We have already seen some big moves ahead of the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, with a lot of the expected names changing teams.
Taylor Hall went from New Jersey to Arizona. Jason Zucker went from Minnesota to Pittsburgh. Tyler Toffoli went from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Given the status of those teams in the standings, as well as the contract situation for each player and the rumors and speculation that had followed them, these moves are not huge surprises.
We also have a pretty good sense of the bigger names likely to be on the move and get the most attention before the deadline, including Ottawa Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau, New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, Montreal Canadiens winger Ilya Kovalchuk and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
For now, though, we are going to focus on some other players who could be moved for one reason or another and make a big impact in the Stanley Cup Playoff race (as well as the Stanley Cup Playoffs themselves).
Here are the under-the-radar players who deserve a little more attention.
1. Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens still seem to believe they are close to contending, and Tatar is signed beyond this season. So there may not be an incentive to trade him at this point, which is why he is not getting as much attention as some of the other top forwards. But given the return teams are getting on forwards right now, the Canadiens may be pushed to make a move. If they do, Tatar should probably become the most sought-after player on the market given his production and all-around game. He is almost a lock for 25 goals and 50 points every season (he is on pace for more in both categories this season) and has dominant possession numbers due to his strong two-way play. The Canadiens should not give him away and only accept a deal that makes them better in the long run, but he could make a huge impact for a contender.
2. Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
Here is another player on a team that may not be ready to sell just yet despite its spot in the standings. Lehner is one of the league's best goalies but is a free agent after this season and may have played his way out of Chicago's price range given the salary cap situation. The other problem with a potential deal: There are not many teams in contention that have a clear need for a top starting goalie.
3. Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers
The Panthers might be in trouble in their quest to make the playoffs. They are trending in the wrong direction and with a couple of pending free agents (Hoffman included), they could begin to sell. Hoffman is not going to do much for a team on the defensive side of the rink, but he can be an impact offensive player with his rocket of a shot.
4. Evgenii Dadonov, Florida Panthers
Dadonov is in the exact same situation as Hoffman: outstanding player with big-time offensive production and a pending free agent on a team (the same team) that is falling out of playoff contention. The question is whether the Panthers are ready to sell. They are still within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and facing significant pressure to make it. This is a team that has known nothing but losing in during most of its existence and invested heavily in this year's roster. Trading one or two of its best players would ruin a lot of the goodwill the team earned over the summer with the additions of head coach Joel Quenneville and starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
5. Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
The Devils have been active already trading Hall, captain Andy Greene and forward Blake Coleman. Moving Palmieri would be significant because he is signed beyond this season and is one of the more underrated goal scorers in the league. Former general manager Ray Shero showed little interest a trade, but with him out of the picture a move could be back on the table — especially after the Devils dealt Coleman (also one of their best players and also signed beyond this season). In his five years with the Devils, Palmieri has averaged close to a 30-goal pace per 82 games. He is not a perfectly complete player, but he is a finisher. That matters.
6. Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild
The Wild have sort of played their way back into the playoff race, but general manager Bill Guerin does not seem to be a believer. He already traded Zucker with three years remaining on his contract and made a coaching change. Brodin's name, meanwhile, has also been mentioned in trade rumors. He provides a little more offense than Brendan Dillon with similar defensive play and is signed beyond this season. In that sense he might be a far more attractive option with more trade value. It also makes him less likely to be traded.
7. Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are one of the worst teams ever and in need of a complete overhaul, and Athanasiou might be one of few players on their roster with significant trade value. He brings speed, scored 30 goals just one year ago and is still only a restricted free agent after this season. Steve Yzerman has not been all that active as Red Wings general manager, and this would be a big move. But it might be a smart one.
8. Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks
Lehner is not the only player the Blackhawks need to make a big decision on. Gustafsson is also an unrestricted free agent after this season and should attract a market. Offense is his strength, but he has taken a little bit of a step back from last season when he was one of the most productive blue-liners in the league. He is not a top-pairing defenseman, but he could be an outstanding second-pairing defender who could add some offensive power to any team's blue line.
9. Vladislav Namestnikov, Ottawa Senators
The Senators are still in the middle of their "everything must go" rebuild and have several pending unrestricted free agents. Namestnikov is an intriguing one because he still has great talent, flashing moments of brilliance in the NHL but not always putting it all together as a top-liner. He probably would not cost more than a mid-round draft pick but would be an intriguing low-risk, high-reward player for a team looking to add some offense.