourth-round pick would probably get this deal done.

7. Chris Stewart, RW, Buffalo Sabres

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Why Does He Have Value? Chris Stewart of the Buffalo Sabres is a big, strong winger who can win battles and lean on opponents. He is struggling this season but will have value at the deadline as an overpowering winger who can score some goals.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Stewart will attract interest from most teams, including the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens. The Canucks might view him as a reasonable alternative to Zack Kassian, who is struggling to help out offensively.

    What Will It Cost? Stewart is a pure rental and has scored only five goals this season, but he has posted 15 or more goals consistently in previous seasons. A third-round pick in the deep 2015 draft is not out of the question as a return.

6. Jiri Tlusty, LW, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Why Does He Have Value? Jiri Tlusty has proved to be an effective plug-and-play option for the Carolina Hurricanes. During his time in Raleigh, he's emerged as a consistent secondary point producer.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Tlusty has good speed and can play all forward positions, per Elite Prospects, so there's a chance he could go to any team at the deadline. Teams in the Eastern Conference are more familiar with his work, so there may be a more obvious fit there.

    What Will It Cost? An effective veteran who can help offensively has terrific value at any deadline, but the caliber of this season's draft may mean Tlusty fetches a third-round pick for the Hurricanes.

5. Jeff Petry, D, Edmonton Oilers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Why Does He Have Value? Jeff Petry of the Edmonton Oilers plays over 21 minutes a night and, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, is doing well in the possession department this season (52.1 Corsi-for percentage). That's a difficult thing to do on a losing team.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Right-handed defensemen usually require a premium payment, and as this Ansar Khan article at MLive states, the Detroit Red Wings inquired about Petry last summer. Defense has tremendous value at the deadline, mostly because injuries can decimate the position during a long postseason run.

    What Will It Cost? Petry will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer, and that usually means the return is a draft pick. The 2015 draft is a deep one, and Petry may fetch a second- or third-round pick from a contending team.

4. Jaromir Jagr, RW, New Jersey Devils

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Why Does He Have Value? Jaromir Jagr is the New Jersey Devils' leading scorer in 2014-15—at age 42. He could get traded at the deadline and has expressed that he is open to a deal, as noted in this article by Josh Yohe of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Jagr might be a good fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are in dire need of wingers—although the trade for David Perron this week addressed this issue to some extent—and the Boston Bruins might have interest based on their difficulties replacing Jarome Iginla's production.

    What Will It Cost? Jagr wouldn't be expensive to acquire; a pick in the top 90 might get it done. The legendary winger is nearing the end of the line, and trading him to a strong Stanley Cup contender would probably be more important than the return. Still, a second- or third-round pick is a reasonable bet.

3. Drew Stafford, RW, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Why Does He Have Value? Drew Stafford is a rugged two-way winger for the Buffalo Sabres. His offense is off this year, but that should improve with better linemates.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? The Boston Bruins are the obvious choice but not the only one. Stafford could fit right in with any of the West Coast teams, and he might make sense as a rental for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    What Will It Cost? Stafford's value is significant, to the point where a second-round pick might not be enough to get him. A top-50 pick and a prospect may satisfy the Sabres.

2. Andrej Sekera, D, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Why Does He Have Value? Andrej Sekera is the prototypical modern NHL defenseman. The Carolina Hurricanes rely heavily on him for quick puck retrieval, smart passes out of the zone and his power-play ability. He delivers on all fronts, although his numbers are down this season.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Sekera would be a very good fit for the Los Angeles Kings, who may need a replacement for Slava Voynov if he is unable to return to the NHL. Voynov's story and its implications  were covered by Mark Spector of Sportsnet in his Jan. 2 article.

    What Will It Cost? Sekera is a valuable type of player at the deadline—a defenseman who can play significant minutes. It's unlikely Carolina can acquire a first-round pick for an expiring contract, but a second-round pick or an excellent prospect is likely.

1. Antoine Vermette, C, Arizona Coyotes

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Why Does He Have Value? Antoine Vermette is a legitimate top-six forward and one of the Arizona Coyotes best offensive players. He's on pace for over 50 points this season and is a fine addition to any power play.

    What Teams Might Be Interested? Teams looking for a second-line center have Vermette at the top of their wish lists. Those teams may include the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks, but the list of interested teams will be long.

    What Will It Cost? Vermette is the one player currently available who might warrant a late first-round selection from another NHL team. His offensive ability and range of skills make him an upgrade for any team weak up the middle.

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