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Buyer on a budget? Here are five forward targets worth considering

Buying at the trade deadline isn't all that easy for teams facing a cap crunch, particularly if such a team isn't also willing to offload a big salary. So, where should teams look if they're trying to add on a budget? Here are five forwards to consider.

Provided there’s a team out there who can put together a big enough offer — or the Columbus Blue Jackets are simply willing to sell him to the highest bidder — the big prize at the trade deadline is Artemi Panarin. However, landing Panarin comes with a salary cap catch: his $6-million cap hit isn’t exactly easy to fit into the budget, particularly for teams up against the spending ceiling in the first place.

So, while some teams may not be all that willing to chase after the top dog at the deadline for asset-management reasons, there will assuredly be others who are forced to pass for dollars-and-cents reasons. But just because they can’t land Panarin or other likewise high-priced free agents come the deadline doesn’t mean they can’t add at all. That’s where budget additions, players who can provide a certain production level for the right price, come in.

To make the cut for this list, players had to carry a cap hit that could be easily managed by teams up against the cap, so the cut off is those who count against the cap for less than $3 million this season. In addition, the player had to have some value beyond an easily digested cap hit. In this case, that meant point production or playing a valuable role.

Who fits the bill? Here are five trade targets for budget teams to consider:

Micheal Ferland, W, Carolina Hurricanes
How long did Hurricanes fans really get to enjoy Ferland’s time in town? Fifteen games? Maybe? Since November, there has been chatter that the free agent-to-be could be a trade chip at or before the deadline and those whispers have grown into full-volume conversations over the past few weeks, particularly in light of what sounds like a hefty asking price to retain the winger’s rights beyond this season. The good news is that Ferland is going to be highly sought after as a physical, big-bodied winger with some scoring touch in and around the crease.

And while the price to add Ferland ahead of the trade freeze might be costly in the sense that there are going to be picks or prospects, maybe even a roster player, headed the other way in any exchange, adding Ferland isn’t going to break the bank. The 26-year-old, who can play either wing, has a $1.75 million cap hit. That’s next to nothing for a 25-point scorer who has the scoring touch of a 20-goal player, and it makes him a salary fit for just about every contending team.

Ryan Dzingel, W, Ottawa Senators
Ferland comes first on this list because he’s drawn the most attention, but Dzingel might be the best bang-for-your-buck acquisition in terms of salary to production. The 26-year-old has flourished this season, his first in a full-time top-six role, and his numbers are already nearing career-best territory and we’ve only just passed the all-star break. In 48 games, Dzingel’s 20 goals and 38 points are each the second-best marks of his career, but he only needs to light the lamp four more times and pick up four more points to set have the best offensive season of his NHL career.

Like Ferland, though, Dzingel’s impressive campaign means he’s not going to be had for a song. It’s going to take a decent package to pry him out of Ottawa, particularly given he’s the seventh-highest scoring rental on the market. That said, he also falls right into the same category as Ferland given Dzingel’s cap hit this season is $1.8 million. That means there’s less shuffling of the deck that needs to be done to bring him aboard, and that will benefit the clubs who are reluctant to give up any roster players — and thus shed salary — yet want to make an addition.

Alex Chiasson, RW, Edmonton Oilers
Former Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli may not have made many moves that will be looked back upon fondly during his tenure with the Oilers, but signing Chiasson to a one-year deal that carried a mere $650,000 cap hit was a stroke of genius. Sure, Chiasson has benefitted greatly from finding a spot playing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid through much of the season, but there are a fair number of GMs who will almost certainly be willing to overlook that and take a shot on the 28-year-old who has scored 17 goals and 24 points in 41 games this season.

Another reason GMs will surely come calling about Chiasson is his Stanley Cup history. Though he didn’t play an all-that integral role in the Washington Capitals’ championship run last season, skating less than nine minutes per game while registering a goal and two points, teams looking to add will see value — whether that’s simply perceived or otherwise — in that experience.

Oh, and it probably also won’t hurt that, in terms of the assets that will be required to acquire Chiasson, he could be one of the cheaper bottom-six adds. He’s probably going to fetch a mid-range draft pick.

Patrick Maroon, LW, St. Louis Blues
A rise throughout the second half of the season probably means the Blues won’t go into all-out selling mode, particularly if they can make up even more ground in the next couple of weeks. But even if St. Louis is looking to shake up their roster a little bit, and do so with a player who will garner some deadline day attention, Maroon could be heading elsewhere by late-February.

True, this season hasn’t been kind to Maroon, who has only managed four goals and 14 points after notching 22 goals and 43 points across the past two campaigns, but that doesn’t mean he won’t draw interest. In a sense, the 30-year-old is like Ferland Lite. Maroon may not have pieced together the same numbers as his fellow big-bodied winger, but he can make up for that with some consistent post-season output, which he has shown the ability to manage in the past. Case in point: in 47 playoff games, Maroon has 13 goals and 27 points. He’s a better than half-point per game player in the post-season, and that makes him worth a gamble.

The added bit of good news with Maroon is that his poor showing this season means the price tag has likely been slashed, and on a one-year, $1.75-million deal, he’s a cheap rental that won’t hurt the books and won’t hurt the bottom line next season.

Brian Boyle, C, New Jersey Devils
Here’s the thing about Boyle: with a $2.55-million cap hit, he’s the most expensive player on this list. And he’s not necessarily one who is going to go out and wow any team that pays the price to pick him up. But with Boyle, who has 13 goals this season, you know what you’re going to get. He’s a defensive center with a massive frame who has the ability to eat up fourth-line minutes and can be used on the penalty kill or tossed over the boards to win some important faceoffs. There’s value in that come the post-season, and Boyle definitely has some experience playing in meaningful games.

Over the course of his career, the 34-year-old has seen 111 playoff games, scoring 15 goals and 28 points. Some of his best work came on a pair of Stanley Cup contending clubs, too, as he managed nine goals and 15 points across the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 post-seasons.

Even though his cap hit is the heftiest on this list, he might be able to be had relatively cheap from a Devils team that is going to be willing to sell any and all pieces as they sit in the Eastern Conference basement. The more picks the merrier for New Jersey as they look to restock the cupboard.


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