The NHL trade deadline is like Christmas for hockey fans. If you're team is a Stanley Cup or playoff bubble team, it's always thrilling to see them make big trades that could be the final pieces in embarking on a long postseason run. If your team is far out of the playoff race, it's always exciting to see them give away unneeded veterans in exchange for young assets that could shape the club's future.
This year's NHL trade deadline is a specifically fascinating one. So many superstars like never before are rumored to be on the move. Some of these stars are on playoff bubble teams, yet they could still be traded to other contenders if the price is right.
Also, a large number of the top trade bait candidates are free agents at the end of the year. Will their current teams hold onto them and risk losing them for nothing on July 1st? Or do they make a trade? Here's a look at 15 possible trades that could help playoff bubble teams in their run.
15 New York Islanders Acquire Drew Stafford
The Islanders got off to a miserable start that saw them dead-last in the Eastern Conference for much of the season. But they've turned a corner in the new year and are just a few points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
New York may as well go all-in for 2017. John Tavares is a free agent in 2018, and there's a high chance of him leaving. The Andrew Ladd experiment has failed miserably, and acquiring a veteran like Drew Stafford could give Tavares the true scoring winger he desperately needs. He has just four goals and 12 points this season, but Stafford isn't the only Winnipeg Jet struggling. A change of scenery and playing with a bonafide star could be all he needs. With the Jets falling in the standings, they wouldn't ask for much than a second or third-round selection.
14 Calgary Flames Acquire Alexandre Burrows
Sure, the Canucks are just barely outside of the top eight in the Western Conference, but most of the loyal Vancouverites would probably tell you that this team isn't going to be in the playoff race by the trade deadline. If that holds up, it's logical to believe they will be sellers at the trade deadline.
Alexandre Burrows hasn't been the effective top-line forward he was during the Canucks heydays as a Western Conference powerhouse. However, he has helped Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi return more, and perhaps he could do the same with the Calgary Flames young stars.
Burrows is a solid bottom-six forward. He plays with a ton of energy, provides plenty of grit, playoff experience and toughness. The Flames need that if they want to get through the top teams in the Western Conference, and Burrows could be had for a mid-round pick.
13 Los Angeles Kings Aquire Jarome Iginla
The Los Angeles Kings are hanging around in a tight playoff race, but it's going to be tough to win a messy race that includes Calgary, St. Louis, Nashville, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Dallas. The Kings don't have any reliable scorers outside of Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, as guys like Anze Kopitar have had miserable seasons.
L.A. has one of the league's top defensive units, and Peter Budaj has filled in nicely for Jonathan Quick, who has been out for almost the entire regular season thus far. But they're going to have to add more scoring punch to make the playoffs, and Jarome Iginla fits the bill. Though he's having his worst offensive season ever, the 39-year-old will be traded at the deadline. Given the Kings' postseason success over the years, he could ask to be dealt to them. If so, the Kings may just have to part with a couple of mid-round selections.
Having Iginla's leadership and experience would give the Kings a major boost down the stretch.
12 Philadelphia Flyers Aquire Jaroslav Halak
The Islanders appear to be content with Thomas Greiss as their starter for the time being, and with Jaroslav Halak playing in the minors, it's safe to assume they'll happily give him away at the deadline. Well, few teams need a goalie like the Philadelphia Flyers, who are barely holding onto the eighth seed heading into the All-Star break.
They're allowing 3.06 goals a game - fifth worst in the NHL. Even though Halak was a huge disappointment for the Islanders in 21 games this season, people can't overlook his six years as a reliable number one.
He would automatically be an upgrade over Steve Mason in goal, and it's tough to ignore his 2.39 goals against average and .924 save percentage in the playoffs. Halak wouldn't cost the Flyers more than a draft pick and mid-range prospect. Getting him in between the pipes might be the one move needed to get in the postseason.
11 Florida Panthers Aquire Brian Gionta
The Florida Panthers are lacking scoring forwards, with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau expected to miss the rest of 2016-17. Jaromir Jagr isn't enough to make up for the lost forwards, and Florida may as well go all-in at the deadline. They sit at 52 points and just four points out of the postseason.
After scoring just 12 goals and 33 points all of last season, Buffalo Sabres veteran Brian Gionta is enjoying a resurgent year, scoring 11 goals and 24 points on the season. But with the Sabres way out of the playoffs, Gionta becomes trade bait.
This would be an ideal pickup for the Panthers, who don't have to sacrifice to much of their promising young future to pick up a guy like Gionta. Chances are the Sabres are looking at a C-level prospect and second or third-round pick for his services. Gionta's leadership and stable scoring may be just enough for the Panthers to get into the playoffs.
10 Tampa Bay Lightning Aquire Martin Hanzal
The Arizona Coyotes aren't making the playoffs, so they'll host a fire sale at the trade deadline for yet another season. With 6-6 center Martin Hanzal set to become a free agent this offseason, expect the Coyotes to trade him and secure future assets instead. Though Hanzal isn't much of a scorer (40 points is his career-best), his size and defensive game makes him a high impact player, especially in the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are an ideal fit. With Steven Stamkos injured, they're thin at both center and at forward. Their playoff chances are dwindling more and more later in the season (50 points, six out of the postseason). General manager Steve Yzerman loves to be aggressive, and getting Hanzal would be a major impact deal.
Expect Yzerman to be a little generous here. The Lightning could willingly part with their first-round pick, along with other late-round selections. Perhaps unloading a defenceman like Andrej Sustr or center Brayden Point to seal the deal.
9 Winnipeg Jets Aquire Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller has had a resurgent year with Vancouver, single-handedly getting them back in the playoff race. He has a 14-12-3 record with a .920 save percentage, 2.48 goals against average and two shutouts. If the Canucks are out of the playoff race, then expect them to deal the 36-year-old pending free agent. They could get some nice pieces in return, too.
The Winnipeg Jets are just three points out of the playoffs, but they'll keep falling behind if they don't get more help in the crease. Connor Hellebuyck, Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec have all struggled miserably.
Miller would give them a solid number one, and the Jets are loaded with prospects and young assets to swing a deal. Perhaps trading a B-level prospect like Brendan Lemieux and a second-round pick could be enough to make it work. Winnipeg could finally have everything needed to make a run at the playoffs, while the Canucks build up a rather weak farm system.
8 Florida Panthers Acquire Shane Doan
Shane Doan has been with the Coyotes organization his whole career, and has refused to be dealt and instead chose to stay loyal with the organization. However, Doan has stated that he'll accept a trade to the right team. With the 40-year-old possibly in his final season, the Panthers could be the team that comes forward for him.
He has just four goals and 15 points this season, but Doan could be a key player for a team to reach the playoffs. The Panthers are young and need more offence up front, and they won't be mortgaging much of the future to do that. They could continue bargain shopping by looking at Doan.
So with that, expect Florida to get Doan at a low cost; perhaps a pair of second and/or third-round picks could be enough to pick up the face of the Coyotes franchise.
7 Los Angeles Kings Aquire Thomas Vanek
The Minnesota Wild bought out the final year of Thomas Vanek's contract after a disappointing 2015-16 season that saw him score just 18 goals and 41 points. However, Vanek has found a renaissance season with the Detroit Red Wings, and is on pace to finish with 22 goals and 58 points this season.
Detroit is likely to be sellers at the deadline, as they continue to fall out of the playoff standings. With Vanek going through a cold streak and set to be a free agent in the offseason, chances are Detroit lets low-balled in trade negotiations. Vanek makes plenty of sense for Los Angeles, as he would provide them with a reliable scorer.
Los Angeles overpaid for Marian Gaborik in 2014 and Andrej Sekera in 2015, so Dean Lombardi could do it again for Vanek. Look for him to package a young prospect like Adrian Kempe and/or a second-round pick for Vanek. With L.A.'s window closing, Lombardi's got to go all-in.
6 Dallas Stars Acquire James van Riemsdyk
Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs are right in the playoff race, there's always the chance they become sellers. They could also fall right out of the postseason race, which would force the front office to stock up on young assets while selling off the veterans.
With Jamie Benn fighting injuries, Tyler Seguin has been the Dallas Stars' lone reliable scorer, and they sit three points out of the playoffs right now. Trading for James van Riemsdyk (17 goals and 39 points so far), would make plenty of sense. The Leafs need more depth on defence, and they have plenty of promising prospects on the blueline.
They could trade either Julius Honka or Mattias Backman and package a couple of early round draft picks to pick up JVR. Sure, the Leafs are in the playoff race now, but if Dallas blows them away with a huge offer, Toronto may have to take it.
5 St. Louis Blues Aquire Ben Bishop
The Blues were among the Central Division's top teams through the first three months, but now they're barely holding onto a wild card spot. Part of that is because of the inconsistency in goal. Starter Jake Allen is 17-12-3 with a lackluster .897 save percentage and mediocre 2.83 goals against average.
With legendary head coach Ken Hitchcock retiring at season's end and the Blues Cup window closing fast, now's the time for a big move. Trading for veteran Ben Bishop could put them back into the Western Conference's elite teams.
The Lightning do need help on offence and defence, and perhaps the Blues would deal Patrik Berglund and/or veteran Carl Gunnarsson plus a draft pick for Bishop's services. It would be a huge win for both teams, who each address their biggest weaknesses in a deal like that.
4 BostonBruins Acquire Gabriel Landeskog
The Bruins hold a one point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic, but the latter team has five games in hand. Boston has had troubles scoring, as Brad Marchand isn't building off a career season and the duo of Patrice Bergeron and David Backes have seen their scoring go way down.
So they need another forward, and the Colorado Avalanche are expected to start making some big moves as they sit last in the league standings by country miles. The Avalanche was young defencemen, and Boston's prospect group is loaded with them.
Here's what Adrian Dater from Bleacher Report had to share:
Hearing Boston has had talks with Avs over Landeskog. Sakic wanted Carlo, and B's said no— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 5, 2017
Even if Boston won't part with Carlo, blueliners Jakub Zboril, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller are other options. The Bruins will likely need to deal a first round pick as well to get Gabriel Landeskog. With their championship window closing, Boston needs to add another young scorer to soften the rebuild and compete for titles now. Landeskog would be the ideal pickup, provided they're willing to give up a lot in return.
3 Ottawa Senators Aquire Matt Duchene
The Senators sit second in the Atlantic Division with 58 points. They are, however, just three points up on the Toronto Maple Leafs and six up on the Florida Panthers. They are far from being comfortably ahead in the playoff race. If they're serious about making a run at the Stanley Cup, they'll have to add another big name to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
This team has long been linked to Colorado Avalanche speedy sniper Matt Duchene, but a deal obviously never happened. Ken Warren from the Ottawa Citizen believes the Senators should go hard for Duchene, who has 15 goals and 29 points so far this season. And the Sens have so much young talent, they can afford to trade one or two of them.
Trading away blueliner Cody Ceci makes sense, with Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf and promising prospect Thomas Chabot giving them a solidified blueline. Along with Ceci, they could package away forward Ryan Dzingel (rather than lose him in the expansion draft), and multiple draft picks. It's time for this trade to happen - putting Ottawa over as a contender while giving the Avalanche many future assets to build around for the long run.
2 New York Rangers Acquire Kevin Shattenkirk
The Blues will likely look to move Kevin Shattenkirk - as the pending free agent isn't coming back in the offseason and they could get some nice return pieces for him. Shattenkirk is believed to be more interested in joining an Eastern Conference club, and the New York Rangers have been heavily linked to him.
Shattenkirk could be a legitimate playoff-changing player. He's a slick puck-moving defenceman, special teams star and can play effectively against the top stars. He has 11 goals and 33 points this season. Sportsnet's Elliot Friedman reported that the Rangers look like a long-term location for Shattenkirk.
The Blueshirts are also loaded with forwards and could look to deal one or two for Shattenkirk. With this team strapped for cash in the long run, perhaps Chris Kreider or veteran Rick Nash could become available. Besides Pavel Buchnevich, New York lacks top-level prospects.
With so many forwards, New York should look to deal one or two and land Shattenkirk, who would provide them with a top-pairing defenceman. That would be useful in the Metropolitan Division.
1 Dallas Stars Acquire Marc-Andre Fleury
The Stars really need to fix the goaltending situation, as the duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have been among the NHL's worst. This team has plenty of talent on offence and defence, but their two liabilities in the crease are costing them right now.
Dallas seems like the best trade partner for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They'll have to move him rather than risk losing he or Matt Murray in the Expansion Draft. General manager Jim Rutherford would be dealing from a position of strength and could get a low from the Stars. First off, veteran Patrick Sharp is set to become a free agent. He could round out Pittsburgh's top six. The Stars could also trade one of their many promising blueliner prospects, plus a draft pick and another roster player.
If the Stars and Pens discuss a trade, they need to make it work. There aren't many (if any), better goalie solutions for Dallas, while the Penguins won't get many better offers if the Stars agree with my thoughts. And with Fleury, Dallas could become a playoff team and Stanley Cup contender.