For only the second time in NHL history, it looks as if every Canadian-based team could miss the playoffs this season, making them all motivated sellers at Monday's trade deadline. A look at which players might be available, what teams have done so far and their strategies heading into Monday:
Toronto Maple Leafs
The available list: Coach Mike Babcock is safe, but that's about it. The Leafs have been the NHL's most active team in advance of the deadline in moving out four veterans (Dion Phaneuf, Shawn Matthias, Roman Polak and Nick Spaling) for picks and prospects, but they still have plenty of rentals to peddle and aren't averse to moving players with term. Their most interesting pending free agents are netminder James Reimer and winger P.A. Parenteau, who have both had good seasons and should fetch at least second-round picks given the market. Other rentals include Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes, although their production has been minimal. The Leafs are also open to moving goaltender Jonathan Bernier and winger Dan Winnik, who both have one year left on their deals. The rebuild rolls on.
The available list: Utility winger Dale Weise, the biggest rental piece the Habs had to move, and Tomas Fleischmann were traded to Chicago late Friday for forward Phillip Danault and a second-round pick in 2018. GM Marc Bergevin may also be able to move Lars Eller's contract if he is willing to retain some of the salary over the final two years of his deal, and defenceman Alexei Emelin would be a good contract to clear if possible. Defenceman Tom Gilbert was another potential rental to move, but a season-ending knee injury means that won't be possible. It's not likely to be a big day for the Habs, who didn't expect to be here a few months ago.
The available list: Ottawa is one of the few teams in the NHL with almost no rental players to speak of. Only veterans Chris Neil – who's in talks to re-sign – and Chris Phillips (who's injured and likely to retire) are pending unrestricted free agents and neither are going anywhere. The biggest splash the Sens could make is if a deal for Lightning prospect Jonathan Drouin materializes, but otherwise expect only moves around the edges, as GM Bryan Murray has publicly expressed no interest in adding a rental for an unlikely playoff bid. Players he could deal, however, include defenceman Patrick Wiercioch and forwards Alex Chiasson and Shane Prince, who have all received only limited opportunity this season.
The available list: The Flames have three unrestricted free agents – defenceman Kris Russell plus forwards Jiri Hudler and David Jones – available; one restricted free agent, Joe Colborne, who might be; and one suspended player, Dennis Wideman, who they'd move if they could but probably can't. In a market with lots of options at forward, Russell figures to fetch the greatest return – he's a smallish defenceman who led the league in shot-blocking last year and generally acts a stabilizing force with whomever he happens to be partnered with. Hudler is having an off season, but he's been heating up of late, and does have a goal scorer's touch around the net. Calgary has already added one prospect – Hunter Shinkaruk from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Markus Granlund – and would be amendable to adding more, if teams are reluctant to part with high draft choices for rentals.
The available list: Internally, the Oilers have a two-pronged strategy when it comes to wheeling and dealing. The first focuses on the short term and involves getting a decent return for two rentals, forward Teddy Purcell and defenceman Justin Schultz, and pretty much anything they can get for former No. 1 draft choice Nail Yakupov, who continues to underachieve. In June, they are expected to reshape their roster in a far more meaningful way by dangling, among other assets, high-end talent such as Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and perhaps even their first-round pick, which figures to be in the top five. Ideally, the Oilers want to land a premium defenceman so that rising stars Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse can play lower down the depth chart.
The available list: Dan Hamhuis could be the most sought-after defenceman at the deadline, a Canadian Olympian as recently as 2014, who would have to waive a no-move clause in his contract in order for a deal to go forward. If he moves, he would probably command a significant return. The Canucks also have Radim Vrbata on an expiring contract and would listen to offers for playoff-tested pest Alex Burrows, who has slipped down the Canucks' depth chart in recent years. Other players from the fringes of the roster that could move include defenceman Yannick Weber, as well as forwards Adam Cracknell and Brandon Prust. The Canucks continue to try and rebuild without bottoming out, a tricky proposition that sometimes can doom an organization to years of middle-of-the-road mediocrity.
The available list: General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has already checked off the two big items on his trading-deadline to-do list early. First, he signed defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to a contract extension, which took the burly defenceman off the market. Then he traded away team captain and pending unrestricted free agent Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks, after being unable to come to terms on a new contract with him. The Blackhawks met the Jets' asking price of a first-round choice and a top prospect in Marko Dano, who is a former No. 1 pick. From here until Monday, the Jets are likely just to make moves around the edges of the roster, if they do anything at all. Forward Alex Burmistrov, defenceman Adam Pardy or goaltender Ondrej Pavelec would all be available for modest returns. Somewhere down the road, a Travis Hamonic-for-Jacob Trouba deal could also materialize, if the two teams could ever get the dollars to work. Trouba is a pending restricted free agent looking for a big raise, while Hamonic is on an extremely cap-friendly contract, playing for the New York Islanders, but seeking a move to Western Canada for family reasons.