NHL Top Trade Candidates Heading Into The Trade Deadline

There's just under two months to go before the NHL trade deadline on Feb 25., and there are plenty of names in the trade rumor mill. Taking a look at the most common names to get mentioned by hockey insiders and media who actively cover the sport, who ranks among the top 10?

With some of hockey's top goal scorers, most respected defensemen and top-tier goaltenders potentially available, the unexpected results of the regular season and which teams have excelled and which teams have faltered, the market has opened wide up in terms of speculation.

Each week, we'll take a look at the top names rumored to be on the market. As the names change or stars come off the board, a new list will pop up each week. Here are the most likely trade candidates, as of today, to be traded before the NHL Trade Deadline.

Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets:

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Panarin is one of the more interesting stories to watch, and one of the most dangerous offensive players available at this year's deadline. He's a difference-maker in every sense of the word and the Blue Jackets absolutely don't want to move him but might have little choice.

His agent, Dan Milstein, has communicated on and off with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and talks are expected to continue, the next ones taking place during the NHL All-Star break. Still, as of right now, Columbus is merely a potential option for Panarin and the New York Rangers appear to be among the favorites to land the dynamic forward.

The question becomes, how much risk are the Blue Jackets willing to take if they begin to struggle this season? If they falter and Panarin doesn't like the idea of staying long-term with a team who might not be a contender, will Columbus really be willing to let him leave for nothing?

Related: Carey Price To Rest, Will Skip NHL All-Star Game

Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers:

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If the recent reports by Larry Brooks of the New York Post are true, Kevin Hayes is a near lock to be moved out of the Rangers organization. Brooks wrote that Hayes has priced himself out of the Rangers market and will be moved prior to the February 25th NHL trade deadline. The asking price in a trade is a first-round pick, a player that would be able to join their top-nine or top-four, plus another draft pick or player.

Hayes is exactly what most teams look for in a rental. He's a center with size, his contract is reasonable and he's got a track record as a proven scorer. This season, he's got 33 points in 39 games.

Related: Ottawa Senators Talks With Matt Duchene Have Cooled

Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators:

Ottawa Senators center Matt Duchene Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators are definitely an organization to watch as the deadline approaches. With as little as three big-name talents in the rumor mill, Matt Duchene is perhaps the most high-profile of all of them. He's got 42 points in 37 games for the Sens this season and the organization would like to hang onto him.

the problem for the Senators is that Duchene doesn't seem to be in a rush to get a deal done and his reps will chat with the organization to see where they stand on a long-term deal. The Senators want, and frankly need a decision quickly so they can get the most out of any trade but Duchene could care less because he's set to cash in regardless.

If a Duchene deal doesn't happen, expect the floodgates to open in Ottawa with players like Ryan Dzingle and Mark Stone to follow him out the door.

Related: Dougie Hamilton To Be Traded Out Of Carolina [Rumor]

Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes

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Dougie Hamilton is a relatively new name to be added to the deadline rumor mill. It was reported this past Saturday during the Sportsnet Headlines segment that the Hurricanes would move him for the right package.

It's hard to determine why, but Hamilton has seemed to have built a reputation as someone who lacks consistency in terms of effort. But, reports suggest this isn't about the organization being unhappy. It's more about trying not to lose a defensemen the team really wants to keep within the franchise.

Related: Milan Lucic Wants Out Of Edmonton [Rumor]

Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings

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It would be easy to put an entire list of potential trade targets on this list exclusively from the Los Angeles Kings. But, for the sake of providing a little variety, we'll focus on the name that is most often mentioned in the rumor mill. That award goes to defenseman Jake Muzzin.

Muzzin is having a record-breaking season in LA and the ask for his services will be high considering he's got a good contract, isn't a rental in the traditional sense of the word and offers a wide variety of skills to whatever team acquires him. For the Kings, moving him would simply be about getting a huge haul in return.

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