It's the weekend before the trade deadline, yet some of the dominoes have already fallen: Evander Kane, Jiri Tlusty, Daniel Winnik, Andrej Sekera even (gulp) David Clarkson have been traded while injuries to the likes of Patrick Kane and David Krejci are changing the trade dynamics by the minute.
Here's a look at seven players we're watching closely heading toward Monday's 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Teams have been talking about the big Buffalo Sabres winger since the opening days of the regular season. And he's going somewhere. But for how much and to where? In our minds, anything higher than a third-round pick is too risky given Stewart's uneven play. So, what about the Chicago Blackhawks, who need help up front? We're not comparing Stewart to Patrick Kane, other than he is a human being who plays hockey. But Stewart is attractive to a number of teams -- the Boston Bruins would be another -- because he has shown in pretty small sample that he has an 'A' game, which means crashing the net, scoring and generally banging around in the offensive zone. One executive told us he doesn't care that Stewart isn't probable to be a long-term option given the wild fluctuations in his game, but playing for a contract over a short period of time, like the playoffs, he would be interested in his services.
Vermette is undeniably the top pure rental forward available. He can play center, wing, in the top six, top nine. But let's not overstate Vermette's potential impact. He is not, for instance, going to replace the kind of production the Blackhawks lost when Kane went down. He's not going to be a replacement for in Boston. But he does a lot very well. And he's going to command an attractive package that could include a first-round pick and probably a prospect if Coyotes GM Don Maloney gets his job done right. Look for the Blackhawks, with loads of cap space thanks to Kane's injury, and perhaps the Winnipeg Jets to take a good run at the versatile forward. (Editor's note: Vermette was traded Saturday night to the Blackhawks for a first-round pick in June and prospect Klas Dahlbeck.)
Yes, Scott Gomez. The veteran center has become one of the great reclamation stories of the season since coming out of exile to return to the team that drafted him in 1998. Gomez has been remarkably consistent since rejoining the Devils in December and has not gone more than two games without a point since the new year. He can help on the power play and is good at the shootout for teams that are looking to stockpile points down the stretch. And he's got oodles of playoff experience, with 101 points in 149 postseason games. Given that he's about to become an unrestricted free agent and is making only $550,000 it's hard to imagine that Gomez would cost much -- probably a package of lower picks. Even if Gomez is happy with the Devils, there is nothing to prevent a trade to a playoff team and then Gomez re-signing with the Devils in the offseason. As for a possible landing spot, what about the cap-strapped New York Rangers, who need help down the middle? Yes, Gomez's time on Broadway back in the day wasn't particularly productive, but that was then, this is now. The Bruins could also use veteran help down the middle, too.
OK, we put Phaneuf on the list because after the David Clarkson-to-Columbus deal, all things are possible. Let's put it in caps: ALL THINGS. Now, can Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis pull a second rabbit out of what has been revealed as a very large hat? Darren Dreger of TSN was reporting Friday that the Detroit Red Wings had interest in Phaneuf, who signed a monster extension just before last seasons's Winter Classic (my, how time flies when you're having fun). Hard to imagine any deal for the captain gets done without the Leafs eating salary or taking on a bad contract from an interested team. When it comes to the Wings, it doesn't get much worse than the Stephen Weiss deal, which sees the Wings paying him an average of $4.9 million through 2017-18. Now, Phaneuf has a $7 million cap hit through 2018-19, but if the Leafs eat some of that salary (and his real dollar payout does decline over the life of the deal), maybe Nonis can find a couple of teams that might be interested. And, like Clarkson, there is the distinct possibility that Phaneuf could actually see his level of play increase if he's out of the maelstrom that is Toronto.
Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are in sell mode as they try to chase down the Buffalo Sabres for the worst record in hockey. It's hard to tell if Michalek's play has declined in recent years or whether it's just a function of playing for a bad team in Arizona. Nonetheless, he will be moved and could become one of those nice depth pieces who helps a team not just make the playoffs but thrive once they start. The Anaheim Ducks are looking for help along the blue line, as is Boston pending the asking price. Keith Yandle, who has one more year left on his deal -- Michalek can become an unrestricted free agent in July -- will be more attractive to more teams but the thinking is that if the 'Yotes choose to move Yandle, it will more likely be at the draft to open up the marketplace to a wider range of teams.
Petry has a lot of qualities that make him attractive to teams for the stretch run. He's a defenseman, he's young (26), he's got good offensive upside and he shoots from the right side, making him extremely attractive. Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish secured a first-round pick for David Perron from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and MacTavish could be looking at another nice return for Petry, given the demand for players with his skill set by Detroit and Anaheim.
The Flames are in an interesting spot as they chase down a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. As with the Florida Panthers, they would like to clear out potential free agents. Glencross doesn't look as if he fits into the long-term plan of the Flames' emerging young forwards and he will become an unrestricted free agent in July. But he has qualities that will make him attractive to teams looking to add depth up front, such as the Washington Capitals. The Flames could even trade Glencross to a team in the same conference, although they would probably exact a premium if they could for making such a move. But they are likely to get a second-round pick or package of lower picks for a guy that scored 50 goals between 2010-12 for the Flames. (Editor's note: The Capitals acquired Curtis Glencross from the Flames for a second- and third-round draft pick in 2015.)