The NHL Trade Deadline is always an interesting time. Some teams sell off their most valuable pieces while other teams will add real leaders. Any one player can move if the offer is right and when teams decide they'll be loading up for the stretch run or dumping contracts for a rebuild, some of the biggest names in hockey find themselves in new destinations.
In hockey, anyone can be a leader but the clubs often determine the best of the best by designating them as captains or alternate captains and placing a letter on their jersey. In 2018, there are at least seven or eight players wearing a "C" or an "A" that could find new homes.
Most NHL insiders believed the captain of the Ottawa Senators wasn't likely to move before the deadline, but the Senators are listening to teams willing to make offers and there is a chance someone knocks the Senators socks off. If that happens, Karlsson could head elsewhere before the deadline, during the summer or just before the start of next season.
The Senators already traded Dion Phaneuf and are looking to move a number of other pieces before the trade deadline comes and goes. While most consider the franchise insane for even contemplating sending the best player the club has ever employed, a king's ransom might get the deal done and Karlsson could be playing for another team come March. Rumors are there could be as many as five to seven pieces coming back to the Senators and a club might have to take on Bobby Ryan's hefty contract.
Karlsson isn't the only Canadian captain that could be on the move, however. Max Pacioretty could be on the move as well. He might be the biggest name on the trade market and if he moves it will be because the Montreal Canadiens are panicking that they don't have other pieces like a top-line center or a top-two defenseman. The Canadiens are looking at a major shakeup and trading Pacioretty would easily provide the best return.
He has one more year left on a $4.5 million per year contract and he's a proven 30-goal scorer in today's NHL. Those types of forwards are a rare find and it will cost someone a lot to acquire him since he's not really a rental. If he goes, don't expect the Habs to simply give him away. He's too good to be dumped for draft picks and prospects. The Canadiens want a player that can help immediately.
Jumping across the border to the New York Islanders, John Tavares has moved way down the list of players likely to be traded by the deadline, but there is a chance it still happens. First, the New York Islanders would have to fall out of playoff contention. Second, Tavares would have to tell GM Garth Snow he has no intentions of staying after this year. If both of those things happen, what goes down with Tavares is anyone's guess.
The Islander's franchise center is an unrestricted free agent after this season and while the Islanders can't trade him in the midst of a playoff push, they also can't afford to lose him for no return if he's not coming back. There are multiple teams rumored to be waiting on making other trades in the smallest of hopes that Tavares suddenly becomes available.
Going even more south reveals an alternate captain that could be on the move—Niklas Hjalmarsson. He's still an extremely valuable part of the leadership group. He's also a name that's been out there on the rumor chart and a number of teams would love to trade for a top-four defender who can provide big minutes for an NHL franchise.
The Coyotes may also be willing to move Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Max Domi which is unfortunate, but not terribly surprising when the club is in 31st place in the NHL and looking like they might rebuild—again.
Another alternate captain that is almost a lock to move is Rick Nash. There is a very strong possibility he winds up back in New York next season but the team has already let their fanbase know that big changes are coming and the club is going to be focused on youth.
Nash would be a desired piece by a few teams and the Nashville Predators are rumored to be the team leading the way.
Other assistant captains on the list include Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kris Letang, Justin Faulk, and Ryan McDonagh. All are considered pieces each respective club does not want to move but would if the return was right and it improved the team.
Like any year, there are no certainties on who stays and who goes, but there are quite a few "As" and "Cs" that appear to be on the move. Feb. 26, 2018 can't come fast enough!
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