NHL Rumors: Analyzing Hottest Trade Buzz Entering 2019 Deadline Day

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2019

Artemi Panarin will command a big return if the Blue Jackets trade him Monday.
Artemi Panarin will command a big return if the Blue Jackets trade him Monday.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Could the Columbus Blue Jackets possibly trade Artemi Panarin at this point?

A week ago, it seemed likely, if not certain, that the Blue Jackets would part with their high-scoring winger because of his status as a potential free agent July 1. There would certainly be no point in holding on to Panarin for the rest of the season and getting nothing in return for him.

However, the Blue Jackets have been quite active in the days leading up to the deadline, completing two separate deals with the Ottawa Senators for Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel.

Duchene and Dzingel are both in the final years of their contract and will be free agents July 1. The Blue Jackets moved assets to acquire players who will hit the open market at the end of the year unless they suddenly sign with the Jackets.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has apparently decided to go for the brass ring with his Blue Jackets. Kekalainen must have great faith in his team having an excellent chance to win the Stanley Cup or he wouldn't have traded for Duchene and Dzingel.

That brings us to Panarin, who has scored 24 goals and 45 assists to this point in the season. If Kekalainen is indeed going for it, how could he possibly trade Panarin? Kekalainen has not ruled out trading Panarin at this point, but he would have to be overwhelmed with a trade proposal to move him.

Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported that Kekalainen is listening to offers for Panarin and that if a deal is made for the winger, it would be one that helps the Blue Jackets in the present and the future.

Kekalainen is creating an intense market for Panarin because of his acquisition of Duchene and Dzingel. They were two of the more attractive players that were up for trade, and now they have been taken off the market.

That means the best players available at this point are Panarin and Mark Stone of the Senators. It seems certain that Stone will be traded, and there is no chance he will remain with the Senators. Once that happens, Panarin will be the only true game-changer left on the board.

That means Kekalainen should be able to command the price he wants for Panarin, and that almost certainly means a combination of players, prospects and draft picks.

If that is the case, Kekalainen will have proved himself a master of the trade deadline because of the way he has acquired two strong assets and has driven up the value of his own top asset.

Stone remains on the market

Stone has scored 28 goals and 34 assists for the Senators this season, and he can clearly be a game-changing asset for any potential Stanley Cup hopeful that acquires him.

Bob McKenzie of TSN and NBC reported that the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Boston Bruins have the most interest in Stone. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported that there are eight teams interested in acquiring Stone's services.

The Jets may be getting close to completing a deal for Stone, according to Hockey Night in Canada insider Elliotte Friedman. The trade for Stone is likely to include a 2019 first-round selection, a conditional second-round pick and two prospects.

While Panarin and Stone are the leading names at the trade deadline, there are several others who will also be coveted.

Simmonds update and more

Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers is another potential game-changer, as he has scored 24 goals or more in a season six times in his career.

Simmonds has been discussed as a trade possibility for several weeks, but Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher has been trying to give his team a chance to get back in the playoff race.

While the Flyers staged a powerful comeback to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime Saturday, they are still seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Fletcher has started to engage in trade talks, per Frank Seravalli of TSN. The Bruins are likely to show interest in Simmonds, according to Sam Carchidi of Philly.com

Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils is creating "traction," according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and TSN.

Some of the other key players who have an excellent chance to move at the deadline include Kevin Hayes of the New York Rangers and Michael Raffl of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Gustav Nyquist was traded by the Detroit Red Wings to the San Jose Sharks early Monday morning. The Sharks sent a second-round pick in 2019 and a conditional third-round pick in 2020 to Detroit.