With the NHL’s Feb. 24 trade deadline less than two weeks away, there’s growing interest over which teams will become buyers or sellers. Speculation is also brewing over which players could be on the move in the coming days.
As the deadline approaches, the trade market is bubbling to life.
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins shipped Alex Galchenyuk, a defense prospect, and a conditional first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild for winger Jason Zucker. Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired goaltender Jack Campbell and winger Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings.
TRADE DEADLINE: List of completed deals
Here’s a look at the 10 noteworthy players most likely to be dealt before the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
1. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
The best player potentially available in this season’s trade market, Kreider is a big, fast, physical forward with good offensive skills. The Rangers hope to re-sign him, but he could prove too expensive to retain. He’s been linked to the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and the defending champion St. Louis Blues.
2. Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
The best defenseman in the trade market, Martinez is a strong-skating, all-around rearguard who helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups. With the club now rebuilding, he might not fit into their long-term plans. Unlike most on this list, he’s under contract for another season with an affordable $4 million annual average value (AAV) and lacks no-trade protection. The Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets could come calling.
3. Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
A versatile two-way forward who can play right wing or center, Toffoli is on pace to reach 20 goals for the fourth time in his eight-season NHL career. The 27-year-old is also due to become an unrestricted free agent and could be too costly for the cap-strapped Kings to re-sign. Teams that lose out in the bidding for Kreider could consider Toffoli their fall-back option.
4. Sami Vatanen, New Jersey Devils
A disappointing season for the Devils has already led to changes in the front office and behind the bench, as well as the December trade of winger Taylor Hall to Arizona. More could coming at the deadline with Vatanen perhaps their most attractive trade chip. The pending UFA is an experienced puck-moving defenseman on track for his fourth 30-plus point season in eight years. Clubs seeking blue-line depth, like the Hurricanes, Jets, Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights, could have interest in Vatanen.
5. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
The two-way center is enjoying a career performance in his contract year, on pace for over 30 goals and 50 points. There’s no indication the rebuilding Senators are shopping the Ottawa native, but also no word the two sides are engaged in contract discussions. A versatile forward who can also play on the wing, Pageau could draw interest from the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.
6. Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks
With the Sharks mired near the bottom of the Western Conference, general manager Doug Wilson is expected to go into sell mode by the deadline. Dillon, like most on this list, is slated to become a UFA in July. The 6-4, 225-pounder is a physical defender who can also chip in offensively. It’s believed the Hurricanes, Jets, and Leafs have explored his availability.
7. Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs could require a top-four defenseman if Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are sidelined long term. It’s believed they want more than just a rental player for that role. Acquiring one, however, could cost the cap-strapped Leafs one of their good, affordable young wingers. The 23-year-old Kapanen has frequently surfaced this season as a trade candidate.
8. Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers
Speaking of teams with limited salary-cap room in need of defensemen, the Panthers also fall into that category. GM Dale Tallon has made no secret of his wish to add a top-four blueliner before the deadline. Hoffman, slated to become a UFA in July, has surfaced as a possible trade option. The 30-year-old right wing is scoring at a 30-goal clip and could be attractive to playoff contenders carrying blue-line depth in need of an offensive boost. Perhaps the Flames, Islanders, or Dallas Stars could be a suitable fit.
9. Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens
Considered washed-up following his contract termination with the Kings in December, Kovalchuk has regained his offensive spark in Montreal. With six goals (including three game-winners) and 12 points in 15 contests with the Canadiens, the 37-year-old left winger could be an affordable option for clubs that fail to land Kreider, Toffoli, Zucker or Hoffman.
10. Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit Red Wings
The 25-year-old Athanasiou has struggled through injury and inconsistency this season, with seven goals and 20 points in 41 games. However, he’s only a year removed from a career-high 30-goal performance. Blessed with speed and two-way skills, the versatile Athanasiou is also a restricted free agent with arbitration right this summer. He might not have a long-term future with the rebuilding Red Wings.
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