We've reached that time of year yet again, when the rumors of players being swapped ahead of the NHL's Feb. 25 trade deadline begin to generate some steam. With that in mind, here's a look at several candidates who may well be on the move in the next few weeks, along with the fantasy fallout that could result from those potential changes of scenery.
Artemi Panarin, C/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (rostered in 99.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Now that Panarin has publicly expressed his aversion to signing an extension this season, GM Jarmo Kekalainen has a big decision to make. Do the Blue Jackets retain the pending free agent with an eye toward their own playoff aspirations, then lose him this summer for nothing in return? Or, should the team get what they can for their top scorer now and hope that other pieces are able to compensate?
While the sense is that Columbus is leaning towards keeping Panarin, a deal done before Feb. 25 would unleash some interesting fantasy ramifications -- though less so for the 27-year-old himself, who will score wherever he goes, be it Nashville, San Jose or Boston. We're much more interested in who might take over on the Jackets' top line with Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois. If not an outsider received in return, perhaps Nick Foligno could be in for a productive surge to wrap up 2018-19. Foligno collected 73 points only four years ago and is currently rostered in less than one-third of ESPN.com leagues.
Matt Duchene, C, Ottawa Senators (92.6 percent): Never mind the real-life implications, the last thing Duchene's fantasy managers want is a deal sending the pending free agent elsewhere. Currently on a top line with Ryan Dzingel and Bobby Ryan, and on Ottawa's No. 1 power play with Mark Stone (another UFA-to-be worth worrying about), Duchene has 20 goals and 27 assists though 41 games. There's little chance he nears that clip as a "rental" with a playoff contender elsewhere. A deal might not happen, as the Senators are still believed keen to re-sign both Duchene and Stone. However, whether they can financially afford to do so is another matter.
Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers (87.1 percent): With a year left on his contract at the attractive price of $4.625 million, Kreider is by no means a slam dunk to be dealt ahead of Feb. 25. That said, the re-building Rangers also won't refuse an offer that makes sense either. The top-line forward's fantasy managers should hope GM Jeff Gorton stands pat for now. Skating on a top-line with Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad, Kreider is enjoying a solid year with 22 goals and 15 assists. The likelihood of the 27-year-old landing on a top line elsewhere isn't strong. The same goes for Zuccarello (69.9 percent) who, as a pending free agent, is more likely option to move as a rental. I wouldn't think that the diminutive forward would get to skate on a top trio with some other squad -- especially a playoff-bound one.
Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, Philadelphia Flyers (81.6 percent): Fantasy managers invested in Simmonds should be counting down the minutes until the underperforming 30-year-old joins a contender. Imagine the pending free agent serving on Boston's second line and top power play in a vigorous drive to the postseason or with the man-advantage in Toronto! This is a player fully still fully capable of collecting 30 goals, 25 assists, and 100-plus PIM in a season. A fresh opportunity should jar him back on pace for that kind of production.
Jeff Carter, RW/C, Los Angeles Kings (69.3 percent): The best thing that could happen to the goal-scoring center (and his fantasy managers) is to be shipped away from the least-productive team in the NHL. In committing to a re-tool that launched with defenseman Jake Muzzin moving to the Maple Leafs, apparently the Kings are thinking about doing just that -- even though Carter has three years left on his current contract. The same goes for forward Tyler Toffoli, who has watched his production gradually wither over the past three seasons. Toffoli is younger and signed only through next year, so he might be easier for Los Angeles to move.
Micheal Ferland, LW, Carolina Hurricanes (38.6 percent): The recent acquisition of Nino Niederreiter from the Wild has essentially relegated Ferland to a position of support in Carolina. Shining alongside Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams, Niederreiter already has four goals on 17 shots in four games. That configuration isn't about to change anytime soon. So, to be clear, add Niederreiter to your roster now, if he's available. If Ferland, a soon-to-be UFA, isn't dealt as a rental into a top-line role elsewhere, his fantasy value will be extremely limited moving forward.
Jakob Silfverberg, RW, Anaheim Ducks (29.3 percent): Anaheim is a team in transition, in the words of GM Bob Murray. The Ducks have a valuable trade commodity in Silfverberg, a 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent -- especially now that he's recovered from a recent lower-body injury. Since collecting 49 points in 79 games two seasons ago, plus another 14 points in 17 playoff contests, Silfverberg has been in a bit of a decline. A change of scenery should do him good, particularly if he settles in a top-six role elsewhere. If the seven-year veteran remains in Anaheim past the deadline, the return of Corey Perry nearly ensures his exclusion from a top line that also includes Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Considering this team ranks 30th overall with only 2.29 goals per game, that prospect is far from promising.
Dougie Hamilton, D, Carolina Hurricanes (83.2 percent): Awash with right-shot defensemen, the Hurricanes would understandably be open to moving Hamilton, who hasn't exactly sparkled with his new club after scoring 17 goals and 27 assists in Calgary last season. (They might also want to move Justin Faulk ... or Brett Pesce ... or Trevor van Riemsdyk, but they're all less fantasy-relevant.) A fresh environment might not do Hamilton much good, though, considering he's finally livened up this January, collecting five goals and four assists in 12 games. Plus, while he's currently serving on the Hurricanes' secondary unit, he isn't likely to take over a role on a top power play with a contending team.
Fantasy managers who have rostered Hamilton might prefer their defenseman ride out the season in Carolina, now that he seems to have rediscovered his groove. As for Faulk (48.1 percent), the fantasy promise projected by a trade elsewhere would largely depend upon where he lands. Right now, anchoring Carolina's top power play is a solid gig. If that's where the 26-year-old offensive-defenseman sticks, it bodes well for a strong finish to the campaign -- particularly if the club continues to battle for a playoff spot.
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks (53.2 percent): Right now, Edler has 20 points in 36 games. He's seeing top-pair minutes and anchoring a Canucks' top power play that also includes Elias Pettersson. That works out to 0.56 points-per-contest and is as good as it's going to get this season for the 30-year-old who also leads the league with 2.94 blocked shots-per-game. Fantasy managers already invested in the pending free agent should wish against a move sending him to fill more of a supportive role as a rental elsewhere. On the West's playoff bubble, the Canucks aren't tossing in the towel just yet, but the next three weeks will be key. If he stays put, Edler should enjoy a relatively rambunctious conclusion to 2018-19, especially if Pettersson stays healthy.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (98.8 percent): Like Panarin (if not more so) Bobrovsky appears likely to stick with the Blue Jackets as they make a spirited playoff push, despite the likelihood of his signing elsewhere this summer. If, however, the 30-year-old is shipped out and a recognizable starting netminder isn't part of the return, look for Joonas Korpisalo (whose numbers have been similar to Bobrovsky's this season) to play a lot more in the final stretch of the season for Columbus.
Cam Talbot, G, Edmonton Oilers (48.7 percent): He's a "second banana" on a team that's altogether struggling, so Talbot can only hope for a fresh slate elsewhere. Maybe the pending free agent earns the chance to serve as backup with a contender, offering him the chance to put together decent numbers when occasionally offered the opportunity. That's probably the most Talbot's fantasy managers can hope for at the moment. Admittedly, it's not a lot. Those still invested in Talbot should explore other options.
Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit Red Wings (34.3 percent): Howard, whose current contract expires in July, has had his moments this season as he backstops one of the all-around weakest teams -- if not the weakest team -- in the NHL. He won't see as much work as a rental with a contender, but will undoubtedly enjoy better numbers in a different environment when he does play. Use him accordingly, including as a DFS option.