The NHL trade deadline is one of the most exciting days on the NHL calendar and, in terms of player movement, its only competition is July 1st, when free agency begins. However, that day doesn’t really hold a candle to trade deadline day. The deadline happens during the season, when fans of most NHL fanbases are hoping their team can trade for a piece that might help them become a contender for hockey’s biggest prize, the Stanley Cup. If you’ve watched the marathon of coverage provided by the NHL Network or TSN, then you’re likely aware that there have been a variety of huge deadline deals that have propelled a team to go on a serious run to the cup. The most obvious example being the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, who picked up Mark Recchi and Doug Weight at the deadline, who combined to score 32 points in the playoffs.
If you’re looking for a more recent example, look no further than the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, who picked up Marian Gaborik before the deadline and he gave them 14 goals and 22 points as they won their second Stanley Cup in three years. He’s been terrible this year, but his pickup was instrumental in the Kings getting themselves another ring.
However, if you’re too aggressive, you might overpay and severely regret it. Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who gave up Josh Gorges and a first round pick for Craig Rivet in 2007. The Habs got a solid young defenseman and a pick that turned into their current captain, Max Pacioretty. On the other hand, the Sharks got a defender who was -5 during their playoff run, which ended in the second round.
Many of the players listed below will be moved, but will be they be the missing piece required to make a Cup run? That remains to be seen.
*This list will update as each player is moved.
15. Keith Yandle
This might seem like a strange choice to kick off our list since the Rangers are contenders for the Stanley Cup and would likely be trying to find pieces to help them make another run. However, the Rangers won’t be able to keep Yandle next year and are incredibly deep on the back end. At the moment (December 29th), Yandle is playing with Kevin Klein on the third defensive pairing and they could use some more scoring punch up front. A move to the Western Conference for a forward with an expiring contract makes plenty of sense and Yandle should have plenty of suitors.
14. Eric Gryba
Around the deadline, certain kinds of players become incredibly valuable to teams trying to make a playoff push. In this case, we’re looking at the kind of player who’s responsible in his own end and who can punish players trying to get to the front of the net. Erik Gryba has been steady for the Oilers this season, averaging 17:45 per game and delivering 72 hits in 34 games (at the time of writing). With an expiring contract, it’s highly likely the Oilers will look to get something in return for Gryba, who can help teams in need of defensive depth.
13. Kris Versteeg
Don’t you feel like Kris Versteeg is perpetually involved in trade rumors? The first of a hew Hurricanes to make our list, it wouldn’t be surprising for Carolina to move some expiring deals before the deadline in an attempt to build for the future. Versteeg will be a free agent next summer and wouldn’t really be considered the kind of player that the Hurricanes would want to build around. With that in mind, any team looking for forward depth would be interested in Versteeg, who’s pr oven to be an effective player in the playoffs, with 42 points in 84 playoff games.
12. Roman Polak
For the sake of this article, we chose Roman Polak, but in reality, we could’ve chose any Maple Leafs player on an expiring contract. With the Leafs lacking any pieces to make a credible playoff push in the near future, Toronto will likely listen to offers for most of the veterans on the roster. For this entry, we’ll take a look at Roman Polak, since teams are always looking for blueline depth at the deadline and Polak is more than capable in his own end. This year, he’s the only Leafs defender with a positive rating (9) and would be a solid addition to any team looking to make a run.
11. Jonathan Drouin
Well, when a player makes a trade request, it’s easy to conclude that they’re a player that might be traded. However, this is a truly unique case. Jonathan Drouin was the third overall pick in 2013 and is an incredibly talented young forward who’s yet to break into Tampa’s stacked lineup. He’s also signed for another year on a cheap deal, before he becomes a restricted free agent, meaning the Lightning are in absolutely no rush to move him. To add one final layer, they might be losing Steven Stamkos in the summer (or before in a trade, if they panic), so they shouldn’t be moving talented young forwards.
However, Drouin requested to be moved and teams don’t like to hang on to players who make public requests like that…
10. Kris Russell/Dennis Wideman
When the Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton last summer and gave him a huge extension, it became apparent that they couldn’t keep Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell. With Hamilton, Wideman, and Mark Giordano having cap hits over $5 million past this year, along with T.J. Brodie being locked in at $4.85 million per year and Kris Russell hitting free agency this summer, something needs to give on Calgary’s backline. We’ll assume they won’t consider moving Giordano, who’s their captain, or Brodie, who has a very respectable cap hit, meaning they’ll likely be looking to move either Wideman or Russell at the deadline to help them up front or in nets.
9. Cam Ward
The Stanley Cup winner is the second Hurricane to make our list and seems like an obvious candidate to be moved at the deadline. The oft-injured goalie hasn’t been an All Star since 2010/11 and has seen his numbers gradually decline as the team around him has become far less competitive. When the Hurricanes acquired Eddie Lack last summer, it could’ve been with an eye to moving on from Cam Ward as their franchise goalie and they’re running out of time to get value for him. Ward is a free agent this summer and will probably command more money than the Hurricanes are willing to give him. Still only 32 years old, Ward should have a few good years left in him and should be able to net Carolina some valuable pieces moving forward.
8. Shane Doan
Shane Doan has been the face of the Coyotes’ franchise for what seems like forever and actually played his rookie season when they were still the Winnipeg Jets. For his sake, we hope the Coyotes move him to a contender and give him a chance to play for hockey’s greatest prize. While the Coyotes are currently in a playoff spot at the time of writing, we can’t imagine they’ll remain in the hunt and Doan deserves a chance with a true contending team. After giving 20 years to the franchise, it would be similar to when the Bruins traded Ray Bourque to Colorado to give him a final shot at glory.
7. Radim Vrbata
Sadly, Radim Vrbata’s second year in Vancouver hasn’t gone as well as his first. Last year, he scored 31 goals and was +6. This year, after 36 games, he only has 10 goals and is a terrible -14. He’s been moved off the Sedin line, which is the hole he was signed to fill. He’ll be a free agent this summer and there have been rumors the Canucks are considering moving him, though they’ll need to request a list of teams he’d like to be traded to. If the Canucks believe they can’t sign him long-term at a price that makes sense to them, they’ll probably try to get some pieces in return for Vrbata.
6. Cam Atkinson
While the trade rumors in Columbus have been centered around Ryan Johansen, we find it hard to believe that the Jackets would move their franchise player after an early season slump. On the other hand, it makes plenty of sense for the Blue Jackets to consider trading Cam Atkinson. With four forwards (Brandon Saad, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, David Clarkson and Scott Hartnell) signed to sizable contracts and Ryan Johansen having one year left on his deal, it makes sense for Columbus to try and move Atkinson to get help in other areas. Atkinson has been a fixture on pre-season breakout candidates, but has failed to become an elite forward, though he’s managed back to back 20 goal seasons. With a respectable cap hit of $3.5 million for this year and next, the Blue Jackets shouldn’t have trouble finding suitors.
5. Chris Kunitz
Something has gone terribly wrong in Pittsburgh this season, as this stacked squad can’t seem to find any momentum. While Chris Kunitz has been a steady contributor over the years for Pittsburgh as Sidney Crosby’s wingman, he’s been subpar this season with only four goals in 35 games. Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun reported that the team is listening to offer for the diminutive winger as they look to shake up their formula and find a way to click offensively. With a easily digestible cap hit of $3.85 million for another year, there will likely be teams willing to add his vast playoff experience and send back pieces to help Pittsburgh improve in other areas.
4. David Legwand
This would be far from a sexy pick up, but teams valuable depth down the middle during the stretch run and David Legwand wouldn’t cost much to acquire. At 35 years of age, Legwand can add experience and intelligence to any forward group in the league as a solid fourth liner or 13th forward. He’s seen his minutes slashed in Buffalo this year as they look to give important minutes to younger player that they’d like to develop. With that in mind, and considering he’s on an expiring contract, it’s highly likely that Legwand gets moved for a late pick or AHLer before the deadline.
3. Eric Staal
Eric Staal is the final Hurricane to make our list and the player who’s most likely to fetch the Hurricanes a bunch of pieces to build their team in the future. Similar to Cam Ward, Staal’s numbers have gradually declined over the last few years and he hasn’t been worth the $8.25 million cap hit over that period. Luckily for Carolina, that contract is up at the end of the year and they’d be wise to consider moving Staal now, before letting him test free agency. There’s no doubt that Staal is a terrific player that can be a difference maker on any team, but it’s possible he’s no longer a player worth building a team around. The only issue with a potential deal is that Staal has a full no-trade clause and could veto any deal he’s involved in. That being said, expect the chatter around Staal to continue until he’s dealt or the clock strikes 3 PM EST at the deadline.
2. Karri Ramo / Jonas Hiller
With both of the Flames goalies being unrestricted free agents this summer, it makes sense for the Flames to try to move one of them before they potentially lose both of them to free agency. As discussed earlier, the Flames aren’t contenders and would be wise to try to get some pieces in return for either of their solid keepers. Teams are always hungry to add goaltending depth at the deadline and a couple of injuries to a starting goalies would starting a bidding war for either of these keepers.
1. Andrew Ladd
The Winnipeg Jets have made their choice. At the start of the year, the Jets had two huge impending free agents in Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. As a budget team, it was clear they could only sign one of them long-term and they gave BIG bucks to Byufglien, so it seems clear that Andrew Ladd will be on the move. Their captain hasn’t been great this year and it’s possible that this eventuality is weighing on him. He apparently wants a sizable contract and he likely won’t get it in Winnipeg, so why wouldn’t the Jets try to get value for him since they’re nowhere near playoff contention?