TORONTO -- After Saturday's flurry of activity that saw the Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins add key pieces, the pressure will be ramped up for other teams looking to fill holes in their lineups by Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Here are some players, teams and things to keep an eye on as we countdown to the deadline.
The Vancouver Canucks defenseman, a member of Canada's gold medal team in Sochi in 2014, controls his own fate with a full no-movement clause as he heads toward unrestricted free agency this summer. The veteran defender has to decide if he'd like a shot at his first Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars, in a battle with Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division, could use Hamhuis. So could a handful of other teams, but Vancouver general manager Jim Benning will be looking for a big return for the top defender on the market.
The Washington Capitals are the league's best team this season in spite of ongoing injuries to key defensive personnel. The latest to go down was John Carlson, who had a medical procedure to correct a lower-body injury that did not heal as expected. Carlson is expected to return to the lineup by March 20 and while GM Brian MacLellan has flexibility to add a bigger piece along the blue line in terms of the salary cap if he should choose to, will he? The Caps added depth along the blue line in Mike Weber and with other younger players such as Dmitry Orlov coming into their own, maybe MacLellan doesn't look to add. One thing we can say with relative certainty is that in spite of a strong connection to head coach Barry Trotz from their shared days in Nashville, Washington does not appear to be in on the Vancouver defenseman.
Sweeney Time in Boston
While we still don't like the Dougie Hamilton deal made by the Boston Bruins last June, the handling of Loui Eriksson might be rookie GM Don Sweeney's biggest test yet. Without an extension in the offing, can the Bruins afford to let the key piece of the Tyler Seguin deal walk away July 1 without returning assets? But can Sweeney trade a talented, hard-working winger with his team very much in the payoff mix in a wide open Atlantic Division? If Sweeney could somehow parlay Eriksson into assets and then add another everyday player, that would be quite the coup.
The Jonathan Drouin Saga
Will the curious saga of the former No. 3 overall draft pick come to a close in the next 24 hours? We've heard artificial timelines for a deal involving the disaffected Tampa Bay Lightning forward virtually from the moment he left the team more than a month ago. Nothing has happened because GM Steve Yzerman will only move Drouin when it makes sense. The Lightning would like a right-handed shot defenseman, but there aren't many out there. The Wild would like help down the middle and might have assets in the form of young defenseman Matt Dumba that could be attractive. It's complicated, though, and Yzerman would, in all likelihood, need to find a team willing to take on salary (someone like Matt Carle) in order to bring in more salary for the stretch run. Would that mean packaging Drouin and Carle or trying to get all of this accomplished in separate deals (what would the Toronto Maple Leafs need to take on Carle?). Regardless, the Drouin deal will be one of the most interesting and possibly most complex parts of this trade deadline -- if it gets done at all.
Another Desert Dog on the Way Out
The bottom has fallen out on the Arizona Coyotes as they've lost five in a row and would need a miracle finish to sneak into the playoffs. The team now seems destined to move winger Mikkel Boedker after pulling a previous contract extension offer off the table. Understand GM Don Maloney's position on this: A team like the Yotes can't afford to have assets of any kind walking out the door for nothing as free agents. But assuming Boedker does get moved -- Los Angeles Kings, perhaps? -- it would follow a troubling pattern of being unable to keep top picks in the fold. Blake Wheeler, fifth overall in 2004, could not be brought under contract and left as a free agent. Kyle Turris, third overall in 2007, forced a trade out of Arizona. Boedker was the eighth-overall pick in 2008 and now appears to be headed out the door. There's lots to like about the future of this team, especially as it appears headway is being made on a new arena in the Tempe or Scottsdale area, but it's hard to build a foundation of success when top draft picks can't be kept in the fold.
Teams that need to add a piece
The Stars could use Kris Russell (or Hamhuis) along the blue line. The Kings also need a defensive piece, especially as the Sharks and Ducks are both playing as well, if not better than the Kings. Anaheim, especially, is proving to be a real threat to the Kings' season-long perch atop the Pacific Division.
If you're the Philadelphia Flyers and have scratched your way into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, there might be some temptation to add a piece or two just to see what happens -- especially after missing the playoffs two of the past three seasons. But this takes us back to a conversation we had with GM Ron Hextall early in the season. The Flyers were just getting used to rookie head coach Dave Hakstol and it looked like it might be a long season. Hextall was adamant that no matter what happened, he would not be diverting from the plan to get younger and faster and essentially building from the ground up. Don't expect the Flyers' position in the standings to change that one iota.
Almost all the trades made in recent days involved one of the teams eating a portion of some player's salary. And so a tip of the hat to Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, who lobbied for years in vain to allow teams to retain salary. Could the Pittsburgh Penguins have made the deal for Justin Schultz without the Oilers eating half his salary? Unlikely. Could Chicago have made the multiple deals it did in bringing in Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann had the Winnipeg Jets not eaten 36 percent of Andrew Ladd's salary? Unlikely. In short, there has been a flurry of activity in large part because the NHL in the last collective bargaining agreement agreed to allow teams to retain salary. And let's be honest: Trades are exciting and the discussion about them drives interest around the league.