The NHL trade market has been gummed up by a lack of salary-cap room this season. It also doesn't help that so many teams are within a reasonable distance of playoff seeds, unable to determine their position in the market.
When the NHL trade deadline arrives on March 3, the contenders and the pretenders will become more apparent. So will the pool of available players, ranging from pending free agents to those under contract but no longer in the long-range plans.
Here are the early NHL trade deadline tiers of theoretically available players. Some of them are stars. Some of them are risks. All of them have the potential to be those last vital puzzle pieces that recent champions, like the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, added at the deadline to help eventually lift the Stanley Cup.