With only four days left until the NHL's trade deadline, the buyers and sellers are lining up on either side of the aisle.
More than any other year we've seen, it's a Canada-USA divide.
Other than the Ottawa Senators, who don't have any true rental players to move, the Canadian NHL teams are in sell mode. The Toronto Maple Leafs have led the way so far with three deals shipping veterans – Dion Phaneuf, Shawn Matthias, Roman Polak and Nick Spaling – out for a series of picks and prospects, but the rest aren't far behind.
TRADE DEADLINE ACTIVITY SINCE 1979-80
The Winnipeg Jets had what might be the biggest deadline-day prize in captain Andrew Ladd, who was traded to the Blackhawks on Thursday.
But the general approach to Monday's 3 p.m. ET deadline is the same in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal: Those GMs realize a playoff berth is extremely unlikely, and it's time to unload players that won't be coming back.
The only U.S.-based teams that are firmly on the seller side are Columbus (willing to trade just about anyone after another miserable year), Buffalo (in the NHL's basement as their teardown rebuild attempts to build up) and Arizona (falling out of the playoff picture after winning only five of their last 18 games). To a lesser extent, Carolina, New Jersey and Philadelphia will likely be involved in the selloff, even though their playoff hopes are far better than the Canadian clubs.
More and more, GMs appear to recognize the value of determining whether they're in or out of the race and acting accordingly at the deadline. Restocking through picks and prospects is too important.
What that means, though, is there are a lot of players on the market. With at least a half-dozen buyers very tight to the cap, there could be a situation where there's downward pressure on rental player prices, which will make the Leafs look wise for making their deals ahead of time.
With that in mind, here is a closer look at some of the most intriguing names available, and where all 30 NHL teams are lining up in advance of the deadline.
10 of the most intriguing names available
1. Eric Staal, Carolina
Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press
All is quiet out of the Hurricanes front office on their 31-year-old captain, a soon-to-be free agent. This is a team in a tricky spot, as they've been much better than anticipated – they're the East's fourth best team since Dec. 1 – and right there in the wild card race. But they're also not yet contenders and don't want to sacrifice a bright future for a brief (and likely fruitless) playoff push this season. Staal's point totals are misleading this year, as he has played well, and he would be a great fit on a team like the Blackhawks or the Rangers (with brother Marc). A trade ultimately comes down to whether or not he is willing to waive his no-trade clause. Other teams believe he will, with New York having the inside track.
2. Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg (TRADED)
The prized rental player out there right now, at least until Staal announces he's ready to leave. The Jets have been closely gauging the market for their captain and want to ensure they get a strong return after a miserable season for the franchise. How strong? GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is asking for a first-round pick and/or a prospect, depending on how talented a young player is involved. Chicago and Florida are the front-runners for Ladd, but the Blackhawks are tight on cap space and the Panthers likely won't want to surrender a high pick. It's possible Winnipeg needs to retain some of Ladd's $4.4-million contract to get the right deal done.
3. Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay
Bill Kostroun/AP Photo
Up to a dozen teams are still interested in the former third-overall pick (2013), who has been sitting out the past month after asking for a trade. It's in the Lightning's best interest to move Drouin by Monday's deadline as they have a real shot at another Stanley Cup run and whatever return they bring in could help that cause. There's also the chance they can move some unwanted salary (like Matt Carle) out in the deal, freeing up room to add elsewhere in the lineup. This unhappy marriage is almost over.
4. Bryan Bickell, Chicago
Yes, Bickell has spent much of the year in the minors, and yes the big winger is overpaid at $4-million. But he belongs on this "most intriguing" list because of the creative manoeuvres the Blackhawks are looking at to ship him out. The Leafs are a likely partner here, given their newfound cap space, but talk is they'll ask for a significant asset in exchange for assuming Bickell's contract, which has one year remaining. Chicago doesn't have a 2016 second-round pick to give but would they part with their first, which will likely be deep in the opening round? Or do they need it for a potential Ladd trade? Is a mere pick worth taking on that much unwanted salary, even for a rich team like Toronto? This would be a fun negotiation to be a fly on the wall for.
5. Loui Eriksson, Boston
Eriksson has had a nice bounce-back season and so have the Bruins. But are they a contender? Should they go for it with Zdeno Chara about to turn 39 years old? And can they risk keeping Eriksson solely for a ho-hum playoff run when he would fetch a great asset as a rental? The odds are GM Don Sweeney can get him re-signed, but time is running out. And it might be pricey.
6. Radim Vrbata, Vancouver
If all the teams looking for offence whiff on Ladd, and Staal and Eriksson don't move, Vrbata is a strong fallback option. He is dealing with a minor injury but remains a dependable second-line scoring option, especially if he's put with more established players than those he has spent most of the season in Vancouver with.
7. James Reimer, Toronto
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There are teams looking for goalies. The Sharks would like help behind Martin Jones. The Preds have had issues there all year, and it threatens their season. And Calgary needs to find a solution for next season. But the Leafs also have some interest in keeping Reimer, who has had a good season. The question is: can they find a compromise on an extension before the deadline?
8. Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver
He is 33, and he has spent a lot of this season on the sidelines due to injury. But with few impact rental defencemen available, he could be a key piece for a contending team looking for experience in its top four. What's unclear is which teams want to add on the blueline, however.
9. Mikkel Boedker, Arizona
Another of the backup options in the Ladd sweepstakes. Boedker has posted very solid numbers in big minutes for the surprising Coyotes and is on the verge of becoming a rare 26-year-old unrestricted free agent. His defensive game is somewhat lacking but offence is heavily in demand right now around the NHL. He'll land Arizona a good asset.
10. Justin Schultz, Edmonton
The Oilers have seen enough. After four years of erratic play, they'd like to move Schultz and are likely willing to retain salary to do so. Improving their blueline remains Edmonton's No. 1 concern heading into another off-season where they'll have a high pick. Other teams remain intrigued by Schultz's offensive abilities and could bite on a deal.
Other players that could move:
Forwards: P-A Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, Dale Weise, Dan Winnik, Michael Grabner, Scott Hartnell, Kerby Rychel, Patrick Marleau, Lee Stempniak, Lars Eller, Kris Versteeg, Teddy Purcell, Cam Atkinson, Joffrey Lupul, Jamie McGinn, Brandon Pirri, Tyler Bozak, Nail Yakupov, Tomas Fleischmann.
Defencemen: Jacob Trouba, Kris Russell, Josh Gorges, Fedor Tyutin, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Schlemko, Patrick Wiercioch.
Goalies: Jonathan Bernier, Frederik Andersen, Cam Ward, Jonas Hiller.
Buyers & sellers
Buyers with limited cap space (seven teams): San Jose, Washington, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Louis
Buyers with a ton of cap space (seven teams): Boston, Dallas, NY Islanders, Florida, Colorado, Anaheim, Nashville
Other buyers (three teams): Minnesota, NY Rangers, Chicago
Sellers (nine teams): Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Columbus, Buffalo, Arizona
Somewhere in-between (four teams): Ottawa, Carolina, Philadelphia, New Jersey