Transfer News: Top Players in demand in this year upcoming transfer deadline

Maybe the NHL trade deadline won’t disappoint in 2020. Not because it will yield spectacular deals, but because the list of names on the trade block isn’t very exciting compared to those of recent years, so expectations won’t be very high. The 2019 deadline, for instance, had Mark Stone and Matt Duchene being dangled. The 2020 class doesn’t offer any player with potential to make an impact on their level. Instead, second-liners, good-but-not-elite goal scorers, second-pair defensemen and fallen stars populate the rumor mill.

Still, what the group lacks in star power, it makes up in depth. Who are the top names with potential to move before the Feb. 24 deadline?

First off, let’s define what “top” means. The list is sorted by potential impact, with the better players ranking higher – but only within the context of players with realistic possibilities of being dealt, according to reported rumors, their teams’ places in the standings and their contract situations. You won’t see a top-end player with little chance of being traded make this list.

With that, let’s have a look at 30 names to watch over the next month and a half. I’ll update the list at least one more time before the deadline arrives.

1. CHRIS KREIDER, LW, RANGERS

Age: 28
Cap hit: $4.625 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: 11-team no-trade list

His blend of speed, physicality and scoring touch make him the prized rental piece of 2020. The Rangers haven’t ruled out keeping him but, with RFAs Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome playing so well, there may not be enough cap space for Kreider anyway.

2. KYLE PALMIERI, RW, DEVILS

Age: 28
Cap hit: $4.65 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: 8-team no-trade list

Palmieri might not have been someone Ray Shero wanted to trade, but Shero’s out as Devils GM. There are already reports that interim GM Tom Fitzgerald will get calls on Palmieri, who could augment pretty much any contender with his accurate shot and power-play presence.

3. JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU, C, SENATORS

Age: 27
Cap hit: $3.1 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

At what point does he play his way into Ottawa’s future plans? At the same time, the two-way threat and penalty-killing dynamo will never be more valuable than he is right now. It’s not inconceivable he fetches a first-round pick.

4. TOMAS TATAR, LW, CANADIENS

Age: 29
Cap hit: $4.8 million (Vegas retained $500,00o)
Years left: 1
Clauses: None

Tatar isn’t a UFA this summer, so there’s no pressure to move him, but he could also command a better return than a pure rental. By the time the Habs’ prospect core matures into a contender-worthy roster, Tatar will be in his 30s, so is now the time to cash in the chip?

5. TYLER TOFFOLI, RW, KINGS

Age: 27
Cap hit: $4.6 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

Probably the most likely NHL player to get traded by Feb. 24. He hasn’t played on a contender for years, and he’s never played on an offensive juggernaut, so there is untapped potential in his sniper’s stick.

6. P.K. SUBBAN, D, DEVILS

Age: 30
Cap hit: $9 million
Years left: 2
Clauses: None

Just because Subban says he hasn’t asked for a trade doesn’t mean he won’t get moved. With just two years left on his contract, he wouldn’t be a total albatross if the Devils retained some salary in a trade. He’s talented enough to get his career back on track in the right environment.

7. ROBIN LEHNER, G, BLACKHAWKS

Age: 28
Cap hit: $5 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

AND…

8. COREY CRAWFORD, G, BLACKHAWKS

Age: 35
Cap hit: $6 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: 10-team trade list

This is complicated. The much-younger Lehner has seemingly earned a long-term look at Chicago’s No. 1 job. He also has zero clauses restricting his movement, whereas Crawford has submitted a list of just 10 teams to which he’d accept a trade, and there’s no guarantee a guy with two Stanley Cup rings longs to spend a few months chasing a third. Lehner arguably offers higher trade value as a difference-making rental given his age and more-reliable health.

9. SAMI VATANEN, D, DEVILS

Age: 28
Cap hit: $4.875 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

Vatanen shoots right-handed, can play either side, can work a power play and offers good mobility. He’s a legitimate top-four rental for a team needing an injection of offense.

10. JASON ZUCKER, LW, WILD

Age: 28
Cap hit: $5.5 million
Years left: 3
Clauses: 10-team no-trade list

He’s fast, defensively responsible and under team control for a few more seasons at a respectable price. There’s technically no pressure to deal him, but GM Bill Guerin could receive an offer too tempting to turn down. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the obvious team to watch here after losing Jake Guentzel long term.

11. ALEC MARTINEZ, D, KINGS

Age: 32
Cap hit: $4 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: None

Martinez is probably just a third-pair guy on a good team at this stage of his career, but he kills penalties, can play the right side and has a pair of Cup rings. There’s a market for that resume.

12. JOSH ANDERSON, RW, BLUE JACKETS

Age: 25
Cap hit: $1.85 million
Years left: RFA
Clauses: None

Anderson will tempt buyer teams with his unique throwback tool set. He’s big, tough and likes to shoot the puck. He’d rank higher if he wasn’t on the shelf with a shoulder injury – and enduring a bad season.

13. SHAYNE GOSTISBEHERE, D FLYERS

Age: 26
Cap hit: $4.5 million
Years left: 3
Clauses: None

He should be back from his knee surgery a couple weeks before the deadline, during which the Flyers would have a showcase window. He hasn’t jived with new coach Alain Vigneault, to the point of being a healthy scratch multiple times. But Ghost Bear’s raw offensive ability hasn’t gone anywhere. A change of scenery could revive his career.

14. ERIK GUSTAFSSON, D, BLACKHAWKS

Age: 27
Cap hit: $1.2 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

Predictably, his unsustainable shooting percentage from his breakout 2018-19 regressed. He’s gone from a 17-goal, 60-point blueliner to someone who looks more like a depth rental for a team seeking a cheap-to-acquire puck-mover. It’s possible GM Stan Bowman won’t want to sell low, but it’s a seller’s market right now.

15. BRANDON SAAD, LW, BLACKHAWKS

Age: 27
Cap hit: $6 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: None (10-team trade list kicks in next season)

He’s expected back from his ankle injury after the all-star break. He brings a similar package to Zucker but in a bigger body – speed and two-way hockey sense. Saad has a year left on his deal but has no restrictions on movement only for this season – and could command a good return right now since the trade market is thin at forward.

16. MIKAEL GRANLUND, RW, PREDATORS

Age: 27
Cap hit: $5.75 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

If new coach John Hynes can’t right the ship, the Predators will have to explore selling off their expiring assets next month. Granlund is undeniably talented but hasn’t been a fit in Music City. Even if he heats up under Hynes, it’s tough to imagine him not going to market this summer.

17. ONDREJ KASE, RW, DUCKS

Age: 24
Cap hit: $2.6 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: None

His inability to stay healthy scares off some suitors. But Kase’s per-60 production suggests he’s one of the game’s most underrated players, and he should be a cost-effective acquisition. He could be a steal.

18. ANDREAS ATHANASIOU, LW, RED WINGS

Age: 25
Cap hit: $3 million
Years left: RFA
Clauses: None

There’s no history between the Steve Yzerman regime and Athanasiou, whose speed and hands give him trade value even while he’s enduring a nightmare season in terms of luck and health.

19. MARCUS JOHANSSON, RW, SABRES

Age: 29
Cap hit: $4.5 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: 10-team no-trade list

Trade season wouldn’t be complete without ‘MoJo.’ He’s not a true rental with a year left on his contract but could have some appeal if Buffalo ate a bit of his salary. He doesn’t figure to be part of the franchise’s long-term plans. Would a Boston reunion make sense after he was so useful during the 2019 playoffs there?

20. BRENDEN DILLON, D, SHARKS

Age: 29
Cap hit: $3.27 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

He’s an ideal rental for teams seeking a heavy game from the back end and, in San Jose, he’s accrued experience playing alongside high-end partners.

21. JAKE GARDINER, D, HURRICANES

Age:29
Cap hit: $4.05 million
Years left: 3
Clauses: 7-team no-trade list

It just hasn’t worked out for Gardiner in Carolina, but he’s still an above-average puck-mover. If he could get back to the productivity he showed in Toronto, he’d be a bargain on a new team at his price. Maybe the Hurricanes’ blueline is just too deep. They don’t need him enough, although, hours after I wrote these words, Dougie Hamilton broke his leg, so maybe that changes things.

22. CONOR SHEARY, RW, SABRES

Age: 27

Cap hit: $3 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

His numbers are a long way from the fun of playing with Sidney Crosby, but Sheary is fast, has a pair of Cup rings and can keep pace with high-skill linemates in a pinch. Not a bad depth piece for a contender.

23. SAM BENNETT, LW, FLAMES

Age: 23
Cap hit: $2.55 million
Years left: 1
Clauses: None

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman already reported about “lowball offers” the Flames have received for Bennett, so we know the interest is there. Relative to his fourth-overall draft slot from 2014, he’s a bust, but he’s settled in as feisty third-liner. Maybe a new team could unlock second-line upside.

24. ALEX GALCHENYUK, LW, PENGUINS

Age: 25
Cap hit: $4.9 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

For the second season in a row, he hasn’t found a fit with his new team. But as the Strome brothers have proven, talented players in their early to mid-20s can still realize their potential in the right situations. Problem is, Galchenyuk seems like a better fit on a struggling team looking for upside, yet he’s set up as a rental because he’s a UFA.

25. WAYNE SIMMONDS, RW, DEVILS

Age: 31
Cap hit: $5 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: None

His game has fallen off a cliff as he reaches his early 30s, so you’re not renting him to be a front-line scorer and power-play maven anymore. But how about Simmonds as a luxury fourth-liner? 

26. ALEXANDAR GEORGIEV, G, RANGERS

Age: 23
Cap hit: $793 K
Years left: RFA
Clauses: None

He’s an NHL goalie. He’s simply squeezed out by a veteran who holds more clout in Henrik Lundqvist and a superior prospect stealing work in Igor Shesterkin. Plenty of teams would like to take a shot at Georgiev’s upside. At 23, he has 59 NHL starts to his name with a .914 save percentage.

27. MICHAEL FROLIK, RW, SABRES

Age: 31
Cap hit: $4.3 million
Years left: UFA
Clauses: 10-team no-trade list

You probably can’t rely on Frolik for double-digit goal totals anymore, but he has tons of experience playing on shutdown lines. He can solidify a contender’s bottom-six forward group.

28. JESSE PULJUJARVI, RW, OILERS

Age: 21
Cap hit: RFA
Years left: RFA
Clauses: None

If the Oilers seek to make an upgrade for their playoff push and prefer not to surrender high draft picks, they can dangle the guy who doesn’t want to play for them anymore. Puljujarvi has undoubtedly been a bust, but he’s lighting it up in Finland and is young enough to turn his career around.

29. JEREMY BRACCO, RW, MAPLE LEAFS

Age: 22
Cap hit: $843 K
Years left: RFA
Clauses: None

He has little left to prove in the AHL but, because his skill set is purely offense-oriented, he can’t crack Toronto’s lineup, as the scoring lines are occupied and he doesn’t work in a checking assignment. Bracco is an obvious trade candidate.

30. CONOR TIMMINS, D, AVALANCHE

Age: 21
Cap hit: $925 K
Years left: 1
Clauses: None

The Avs already have two of the game’s best young puck-movers at the NHL level in Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, with another top-tier prospect on the way in Bowen Byram. Their defensive surplus renders promising-but-injury-prone prospect Timmins relatively expendable if it helps GM Joe Sakic score a home-run trade to put his Cup-contending squad over the top.

Other trade candidates to watch: Ilya Kovalchuk, Melker Karlsson, Tyler Ennis, Zach Bogosian, Andy Greene, Ron Hainsey, Craig Anderson, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Kyle Clifford, Mike Green, Marco Scandella, Lias Andersson

DARK HORSES

These players aren’t obvious enough trade candidates to populate the top 30 but could make the list in weeks to come depending on rumors and the standings:

Ryan Murray, Craig Smith, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Marcus Foligno, Jeff Petry