The flurry of activity in the days leading up to the trade deadline Monday has us wondering how many deals we will actually see on the big day. But it's worth noting that exactly nobody saw that David Clarkson-Nathan Horton swap between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets coming, so there might still be some surprises in store. With the Evander Kane blockbuster completed weeks ago, and veteran Jaromir Jagr already shipped to South Florida, some of the big names already have been moved. Logic dictates that marquee players are much more likely to be traded near the draft than in the tight window we're currently seeing, but who knows? Here are five players who could be traded, but probably won't be.
1. Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are facing a critical juncture in their season, as they are teetering perilously close to a complete postseason miss. Heading into Saturday's game against the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks were three points out from the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference, reeling from a rough stretch in which they have dropped seven of their past nine games. Suffice it to say relations were strained between the Sharks and veteran Thornton when they stripped him of the captaincy heading into this season, so speculation about general manager Doug Wilson's desire to move "Jumbo Joe" has been rampant. Wilson would surely fetch a massive return for the 35-year-old centerman, but Thornton has been steadfast about his desire to stay in San Jose. That has not changed. A source confirmed to ESPN.com that Thornton has not been approached about waiving his no-move clause and that, even if he was, he'd exercise his right not to do so.
2. Phil Kessel, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
The teardown in Toronto is in full effect, with this debacle of a season prompting a wholesale evaluation of the entire team and its core players. Virtually no one is safe as team president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Dave Nonis gauge who should remain a part of the organization and who should be jettisoned. The dominoes began to fall early, as the Leafs moved pending UFAs Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson to Nashville. The Leafs then dealt coveted trade target Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the real coup was Nonis shedding Clarkson's albatross of a contract in a shrewd space-clearing move. Several reports say teams are sniffing around captain Dion Phaneuf, and you can guarantee there would be no shortage of interest in Kessel, but the latter would require a mighty haul for the Leafs brass to even consider it. Maybe someone will be amped enough about availability of such a prolific goal scorer to pay the price, but a deal for this caliber of a player is far more likely to be consummated in the summer.
3. Patrick Sharp, W, Chicago Blackhawks
A source told ESPN.com that the Washington Capitals inquired about the services of Blackhawks winger Sharp, but the price was understandably very steep, along the lines of a roster player, a prospect and a pick. Also, this was before the injury to Patrick Kane, who recently underwent surgery to repair a broken clavicle that will sideline him 12 weeks. Losing the league's leading scorer and the team's most dynamic weapon is a game-changer for the Hawks in a couple of different respects. Now, they need their other key offensive contributors, such as Sharp and Jonathan Toews, more than ever. Also, they are not as hard-pressed against the cap. Placing Kane on long-term injured reserve provided flexibility, without which a deal to move Sharp might have made more sense.
4. James Wisniewski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets reportedly have placed the 31-year-old defenseman on the trading block, but he might be doing his best to disrupt a potential deal. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Wisniewski was asked to provide a list of 10 teams to which he would accept a trade, per the terms of his limited no-trade clause, but was creative in the list he provided. According to the Dispatch, Wisniewski chose teams that either had salary-cap limitations or teams that had little interest in an offensive defenseman. Considering the uncertainty surrounding next season's salary cap, Wisniewski's $5.5 million hit will be prohibitive to many teams.
5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Arizona Coyotes
Was anyone else astounded when general manager Don Maloney said that veteran captain Shane Doan was the only true untouchable on the Coyotes? It sure felt as though that placed a huge, neon, flashing arrow sign right above one particular player. Ekman-Larsson has emerged as one of the premier defensemen in this league, and he's only 23. Honestly, would any team not be interested in the steady Swedish blueliner? We get it. The Coyotes have been dreadful and they need to completely retool their roster, but it's still hard to imagine the franchise would part ways with arguably their most valuable player, no matter how significant the return. We're chalking this one up to rhetoric.