Many others could move before the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, including Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Martin Brodeur, Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson, Jaroslav Halak, Mike Cammalleri and Ales Hemsky.
The salary cap and the standings are tight. But because of a combination of factors – unhappy players, contract squabbles, expiring deals, fire sales – things will be frantic for many general managers whether they make trades or not.
Here are the top 10 GMs to watch:
1. Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins
Shero has a long history of being aggressive before the deadline, and he reportedly is going after Kesler, a heart-and-soul centerman with two more years on his contract at $5 million per season. Kesler reportedly wants out of Vancouver, though he has denied it, and has some control with a no-trade clause.
It makes perfect sense. Kesler could fill in as the first-line right winger for the injured Pascal Dupuis. He could anchor the third line, giving the Penguins the 1-2-3 punch down the middle they once had with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. He can kill penalties. He can play on the power play. He knows Shero and coach Dan Bylsma from Team USA. Shero has assets to trade.
[Photo gallery: Top 10 GMs to watch at the NHL trade deadline]
The Penguins’ more immediate need is on defense, with Kris Letang recovering from a stroke and Paul Martin from a broken hand. Shero should be reluctant to part with prospect Derrick Pouliot. But if Shero can snag Kesler, it will be for three playoff runs, not one.
2. Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks
Gillis should hold out for a high price for Kesler, and history says he will. See Luongo, Roberto. After so many twists and turns, after so much time, he didn’t deal Luongo until Tuesday.
Kesler might want to go, but Gillis is under no obligation to move him unless he receives enough of a return – especially when he’s already down his top centerman, the injured Henrik Sedin, and the Canucks are only two points out of a playoff spot. Kesler, like Luongo, limits the market with his no-trade clause.
Just as Shero should be reluctant to part with Pouliot, Gillis should insist on a prospect of that caliber as part of a package. He has to get the Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers – and maybe the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings – to bid against each other. Maybe Gillis should have traded Luongo when he had the chance. But Kesler, unlike Luongo, has a cap-friendly contract. Gillis can afford to be patient whether Kesler likes it or not.
3. Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres
Say what you want about Darcy Regier. In his latter years as the Sabres GM, the man knew how to run a fire sale, unloading veterans for futures. Murray has already shown he can do the same. In his first move as the Sabres GM, he sent goalie Ryan Miller and agitator Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, acquiring Halak, Chris Stewart, a prospect, a first-round pick and a conditional pick.
Great haul. But what now? Can he flip Halak, a pending unrestricted free agent, now that the Minnesota Wild has acquired Bryzgalov? Will he flip Stewart, who has another year left at $4.125 million? Thanks to Regier and the Vanek trade earlier this season, Murray can also flip Moulson, another pending UFA.
[Related: 13 big-name NHL players who could be traded]
The big question is whether Murray can or will trade the likes of Drew Stafford (one more year, $4 million), Tyler Myers (five more years, $5.5 million per) or Christian Ehrhoff (seven more years, $4 million per), and the most important thing, of course, will be what Murray does with all these futures in the end. Tearing down is one thing. Building up is another.
4. Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey Devils
Lamoriello didn’t trade Brodeur to the Wild. He shouldn’t trade him to the Montreal Canadiens or anyone else, either, if anyone else wants him at this point.
Brodeur has won 683 regular-season games, more than any other NHL goalie, and three Stanley Cups – all with the Devils. But he is 41 with a .900 save percentage this season backing up Cory Schneider.
The Devils have tried to let Brodeur go out with dignity – from drafting his son, Anthony, at the Prudential Center in June to starting him in the outdoor game at Yankee Stadium in January. Yet Brodeur has been unhappy with his role and talking about a trade in public. Minnesota might have made sense for him, because he could have played more and has two kids at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. Montreal might make sense, because it’s home and his late father used to be the Habs’ photographer.
But Lamoriello is team-first, and Brodeur is the most important player in team history. There is still value in Brodeur retiring as a Devil, and as the Wild showed, there are better values on the goalie market. Bryz is gone, but Halak and Tim Thomas are still out there.
5. Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers
You never know with the Flyers. They are always in the middle of everything. They are reportedly in the Kesler sweepstakes, though that might be just to drive up the price for the Penguins or to distract from something else. What they really need, and have needed, is help on defense. Holmgren rented MacDonald, who has struggled with the Islanders, and now has too many defensemen and needs to make another move.
The Flyers got off to an awful start, fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube. But now they hold a playoff spot, and can you imagine if they got through the first round and met the Pens in the second in the new divisional format? Can you imagine if they had a good defense?
6. Glen Sather, New York Rangers
Sather and Callahan were still staring each other down as of Tuesday afternoon, but a new contract for Callahan has always seemed more likely than a trade.
Callahan wanted seven years at $7 million per – too much, as much as he brings to the Rangers. Sather gave him a reality check and an ultimatum: Back down, or be traded before the deadline. Callahan softened his demands recently to six years at $6.5 million per – still too much, with the Rangers holding firm at six years at $6 million per, but close enough to get a deal done.
[Goalie deals: Wild acquires Ilya Bryzgalov, Oilers obtain Viktor Fasth]
The Rangers are in the thick of the playoff race. They don’t want to overpay Callahan, especially now that his role has changed under new coach Alain Vigneault, and they don’t want to lose him for nothing in free agency. But he has leverage here. Are the Rangers going to trade their captain at this point instead of bridging the gap, especially with the cap rising in the future?
7. Garth Snow, New York Islanders
The Moulson trade seemed odd earlier this season, and now the Islanders are out of mix, one year after making the playoffs and putting a scare into the Penguins in the first round.
But Snow has perhaps the most attractive rental available: Vanek, who hasn’t played in the playoffs since 2011 but should give a contender a scoring boost. Anyone who needs a top-six winger should be calling. Snow can simply take the best offer – but he’d better get at least as much as Murray gets for Moulson, if not more, or he's going to look bad.
Snow got a good-looking return for MacDonald – second- and third-round picks and prospect Matt Mangene.
8. Dean Lombardi, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings won the Cup two years ago. They have one of the best goaltenders in the game in Jonathan Quick, and he’s healthy again. They have a dynamic defenseman in Drew Doughty. They are one of the best possession teams in the NHL with forwards who should be able to score – Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards.
Yet once again they are struggling to put the puck in the net. Though they rank 11th in shots per game at 30.8, they rank 28th in goals per game at 2.32. Lombardi loathes rentals but has to be in the mix for Vanek, Moulson, Cammalleri, Hemsky, Marian Gaborik, anyone who can add offense. Vanek is the most skilled. Moulson is Quick’s brother-in-law. Cammalleri is a former King. There are options.
[Also: Ducks send Dustin Penner to Caps; something bigger coming in Anaheim?]
It doesn’t matter where the Kings are in the standings as long as they make the playoffs – they won the Cup as an eighth seed – but another piece or two would improve their odds in the ultra-competitive West.
9. Craig MacTavish, Edmonton Oilers
MacTavish has already addressed his goaltending. After acquiring Ben Scrivens earlier this season, he signed him to a two-year extension worth $4.6 million. Then he acquired Fasth, who has another year left at a $2.9 million cap hit. Both have a lot to prove but a lot of potential.
Now it’s time to trade Hemsky, time to trade Ryan Smyth if he can, time to rent out Nick Schultz, too. It’s all about the future in Edmonton, again, and that means MacTavish needs to stockpile assets now so he’s ready to make bigger decisions this summer. Does this young core need to be shaken up or at least tweaked?
10. Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Yzerman was the executive director for Team Canada. When he didn’t select Martin St-Louis, he strained his relationship with his captain so badly that St-Louis reportedly asked for a trade to the Rangers. St-Louis has a home in Connecticut. Neither will say much, other than St-Louis acknowledging the two discussed his future.
But Yzerman shouldn’t trade St-Louis, and St-Louis should suck it up. Yzerman eventually put St-Louis on Team Canada to replace the injured Steven Stamkos – and St-Louis had to fight for a spot in the lineup under coach Mike Babcock, proving it wasn’t just Yzerman who thought St-Louis was on the fringe of the incredibly stacked roster. St-Louis eventually played in the final and won a gold medal.
Now he has a chance to win another Stanley Cup. After the Bruins and the Penguins, the Bolts are in the next tier in the wide-open East, and they are going to make the best deadline acquisition of any team in the league: Stamkos is about to return from his fractured tibia.
St-Louis has a bruised ego, but that’s OK. He has always had something to prove – that’s how he went from an undrafted 5-foot-8 forward to an NHL scoring champion – and he was outstanding after his Olympic snub. Yzerman might be better off not giving him what he wants.