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Five Intriguing Pending Free Agents Who Could Move at NHL Trade Deadline

Here's a look at five intriguing pending free agents who could be moved ahead of the upcoming NHL trade deadline.
Zdeno Chara

The NHL's trade deadline grows closer by the second. 

Things are heating up. And with the market preparing to hit a fever pitch, teams are looking in all directions for rentals to help push their rosters over the top. 

The marquee names are well-known. Instead, let's look at a few under-the-radar pending UFAs who could change locales before Monday - with a focus among those that haven't dominated the headlines in recent weeks:

5. Dominik Kubalik 
Age: 26
Position: LW
Cap Hit: $3.7 million
Status: RFA

Let the rebuild begin. 

The Chicago Blackhawks sit in the bottom-10 of the league standings right now with a roster of veterans who don't fit the organization's trajectory (if they even have one), and a consequently bloated payroll. 

New GM Kyle Davidson needs to trim the fat. And there sure is a lot of it. 

You're not dealing Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews at the deadline. Marc-Andre Fleury has been in the rumor mill for months but seems to be leaning against an in-season move. And no one's taking Tyler Johnson's contract, with three years left at $5 million per. 

The next logical option is Dominik Kubalik, a once-promising forward who, like most Blackhawks, finds himself in the middle of a disappointing season. 

Kubalik is 26 -- young enough to be in his prime but too old to withstand the Blackhawks' upcoming rebuild. The guy was a Calder finalist two years ago, however, with a 30-goal season under his belt. There's something there, even if it hasn't looked like it this season. Perhaps the right team could rekindle that scoring touch. 

Set to his the free agent market in five months, the Hawks might as well get something for their expiring asset, with reports indicating that the Edmonton Oilers are in hot pursuit of Kubalik as the deadline nears. Given the Oilers' financial position, the Blackhawks could even drive the price up by retaining half of Kubalik's $3.7 million cap hit.  

It's better than letting him walk for free. 

4. P.K. Subban
Age: 33
Position: RD
Cap Hit: $9 million
Status: UFA

This one is perhaps the least likely to actually happen, but it sure would be fun. 

PK Subban is miles -- lightyears, even -- from the player he once was. Injuries have robbed the once-dynamic blueliner of his offensive gusto of years past, turning the former perennial Norris candidate into a bottom-pair grinder. 

But that doesn't mean Subban doesn't have any value left. The guy is a right-shot with some decent possession numbers who is stuck on a bad team and could benefit from a change of scenery. At least we know he'd certainly inject some levity into any locker room he joins. 

The sticking point, of course, is his contract. Even at 50 percent retained, Subban's price tag compared to his on-ice value is tough for any contender to swallow. 

Which, then, brings forth a cheekier option. 

A few weeks ago, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman spitballed something to the effect of Subban and the Devils mutually agreeing to terminate his contract, with PK only surrendering a pittance in salary back to the team while therein earning free agent status. 

How fun would that be? A contender stockpiling their defensive depth by signing PK Subban at league-minimum? Sign me up. 

3. Phil Kessel
Age: 34
Position: RW
Cap Hit: $6.8 million
Status: UFA

Kessel already has two Cups, so it's not like he needs one last shot at a ring as his career winds down. But the Coyotes could seemingly fetch a nice little package for hockey's greatest enigma, with teams always on the lookout for veteran presence and secondary scoring. 

We've all seen what kind of magic Kessel can conjure on a deep playoff run, after all. 

The funny thing about Kessel this season is, despite his reputation as a pure goal-scorer, the 34-year-old has actually focused his game more towards playmaking instead, with just six goals compared to 31 assists in 60 games on the year for what is shaping up to be another productive campaign. 

The Coyotes love this man. Head coach Andre Tourigny recently told reporters that Kessel is perhaps the most popular player in the room. So, watching him go would be tough for Arizona's roster from a personal standpoint. But with a rebuild on the horizon, and Kessel headed for free agency, it's probably the right move. 

A mid-round pick and a B-level propect seems worth it to add a potential future Hall of Famer who sits only 60 points away from 1,000. 

2. Brock Boeser
Age: 25
Position: RW
Cap Hit: $5.875 
million
Status: UFA

Ah, Brock Boeser. The only 30-goal scorer to never hit 30 goals. 

Boeser has all the potential in the world, hence why those outside of Vancouver tend to believe he's produced more than he actually has. Injuries have been tough for Boeser early in his career, though, perhaps lowering the ceiling of the player he was when fully healthy. 

But there's still plenty to like about the Minnesota native. And the Canucks are banking on other teams thinking that, too. 

Here's the thing: Boeser hasn't produced as much as the Canucks organization would have hoped six years into his career, and is due a massive $7.5 million qualifying offer this summer or else he walks for free. 

If the Canucks don't see him as part of their future, and there's a decent chance they don't, cashing out now would be a good way to go. 

Boeser is young enough and has the raw tools to make inquiring teams pretty excited. And the Canucks need as much draft and prospect capital as they can get. It would be one of the bigger surprises of deadline day, but Boeser getting shipped out of town wouldn't be unthinkable, either.  

1. Zdeno Chara
Age: 44 
Position: LD
Cap Hit : $750,000
Status: UFA, obviously

As someone who covers the team, trade Zdeno Chara to the Maple Leafs. Please. The content would be endless. I would give a non-essential internal organ to make it happen.  

Is Chara even an NHL regular anymore? Likely not. The guy is probably older than your Dad at the moment and wasn't exactly bursting with foot-speed in his prime, so you can imagine just how well he's been keeping up with a game that's faster than ever. 

But Chara is still a skyscraper on skates with championship pedigree and the reputation as one of the best leaders in hockey. When the game changes in the playoffs, the dread that opponents will feel at the thought of going into the corners with Chara for four-to-seven straight games could be just the edge a contender needs. 

Not to mention, Chara helped deal the Maple Leafs the blow that their franchise has yet to recover from nearly a decade later. Him joining the team at the deadline and helping them conquer the demons he played a part in creating is narrative gold. 

Plus, he probably wouldn't be the worst penalty-killer or net-front presence in sheltered minutes. 

Either way, this needs to happen. Make it so, Hockey Gods. 

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