The NHL trade deadline is less than a week away, and teams are gearing up to get the pieces they need to make a run. Right now, the Lightning are the team to beat and they're running away with the President's Trophy. However, behind them in the Atlantic are the Bruins and Maple Leafs, who are poised to strike at even the slightest misstep come postseason.
There are enough surprise competitors and teams rebuilding that this trade deadline has some built-in intrigue, and Columbus' Artemi Panarin is at the forefront. Panarin will be a free agent after this season, and negotiations with the Blue Jackets don't seem to be going well -- or going at all, for that matter. He may be the most influential rental on the market, and his 24 goals this season speak for themselves.
The Senators, of course, are still rebuilding, whereas the Islanders are suddenly a threat in the East. It's a bizarre situation in New York, but the team may be looking to bolster its young roster as well.
Here are some of the rumors swirling around the NHL as the deadline approaches.
Bruins were in on Eric Staal
The Bruins have reportedly been pretty active talking to a number of teams they could potentially buy from at the deadline, and the Minnesota Wild were one of those teams. According to a report from The Athletic's Joe McDonald, Boston reportedly had interest in veteran center Eric Staal, but they've apparently backed off thanks to a change in what they're looking for.
The Bruins had interest in the Wild's Eric Staal, but it appears that he's no longer a fit for what Boston is trying to accomplish before the deadline.— Joe McDonald (@JoeyMacHockey) February 20, 2019
It's possible that the recent injury to David Pastrnak has convinced the Bruins to seek a different approach to the deadline.
Wayne Simmonds drawing interest from contenders
The Flyers' Wayne Simmonds is one key name being floated out at the trade deadline. The Flyers have underperformed this season, and Simmonds is set to become a free agent this offseason, so he's an ideal rental candidate. He has 16 goals in 59 games, but the right line can bolster those numbers and have him looking like a 25-30-goal guy again.
According to TSN, the Bruins, Lightning and Jets all have at least a passing interest in Simmonds, who could be an immediate impact player on a line that complements him. At 30, Simmonds has some miles on him, but he could be worth at least taking a flier on at the right price.
Matt Duchene may be done as a Senator
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, it looks like Matt Duchene may have played his last game as a Senator. Dreger said that Duchene isn't expected to be in the Senators lineup on Thursday against the Devils, so his last game with Ottawa will likely be an 8-7 loss to the Blackhawks.
Plan is to not risk injury therefore Duchene not expected to be in the lineup for the Sens on Thursday. May have played last game with Ottawa. https://t.co/xe6d3QDq9y— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 19, 2019
Of the Senators' veterans, Duchene was always the least likely to remain on the roster, so the move makes some sense.
Senators could have busy week
The Ottawa Senators are right where they want to be: With 49 points, last in the Atlantic Division, and with a few key veterans on expiring contracts. As silly as that sounds, they're perfectly poised to move Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. Stone and Dzingel are just 26, whereas Duchene is 28, and the Senators may be looking to retain Stone if they can -- despite Stone's apparent desire to get out of Ottawa if possible. The Senators are walking a tight rope right now, but according to TSN's Darren Dreger, Duchene is expected to be dealt whereas Stone's future will be discussed throughout the week.
Unless there’s last minute change, the Ottawa Senators plan on trading Matt Duchene. Mark Stone’s future in Ottawa should also be determined early this week, well in advance of the trade deadline.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 17, 2019
Bruins would go all-in on Stone given the opportunity
The Boston Bruins are seriously all-in this year, and they may get a chance to show how serious they are if Mark Stone is unable to come to an agreement with the Senators. According to Larry Brooks, the Bruins would go all-in on Stone if Stone is available. Stone could become an instant first-line winger for the Bruins if this move came to pass, giving the Bruins a line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Stone.
Told that Bruins will be all in on Stone if Senators are unable to sign winger to extension...— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 19, 2019
It goes without saying that that is an incredibly formidable top line. While the Lightning may be unreachable in the division race, the Bruins only care about the Stanley Cup. This would make them an incredibly dangerous team come the postseason, when they'd be facing an Eastern Conference gauntlet that includes the likes of the Lightning, the Maple Leafs, the Capitals and the upstart Islanders. The Bruins are still competitors without Stone, but his career-high 28 goals would make him a more than worthwhile rental as the Bruins attempt to join an already incredibly tight arms race.
Jets have interest in Duchene, Stone and Dzingel
The Winnipeg Jets are hanging on by a thread in the Central Division, and their race with the Predators has been everything that was predicted before the season. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have been incredible up top, while Patrik Laine has 25 goals. Bryan Little, although he's been solid, could be upgraded by Duchene. While there is next to no way that the Jets land all three or even two of these players, if they set their sights on Duchene the deal could end up making a lot of sense for both Ottawa and Winnipeg.
Winnipeg has interest in all three including Stone, Duchene and Dzingel.— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) February 18, 2019
The Panthers could trade Mike Hoffman or Jonathan Huberdeau
The Panthers have been a bit of a disappointment this season, and they're double-digit games out of a wild card spot for the moment. They're in desperate need of goaltending, and the Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to test free agency -- but they need to clear money to spend on him. Bob McKenzie could see a route in which they get him or even Artemi Panarin this offseason when the two are free agents.
"That's why we've heard some trade rumors involving Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman, because they are a budget team - not so much a cap team," McKenzie said on TSN in Montreal, per Nichols on Hockey. "And if you're going to go big game hunting in free agency for guys like Panarin and Bobrovsky, who between the two of them might be close to $20 million a year - you're probably going to have to end up having to offloading salary."
While this is speculation, it makes sense for Florida. Huberdeau is making $5.9 million per year until 2024, whereas Hoffman has just under $5.2 million AAV until 2021. Roberto Luongo is allowing 3.14 goals per game, and his stats have declined across the board from last season. He's now away from the team on bereavement leave. Luongo is 39, so if the Panthers do make a run Bobrovsky could be the priority.
Minnesota Wild have everyone available
The Minnesota Wild have made the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, but they've lost in the first round in the past three and they haven't made it out of the second round in that span. With that in mind, the Wild reportedly have everyone on the block, even if it knocks them out of the playoffs this year. They currently have the last spot in the West, and are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games.
According to The Athletic, general manager Paul Fenton can trade anyone, including veterans. This means that in addition to previous candidates on expiring contracts like Eric Staal and Eric Fehr, players on long-term deals like Marcus Foligno are on the block as well. The only Wild players who are likely safe are Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who are both under contract until they're 40, and have no-movement clauses.