The NHL trade deadline is mere hours away. Here, in no particular order, are many of the players who could be dealt:
Thomas Vanek, Islanders. Vanek hasn’t burned bridges with the Isles, but the 30-year-old’s pre-Olympic break rejection of a contract extension and determination to go to the UFA market has him poised to leave Long Island. He has been linked to signing with Minnesota, but any potential trade partner will need to send some defensive and/or goaltending help back to the Isles in return. “He’s an elite winger, no question,” said a Western Conference GM. “Is he the guy that puts you over the top? I’m not sure at all that he is.”
Ryan Callahan, Rangers. Callahan’s name was shocking to hear in trade rumors, but given GM Glen Sather wasn’t willing to meet his captain’s contract demands and allowed other NHL GMs to negotiate with Callahan’s agent, the chasm between player and management is clear. Any team that acquires the 28-year-old will be gambling on a guy whose physical game makes him susceptible to injury. “He can be a big help immediately,” said an Eastern Conference executive, “but seven-to-eight years for him will scare teams away.”
Matt Moulson, Sabres. is one of the deadline’s most sought-after offensive talents. The 30-year-old has endeared himself to the Sabres since coming over in the Thomas Vanek trade at the end of October. While there’s talk of Buffalo GM Tim Murray signing Moulson to a contract extension, the reality is a number of teams – including the goal-challenged Kings and always all-in Penguins – will make strong pitches for him. “Good guy, great finisher,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “You know what you’re getting with him.”
David Legwand, Predators. Legwand has a full no-movement clause, but he understands his expiring contract and career particulars will attract interest from other teams. The 33-year-old has contributed more points in early 2014 and would be able to continue that trend if the team that acquires him employs him in a secondary scoring role. One more interesting point: “He’s not playing on the penalty kill at all,” one Eastern Conference assistant GM said. “That’s allowed him to focus on the power play and he’s responded well.”
P-A Parenteau, Avalanche. It’s clear he has fallen from favor with coach Patrick Roy after half a season and is likely to be on a new team by March 5. Unlike most players on this list, Parenteau has term remaining on his contract, but the 30-year-old has been a reliable scorer who had as many goals (18) in 48 games last year as he did in 80 games as an Islander the year prior. “For all the talk about him scoring, he’s a decent playmaker,” a Western Conference GM said. “His confidence is shot, but a new team could restore that.”
Sam Gagner, Oilers. The Oilers may trade Jordan Eberle, but Gagner is the more likely of the two to get a new address. Gagner is having the least-productive season of his seven-year NHL career, but he won’t turn 25 until August and a change of scenery could revitalize him. Edmonton has experimented with him on the wing, but there are many teams who would be happy to return him to his natural center position. “They may trade Eberle, but they have to trade Gagner,” an Eastern Conference pro scout said. “He needs a new look.”
Ales Hemsky, Oilers. The writing has been on the wall as it pertains to Hemsky’s future for months. And with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish feeling heat to make fans forget this dreadful season, the last thing he needs is to let Hemsky walk for nothing as a UFA. He must be realistic about the 30-year-old winger’s stock, though. “He’s in that second tier of wingers available after Vanek and Moulson,” said a Western Conference GM. “You’re not dealing for him to be a long-term top-six forward, so the offer you make for him probably won’t be a big one.”
Scottie Upshall, Panthers. The 30-year-old winger has been beset with injuries in recent years, but had nine goals in his first 50 games this year and is signed through next season at a $3.5-million cap hit. That’s not cheap for an often-hurt player, but it’s also why his services will come cheaply at the deadline. “Gritty guy, which is why he’s banged up,” a Western Conference assistant GM said. “He’s been on bad teams lately, but in limited minutes on an above-average team, I think he’d be back to where he was in Phoenix and Philly.”
Dany Heatley, Wild. Heatley's stock has plummeted to the point where the 33-year-old is seen more as trade ballast and an expiring contract than someone to provide goals. His $7.5 million cap hit is astonishing for someone on pace for 16 goals. Worse still, he has a limited no-trade clause. “As close to a non-factor as you’ll see among guys who used to be superstars,” a Western Conference assistant GM said. “Why you’d add him to a playoff team is beyond me. He’s a cap-space clearer, someone you rent for a few weeks. That’s it.”
Lee Stempniak, Flames. There are few more consistent second-level scorers than Stempniak, who’s a lock to record 10 to 20 goals per season and has the potential for more (he had 28 in ’09-10). He’s not much help to the rebuilding Flames, but he’ll pique the interest of playoff-race teams because of the relatively low price. “He has virtually no playoff experience,” said an Eastern Conference pro scout. “But you need to get to the playoffs first and teams that need offense will value him. Those seven or eight goals he gets you could be huge.”
Michal Neuvirth, Capitals. One of many former goalies-of-the-future in Washington, Neuvirth requested a trade in December, but doesn’t have leverage over his place of employment until his contract expires. The 25-year-old Czech’s NHL numbers are average, but any deal that involves him will likely send him to a rebuilding team to compete for their No. 1 role. “I think teams will look at (former Caps goalie Semyon) Varlamov in Colorado and take a hard look at him,” a Western Conference GM said of Neuvirth. “He’s an affordable gamble.”
Olli Jokinen, Jets. The resurgent Jets were thinking twice about unloading key members of their core, but come March 5, there’s a chance they move Jokinen. The 35-year-old, who has a limited no-trade clause, is playing fewer than 17 minutes a game. He’s a big body who can contribute to a team’s power play and isn’t under contract beyond this season. “Not sure what’s left in that tank,” an Eastern Conference pro scout said of Jokinen, “but as far as a depth acquisition, you could do a lot worse.”
Ryan Kesler, Canucks. His name surfaced in trade rumors after the Olympic break and Kesler has been one of the hottest names in the rumor mill ever since. He's been linked to teams including the Penguins, Flyers and Blackhawks. But the price to acquire him will be significant and his battles to stay healthy the past couple seasons make him a risky acquisition.
Andrei Markov, Canadiens. The Canadiens haven't re-signed their cornerstone blueline veteran, so the soon-to-be UFA was bound to be included in trade speculation. The 35-year-old would be the best defenseman on the market – but that's only if Montreal GM Marc Bergevin decides he's expendable.
Jason Spezza, Senators. Hearing Spezza as the subject of trade whispers shocked more than a few Sens fans, but at age 30, he's entering a part of his career where this was bound to happen. Signed through next season, Spezza still has a lot left to offer, but Ottawa brass is bound by an internal budget that may make it tough for them to hang on to their captain.
Portions of this feature originally appeared in the March 3 edition of The Hockey News magazine; it has been updated to reflect current happenings. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.