Trading

Top storylines ahead of NHL Trade Deadline include Hanifin, Guentzel decisions

The 2024 NHL Trade Deadline is 16 days away.

It’s getting interesting.

Here are 10 storylines involving teams in the hunt and players who could be on the move to follow until the deadline hits at 3 p.m. ET on March 8.

Flames in control of defenseman market

The Calgary Flames hold two of the biggest cards in the game of poker that is the NHL Trade Deadline season in defensemen Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin. They’re both pending unrestricted free agents.

Calgary is fighting for a playoff position, but it has already traded center Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks and the writing might be on the wall for Hanifin and Tanev to be moved too at the right price.

The Flames reportedly have an eight-year contract offer on the table for Hanifin, who is 27 years old, but since he hasn’t signed it yet it’s increasingly likely that he will be traded. Tanev, 34, is expected to be traded.

Any team that needs a defenseman, or defensemen, will be talking with the Flames to gauge prices. It won’t be cheap, but they could be the two most impactful players on the market.

Markstrom could be on the move out of Calgary too

Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom is signed for two more seasons with a $6 million average annual value, but there have been numerous reports about his availability in a trade before the deadline.

The New Jersey Devils are interested.

The Athletic reported trade talks between the Flames and Devils broke down over salary retention on Calgary’s part and the acquisition cost on New Jersey’s part. The report also said the Devils aren’t backing away from their interest in Markstrom so it could still happen.

It’s possible the Flames hold onto Markstrom through the deadline and revisit trading him in the offseason. They’re under no pressure to move him unless Markstrom has privately told the Flames he wants out of Calgary.

More on the goalie market

The Devils are clearly in the market for a No. 1 goalie. The Colorado Avalanche need a No. 2 goalie to play behind All-Star Alexandar Georgiev. The Toronto Maple Leafs might be looking to solidify their goaltending depth.

There are options out there for those teams and others that might be in the market for a goalie.

Marc-Andre Fleury is a pending UFA and the Minnesota Wild could be looking to move him if they fall out of the race. They are four points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Jake Allen has another year left on his contract, but the Montreal Canadiens have been using three goalies all season with Allen, Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. They’d be willing to trade Allen if they got a strong enough offer.

The Detroit Red Wings have also been operating with a three-goalie system all season with Ville Husso, James Reimer and Alex Lyon. Reimer is a pending UFA. Lyon and Husso are signed through next season.

Will Elvis leave the building?

Elvis Merzlikins went public with his trade request on Jan. 15. Since then, the Columbus Blue Jackets have not only kept him on the roster, but they fired general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on Thursday.

Where that leaves Merzlikins and his trade request is not clear, but it’s not going to be easy to move him, especially with Markstrom potentially available too.

Merzlikins is signed for three more seasons with a $5.4 million AAV, but he’s been underperforming as a No. 1 goalie with a 10-12-7 record, 3.27 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

The Blue Jackets might have to hold onto Merzlikins and continue to work with him, hoping for improvement going into next season. Trading him now, if possible, would be selling low on a player they thought enough of to give a five-year, $27 million contract on Sept. 21, 2021.

Injuries open holes for Rangers

The Rangers have lost center Filip Chytil and right wing Blake Wheeler for the remainder of the season, creating the need for a third-line center and a top-nine right wing. They are first in the Metropolitan Division. Chytil and Wheeler are both on long-term injured reserve.

The Rangers have been using Jonny Brodzinski as the No. 3 center and it’s been an effective line with him, Kaapo Kakko on the right wing and Will Cuylle on the left side. But better depth there and the ability to move Brodzinski around would be beneficial.

New York moved Jimmy Vesey up to play first-line right wing in Wheeler’s spot in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game Sunday. Matt Rempe replaced him on the fourth line and made his NHL debut Sunday.

With Rempe and Adam Edstrom, the Rangers have two American Hockey League callups in their top 12 forward group. They likely won’t be comfortable going into the playoffs like that.

Pittsburgh’s Guentzel dilemma

Jake Guentzel is a pending UFA. The Pittsburgh Penguins forward is also out for up to four weeks with an upper-body injury.

But Guentzel is the Penguins’ second-leading scorer with 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in 50 games. He plays on the top line with Sidney Crosby. The Penguins are a player in the Eastern Conference playoff race, seven points out of the second wild-card position.

So, what are the Penguins going to do with Guentzel?

Re-sign him? Trade him? Nothing for now?

It’s possible the Penguins will wait until closer to the deadline to figure this out. They’ll see what life is like without Guentzel for a little while, and while he’s out they may get a clearer view of where they stand in the playoff race.

Flyers will either sell or stand pat

In the end, it might not matter that the Philadelphia Flyers are third in the Metropolitan Division with a five-point cushion on the fourth-place New Jersey Devils despite losing 6-3 to them in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series on Saturday at MetLife Stadium.

The Flyers are not going to be buyers. Their general manager, Daniel Briere, and president of hockey operations, Keith Jones, have made that abundantly clear. They’re not going to let the results of this season, as successful as they have been, allow them to deviate from the long-term vision of building for sustained success.

They might be sellers even if they remain in a playoff position. The Flyers have defensemen Sean Walker and Nick Seeler, both pending UFAs, and they’re not in a position to keep them for now and lose them to free agency in the offseason.

Re-signing Walker and potentially Seeler remains an option, but if the Flyers can’t get that done, they might have no choice but to trade them before the deadline, moves that could crush their playoff hopes this season but would keep in line with the long-term vision Briere and Jones have laid out.

Maple Leafs looking for defensemen

There has been a lot of talk about Tanev going from the Flames to the Maple Leafs before the deadline. It makes sense. He’s exactly the type of big, physical, snarly defenseman they could use. But what are the Maple Leafs willing to pay to get him or anyone of that ilk?

The Flames reportedly are seeking or holding out for a first-round pick. The Maple Leafs have one, but they do not have a second-round pick so if they want Tanev that first might be the cost.

Toronto could pivot to Walker or Seeler, or perhaps both, although they don’t have the size or experience of Tanev. But getting both and keeping them together as a pair would be a big move for Toronto.

Regardless, the Maple Leafs have a need on the back end, but are they willing to pay the price to fill it?

Lightning need to fill Sergachev-sized hole

The Tampa Bay Lightning are another team in need of help on the blue line because of Mikhail Sergachev‘s season-ending leg injury that he sustained against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8.

Sergachev is on long-term injured reserve, which means the Lightning can exceed the NHL salary cap by his cap charge ($8.5 million). They’d rather use that on Sergachev himself because of everything he does for them, but without him they might be able to fill multiple holes.

Tampa Bay could add on the back end and to its forward depth before the deadline, but the problem is they may not have the pieces to send back in a trade to get what they want. The Lightning are thin on prospects, and they do not have their first, second or fourth-round picks in the 2024 NHL Draft or their first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.

But never count out the Lightning around the trade deadline. General manager Julien BriseBois always seems to find a way to make some type of splash.

Other pending UFAs to watch

In addition to the players already mentioned, here are some other pending UFAs that likely will be on the move before the deadline on March 8:

Forwards: Adam Henrique (Anaheim Ducks), Vladimir Tarasenko (Ottawa Senators), Anthony Mantha (Washington Capitals), Jordan Eberle (Seattle Kraken), Alexander Wennberg (Kraken), Tyler Johnson (Chicago Blackhawks)

Defensemen: Alexandre Carrier (Nashville Predators), Ilya Lyubushkin (Ducks), Joel Edmundson (Capitals), Erik Johnson (Buffalo Sabres)

Goalies: Kaapo Kahkonen (Sharks), Eric Comrie (Sabres)

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