The closer we get to March 2nd, the more rampant the speculation becomes regarding the many names currently occupying the National Hockey League's trade block. Which Cup contenders will make a move to bolster their roster for a deep run? Which bubble teams will take the plunge this year and mortgage the future with the hopes of going on a spring-time hot streak?
On the other end of the spectrum, which big names are cellar-dwelling teams willing to part with? Will any general managers shock the hockey world with an unexpected blockbuster deal?
The next few weeks will also dictate how many players there will be come deadline day. A streak of either variety over the next couple of weeks could sway a team to pull the trigger to bring in a rental or put up an unforeseen for sale sign.
No matter what happens leading up to deadline, the one thing that is certain is that the rumor mill will be on overdrive until the clock strikes 3:00 PM on March 2.
But what if the rumor mill was just that: a bunch of meaningless rumors? What if they were just fodder released into the news cycle by diabolical general managers and public relations spinsters looking to divert attention while the real deal-making takes place behind the scenes?
Some of the trades created below are ridiculous, improbable and probably tinged with of insanity. Then again, considering some of the stuff that will be floating around the Internet over the three weeks, this might seem quite normal to some of you.
And besides, what's more fun than wishful thinking?
*Please remember all of these are fictional and not based on rumours or reported news. And that these are all insane.
10 Justin Williams to the New York Islanders for Ryan Pulock and a 2nd Round Pick
Justin Williams is getting up there in age, and has never been a regular season star - but once the playoffs begin, there are few others who are as clutch as Williams.
Williams has built a reputation as a player who brings his best when it counts the most; a glance at his playoff stats show just how high he ratchets it up in the postseason.
This deal makes sense for both sides, contingent on the Kings falling out of the playoff picture by deadline day. As it stands, things aren't looking great, and the fact that Williams remains unsigned compounds the issue. If Dean Lombardi is ready to move on from Williams, the Islanders should be ready to pounce - adding another body with a ton of playoff experience will be invaluable to a young team looking to get over the first-round hump for the first time since 1993.
9 James Van Riemsdyk to the Winnipeg Jets for Nikolaj Ehlers and a 1st Round Pick
With Evander Kane seemingly on his way out in Winnipeg, the Jets might be inclined to add another big, scoring power forward now while the opportunity is in front of them. Ehlers is a difficult prospect to part with, but Van Riemsdyk is still young enough to justify trading a top prospect (and they're both wingers). The Leafs, barring a miraculous end-of-season run, are folding this season and looking down the road. Leafs fans might be angered by losing JVR - but if they tank "properly", they could be icing a revamped offense that would include Ehlers, William Nylander, and one of Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid.
8 Ryan O'Reilly to the Montreal Canadiens for Lars Eller, Sven Andrighetto, 1st Round Pick and a 3rd Round Pick
Montreal Canadiens fans, pundits and analysts alike have been clamoring for a big, scoring center for the past two decades. Part of the issue has been (and eventually permanently will be) resolved once Alex Galchenyuk moves to centre full-time. However, David Desharnais is not a long-term solution, and while Tomas Plekanec is still an effective player, he's closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning.
Lars Eller has been a bit of a disappointment in Montreal, while O'Reilly has supposedly been on the way out of Colorado for years. While the package might need to be sweetened a bit more to pry O'Reilly away from the Avalanche, it would be worth it - at 24 years old he's already proven to be a productive player and would fit right in the Habs top-three lines.
Eller, meanwhile, can finally develop into his role as a two-way center without having to worry about helping carry the scoring load, while Andrighetto gets to display his immense skill alongside some of the most talented players in the league.
7 Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals for a 2nd Round Pick
Since his return to the National Hockey League, Jagr has played for a multitude of "random" teams - Jagr has looked good in all the uniforms he's been in, but none of them felt right.
Enter the Washington Capitals. Jagr played three years in the U.S. capital, putting up solid offensive numbers, but never translating those into playoff success. These Caps aren't Jagr's old Caps - and lining him up alongside Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom (who for some reason can't seem to hold down a stable linemate) would be something out of NHL15. We all want Jagr to see Jagr end the season on a playoff team - why can't it be round two in Washington?
6 Keith Yandle to Los Angeles for Tanner Pearson and a 1st Round Pick
The Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in four years last summer, but they've looked like an average NHL team at best through the first 50 games of the regular season. The Kings seem to have a knack for this kind of thing - look mediocre for the majority of the season, make a run for a final playoff spot then obliterate the opposition on route to the Cup.
That might be a bit more difficult this year thanks to the ongoing Slava Voynov saga and the Alec Martinez injury, both leaving sizeable holes on the blueline.
Dean Lombardi could simply acquire a rental like Andrej Sekera or Zbynek Michalek for the playoff run, but Lombardi has shown he's not afraid to make a splash. If the Kings foresee Voynov not being available (as in, he might be in jail) down the road, why not make a move for a bit-time name like Keith Yandle now? The Coyotes won't be too concerned with acquiring an injured player in Pearson, seeing as they aren't going anywhere this season, and stockpile another pick for their upcoming rebuild.
5 Mike Green to the Detroit Red Wings for Tomas Jurco and Danny DeKeyser (contingent on Green signing a long-term deal)
Mike Green and the Red Wings are a match made in heaven. The Wings have some solid options on the back end, but besides Niklas Kronwall the Wings don't get much offense from the backend. Jurco hasn't lived up to his billing up to this point in Motown, and while DeKeyser is a tough one to let go of, slotting Green in his spot on the backend makes it worth it.
The caveat with this trade is that the Wings could just as easily try to sign Green during the summer, but if they covet his services they won't want to wait to find out if the feeling is mutual. Besides, if there's a team that doesn't have to worry about "restocking the cupboard" with young talent, it's the Detroit Red Wings.
4 Eric Staal to the Calgary Flames for Mikael Backlund, Jon Gillies, Brett Kulak and a 2nd Round Pick
The Calgary Flames were supposed to be bottom-feeders this season, along with their neighbours in Edmonton. Instead, the addition of Jonas Hiller, the accelerated development of players like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, the surprising duo of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, and the masterful coaching of Bob Hartley have turned the Flames into an upstart team and a legitimate playoff threat. One of their biggest holes remains at centre, as the rotating door on the second-line isn't going to stop anytime soon.
The Hurricanes banked on the Staal brothers to carry this team, and while the talent around them doesn't help, they haven't been playing to their capabilities. Carolina will likely need a fresh infusion of talent as the old guard begins to get moved out - letting go of Staal will be tough, but adding a former first-rounder with talent in Backlund and two solid prospects (along with a high pick) could set the foundation for the Hurricanes turnaround - especially if they add McDavid or Eichel this summer.
3 Evander Kane to Pittsburgh for Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington
Seems like it's not a big haul for Winnipeg, does it?
The Jets have lost almost all leverage in any deal involving Evander Kane - the entire league is aware of the bad blood brewing between the player and the entire organization, and the second Kevin Cheveldayoff gives an indication that the team has officially moved on from Kane, teams all over the league will be looking to snap him up.
The problem is that Kane himself wants out of the 'Peg - and much like Jason Spezza last summer, the Jets won't be able to get the king's ransom they would likely expect for him.
We wouldn't get to see Kane and Crosby until next season, but having this trade go down at the deadline would be enough to entertain us the entire day, no matter how many other deals go down. Crosby finally gets a top-flight linemate, while the Jets get a couple of top prospects to add to their already deep pool of young talent.
2 Phil Kessel to Tampa Bay for Nikita Kucherov, Andrej Sustr and a 1st Round Pick
BOOM. Our first blockbuster of the day. If the Toronto Maple Leafs are deadset on rebuilding, it's time to begin shipping out members of their "core." In a perfect world, Dion Phaneuf is the first one out the door, but Phil Kessel, who has been thrust into a leadership role he is not fit to fill, is another who needs a fresh start.
Enter mastermind Steve Yzerman, who adds a 40-goal threat to a lineup that already boasts Steven Stamkos and a budding star in Jonathan Drouin. Kucherov is a young stud in the making himself, but you must give to receive. With the Lightning's core locked up for the next several years, Yzerman can afford to make a move for another big-time scorer. Kessel wouldn't have to worry about being the main source of scoring in Tampa, and would likely put up huge numbers in their high-octane system.
1 Jordan Eberle to the Chicago Blackhawks for Brandon Saad, Teuvo Teravainen and a 2nd Round Pick
Remember that these are all ridiculous ideas meant to make you say "wow, can you imagine how crazy that would be?" - so go ahead and wonder what a line of Jordan Eberle, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane would look like.
If you ask me, the Oilers are crazy to even let a conversation involving Eberle happen - if I was Craig MacTavish and Stan Bowman called me to ask about Eberle, I would hang up the phone immediately.
As we all know by now, though, the Oilers don't operate based on common sense and logic. Granted, Getting two solid roster players in Saad and Teravainen isn't a bad haul, but this team needs defense more than anything else. If this trade went down on deadline day, the hockey world would have all day to salivate over the possibilities for Chicago while simultaneously ripping the Oilers to shreds.