Cap Space: $16.4 million
Needs: Despite the strong play of Sebastian Aho, the Canes need another high-end center. Goaltending has been an issue, too, with the Scott Darling experiment a clear misstep.
Availability: The Hurricanes have a plethora of right-shot defensemen, a valuable commodity. Brett Pesce is untouchable, but there are still some nice players in this cohort.
UFAs: M. Ferland, (LW), J. Williams (RW), P. Mrazek (G), C. McElhinney (G), G. McKegg (C)
Trade Bait:Dougie Hamilton can’t take this one personally. Though the top-end blueliner has been traded twice in three years, an exit from Carolina would have nothing to do with museum visits and more because he’s an attractive asset that could get the Hurricanes an important player (see: top-end center) in return. His contract is fairly cap friendly, too.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Cap Space: $6.4 million
Needs: Certainty. And they probably won’t get it. The Jackets know they will likely lose Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky as UFAs, so it’s Cup or bust.
Availability: Should the team go nuclear, it has an elite winger and netminder to deal (Bobrovsky has a no-trade clause, for the record), but the Jackets must be careful who they deal with given their own title aspirations.
UFAs: S. Bobrovsky (G), A. Panarin (LW)
Trade Bait: He’d be a scintillating rental if it comes to that. Artemi Panarin has the skills to change a team’s fortunes. The Jackets could very well hold on to him, but if GM Jarmo Kekalainen goes for a trade, Panarin would attract a very nice package of assets that would have to include a first-rounder, a good prospect and probably a roster player as well.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Cap Space: $13.1 million
Needs: The forward corps is thin behind Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Nico Hischier, and goaltending has been a combination of bad and injured. The Devils need more high-end prospects.
Availability: If you’re looking for veteran leadership or character guys, the Devils are your one-stop shop.
UFAs: K. Kinkaid (G), M. Johansson (LW), D. Stafford (RW), B. Lovejoy (D)
Trade Bait: Another utility forward heading to the open market is Marcus Johansson and, as a rental, he brings a lot of intrigue. The two-way player can line up at all three forward positions, and his speed is tailor-made for today’s NHL. Points have been spotty lately, but the injury bug hasn’t helped, either. He could net a decent pick from a contender.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Cap Space: $10.5 million
Needs: There are several Stanley Cup winners on the Islanders, but it would be a great signal to add another veteran to a team that has earned that sort of confidence from management.
Availability: New York has some nice prospects in its pipeline if GM Lou Lamoriello chooses to add.
UFAs: A. Lee (LW), J. Eberle (RW), R. Lehner (G), B. Nelson (C), V. Filppula (C.), L. Sbisa (D), T. Kuhnhackl (RW)
Trade Bait: Five years after being drafted, Josh Ho-Sang still hasn’t found his place with the Islanders. Ultra-talented with the puck, the youngster still hasn’t earned the trust of management, even though the Islanders are statistically better when he’s in the lineup (they win about two of every three games). Is it time for a fresh start elsewhere?
NEW YORK RANGERS
Cap Space: $2.1 million
Needs: New York must continue to hoard picks and develop prospects as GM Jeff Gorton looks towards the future.
Availability: The Rangers have several veteran forwards on expiring contracts and even a rugged right-shot defenseman in Adam McQuaid. Unloading Kevin Shattenkirk and his contract would be a huge coup.
UFAs: K. Hayes (C), M. Zuccarello (RW), A. McQuaid (D)
Trade Bait: As soon as Kevin Hayes re-signed a one-year deal, it was obvious this would be his last season in New York. Hayes got a platform to display his two-way game to the NHL’s contenders, while the Rangers returned a solid performer down the middle who could shelter the kids as they grew into roles. Now is the time for both sides to cash in.
Cap Space: $8.2 million
Needs: This is a lost season, so new GM Chuck Fletcher’s mission should be to take stock and make sure he has the cap space for a UFA goalie to pair with breakout No. 1 Carter Hart. Might as well get some picks and prospects, too.
Availability: There are veteran forwards on expiring deals who will be available, and the quality ranges from “highly in demand” to “horrible.”
UFAs: W. Simmonds (RW), M. Raffl (LW), P. Varone (C), J. Lehtera (LW)
Trade Bait: Because of his unique skill set, Wayne Simmonds will be one of the most coveted rentals on the market. Not only is he a skilled winger who can help out a power play with his net-front work, but his physicality and fighting prowess means that whichever team acquires him gets a solution to the “Tom Wilson Problem” that Washington counts as an advantage.
Cap Space: $0.6 million
Needs: The Penguins really need to re-stock their prospect cupboard, and they really need cap space. Problem is, the boys are once again in the thick of a playoff race.
Availability: If you need playoff experience, the Pens have a ton of it. GM Jim Rutherford is a dealmaker, so the phone will get answered.
UFAs: M. Cullen (C), G. Wilson (LW)
Trade Bait: The Penguins are thin on top assets they'd be willing to move along, but don't question Rutherford's willingness to move out a top draft choice. He's made it clear in the past that he's willing to mortgage this team's future right now if it means keeping the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin-led Penguins in the Stanley Cup hunt that much longer.
Cap Space: $0.3 million
Needs: Cap space. Beyond that, Washington could seek out a veteran in need of a ring for motivation.
Availability: The Capitals have an assortment of bottom-six forwards on expiring deals, both UFA and RFA. The UFAs-to-be would be cheap pickups for a team in need of depth.
UFAs: B. Connolly (RW), D. Smith-Pelly (RW), P. Copley (G), B. Orpik (D), N. Dowd (C)
Trade Bait: The Capitals have already tried to unleash pending RFA Andre Burakovsky, and it may be at a point where a fresh start is best for all involved. There’s no doubt the 23-year-old left winger has skill, but can he find results on a consistent basis? Washington could use the cap space, and his scoring role has already been filled by Jakub Vrana.