The trade deadline is fast approaching in the NHL, and there is a great deal of anticipation about the number and type of deals that will be made prior to Monday afternoon's finish line.
The Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild got things started Wednesday, when the Bruins acquired forward Charlie Coyle from the Wild for 2018 Olympic hero Ryan Donato and a fifth-round choice in the upcoming draft.
The Washington Capitals acquired the speedy Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings Thursday for a 2019 third-round selection and a conditional 2020 sixth-round draft pick, per the league's website.
Those deals could set the table for much larger trades involving big-name players from the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators.
Power forward Wayne Simmonds is viewed as a potential big prize for any team that trades for him. The Flyers have been playing much better hockey in recent weeks, although they were punished 5-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Losses at this point in the season could force the Flyers into giving up their playoff hopes and becoming sellers.
Simmonds, 30, is perhaps the most valuable trade asset on the Philadelphia roster. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, and TSN hockey writer Frank Seravalli reported that the Flyers have not presented the wing with a new contract offer.
While Seravalli said that option has not been ruled out, he reported that several teams have contacted Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher about Simmonds' services.
Those teams include the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins. Simmonds has a modified no-trade contract, and he would have to give his permission to consent to a trade.
Simmonds says he is trying to concentrate on playing the game and is not listening to the rumors. "I've been focused on playing hockey," Simmonds said, per Seravalli. "Guys are having fun again, finally."
The 30-year-old has 16 goals and 11 assists to this point in the season, after scoring 24 goals and 46 points last season. The 6'2", 185-pound wing has eclipsed 30 goals twice in his career.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have a big decision to make in the days leading up to the deadline regarding high-scoring winger Artemi Panarin.
The sharpshooter has indicated on several occasions that he was not going to sign a contract during the season and is willing to go to free agency at the end of the season to find out how much he is worth.
That means the Blue Jackets would not get a player or assets in return if Panarin signed with another team in the summer. The problem for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is that the Jackets have hopes of not only getting into the postseason but also winning a series or two in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
How would that be possible if they decided to trade Panarin, who has scored 24 goals and 67 points this season? Panarin's ability to hit the corners of the net with his quick-as-a-hiccup wrist shot makes him a valuable asset for the Blue Jackets or any team that wants to trade for him.
In the weeks and months prior to the deadline, the Jackets have said they wanted major assets in return for Panarin, but since he is set to become a free agent, they may have to rethink their position.
If Columbus doesn't think it can win the Stanley Cup this year, it is almost certainly better off getting decent assets in return if there is no bidding war for his services.
Craig Custance of The Athletic reported that the teams that are apparently the front-runners for Panarin are the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers. Neither the Rangers nor the Panthers appear likely to make the playoffs this year, so if either acquired Panarin, they would be trying to sign him to a long-term deal.
The Islanders are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, and they have one of the game's shrewdest executives in Lou Lamoriello.
One of Custance's sources believes Lamoriello would be capable of convincing Panarin to sign long term if the Islanders acquired him.
"I think Lou can get him signed," a source said, per Custance.
It is also vital to keep an eye on the Ottawa Senators prior to the trade deadline. The Senators are in last place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference and have little hope of going to the playoffs.
However, the Senators have three assets in Mark Stone (28 goals), Matt Duchene (27 goals) and Ryan Dzingel (22 goals), who are all valuable offensive players.
Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion held out all three for Ottawa's Thursday night game against the New Jersey Devils, indicating there is clear interest in those players from teams looking to acquire talent before Monday's deadline.