With roughly six weeks to go in the regular season, NHL teams looking to contend down the stretch must make moves before the upcoming trade deadline to bolster their rosters and fill any holes that may exist.
Twenty-four teams are currently in the playoffs or within single-digits in points of the next-best team, meaning we could be in line for a crazy deadline on Monday, March 2. With so many feasible playoff contenders, don’t be surprised if unexpected moves go down.
Even the top teams in hockey—the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens—could be active in the hopes of putting themselves over the top of their respective conferences. The trade deadline is always a reminder of how the rich can get richer in a hurry.
Of course, there will be multiple teams in the business of selling. The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres could fall into that category, but there’s no telling what will happen, even just two days ahead of the action.
Below is all your must-know deadline information, including the hottest rumors and predictions as to whether they’ll come true.
Must-Know Deadline Info
Date: Monday, March 2
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Hottest Rumors and Predictions
Ben Margot/Associated Press
The Boston Bruins have been linked to Chris Stewart for quite a long time. The rumors surrounding Stewart and Boston have been swirling since October, when ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun wrote about how the Sabres could move the winger.
He wrote at the time that the Bruins were in the market for a top-six winger, something that Stewart certainly satisfies. The upcoming free agent has 11 goals and 14 assists in 60 games, making him a prime candidate to be dealt.
It would, of course, be interesting to see Stewart dealt to a division rival, but Ty Anderson of HockeyBuzz.com hears that it could still happen:
McKenzie confirms Bruins are still in on Chris Stewart, adds that there could be ‘other elements’ from Sabres to complete deal.
— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) February 26, 2015
The 27-year-old has shown more lately than he has all season, scoring goals in back-to-back games. It would seem as if he has put trade talks on the back burner, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Whatever is going to happen is out of our control,” Stewart told Amy Mortiz of The Buffalo News. “It’s part of the business. We’re just as antsy as you are to see what happens.”
Several other clubs could be interested in Stewart—namely the Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins—but Boston has been connected to Stewart for more than four months.
His most likely destination remains the Bruins, barring another team swooping in to steal him away at the 11th hour. Boston would be wise to do everything possible to get Stewart, as his scoring potential would fit well on its second line.
With 67 points and on pace to face the top-seeded Canadiens in Round 1, it would be beneficial for the Bruins to improve their current Eastern Conference standing.
Prediction: Stewart goes to Boston.
Billy Hurst/Associated Press
Now on to the less likely.
Dion Phaneuf, 29, is a valuable defenseman, with 23 points in 49 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. He isn’t a goal-scoring threat (three on the year), but he can strengthen a second line on the right team.
Are the Detroit Red Wings that team? TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Detroit could be in the mix if Toronto shows a willingness to deal him:
Leafs would rather wait until offseason than take on bad contracts or eat money to move Kessel or Phaneuf. Some interest in Dion…
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 27, 2015
As a 2nd pairing d-man, I could see a team like Det circling back at the 11th hour to try and grab Phaneuf. Unlikely, but possible.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 27, 2015
Phaneuf returned on Thursday night after missing 12 games with a hand injury, scoring the team’s third goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was of the power-play variety.
Despite the clear impact he has on the ice when healthy, Phaneuf is aware that he isn’t safe from the rumor mill.
“No one is untradeable; I think there’s never anyone that’s untradeable,” Phaneuf told NHL.com’s Mike Brophy. “Anyone can be moved.”
After this season, Phaneuf is a $7 million cap hit for the next six seasons, per Spotrac.com, so a team interested in his services must be ready to commit to a long-term marriage.
Add his recent injury issue to his contract status, then take into account Toronto’s unwillingness to move him during the middle of the season, and it doesn’t appear as if he’ll be going anywhere right now.
The Maple Leafs (55 points) would benefit from trading him and clearing cap before the upcoming offseason, but it’d also be understandable for them to let Phaneuf gain more value with a strong finish to the 2014-15 season.
Prediction: Phaneuf stays in Toronto.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
All signs seem to point toward a trade of Jan Hejda by Monday afternoon.
He’s 36 years old and an unrestricted free agent come season’s end, and the Colorado Avalanche have 63 points—putting them in a tie with the Dallas Stars for last place in the Western Conference’s Central Division.
But if Colorado doesn’t win both games and falls further out of the playoff picture, expect Hejda to be moved to a playoff-bound team by Monday’s trade deadline.
The New York Rangers, looking for defensive depth for the playoffs, would likely have the most interest in Hejda as a playoff rental. The return for such a player typically is a prospect and/or draft pick.
The Rangers have 82 points and are red hot, winning eight of their last nine contests. But that doesn’t stop the fact that the defense could use a boost. They’ve allowed three goals or more in six of those nine games. While a good part of that is down to Cam Talbot in net, it’s clear that the defense has also been underperforming.
Hejda is by no means a star—nor was he ever. The nine-year veteran has never scored more than six goals in a season (2013-14), and he has never totaled more than 21 points (2008-09). However, he’s a solid option on the third line for a Rangers team in need of a capable defenseman.
He typically plays the fourth- or fifth-most minutes of the defensemen at the Avalanche, and it’s reasonable to believe that his role would increase somewhat with the Rangers.
Given all the factors surrounding Hejda and the Rangers, it seems like an ideal fit.
Prediction: Hejda goes to New York.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @kennydejohn