Photo Credit: Sergei Belski \ USA TODAY Sports Images
With the exception of possibly the NHL entry draft, no single day garners as much excitement and anticipation among hockey fans as the annual trade deadline.
Season after season, the rumor mill starts up around Christmas and doesn't shut down until the clock strikes 3 p.m. on deadline day. And although the level of activity varies from year to year, the media makes a habit of milking the event for every last drop, often throwing rumors around like confetti and analyzing each transaction to the point of exhaustion.
With this year's March 5th deadline fast approaching, things have been no different. Since the Olympic break, there has been a steady stream of speculation. As always, most of it has involved players with expiring contracts and teams with either a good shot of winning the Stanley Cup or no shot at all. There have also been some moves leading up to this year's deadline, most notably the blockbuster deal that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues and landed Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart in Buffalo.
With only a few days left to make moves, and the playoffs just around the corner, teams tend to sit in one of three camps: those who are headed to the playoffs and want to improve their lineup for a run at the cup, those with no chance of making the playoffs who are already looking toward the future, and those on the bubble who will stand pat. With parity at an all-time high and lots of teams still in playoff contention, this year's trade deadline has the potential to be a busy one.
And while there's no way of knowing for sure which players will be moved, some are more likely than others to be wearing a new uniform a week from now. There has been a lot of talk about players like Ryan Kesler and Thomas Vanek, but what lesser known might be available for a cheaper price and who may be able to make a huge difference? That brings us to these 8 players who can be had for less and who can definitely contribute.
7 Andrew MacDonald, D, New York Islanders
He may not be a household name, but the 27-year-old MacDonald has been one of the most dependable defensemen for the Islanders over the past few seasons. In addition to logging more than 25 minutes per game, the former sixth-round draft pick has also chipped in offensively this year, with four goals and 20 assists in 60 games. Playoff-bound teams looking for defensive depth, particularly the Boston Bruins or the Los Angeles Kings, would love to get their hands on MacDonald.
7. Martin Erat, RW, Washington Capitals
It's no secret that Erat wants out of Washington, and it's no secret Caps general manager George McPhee is doing what he can to accommodate the frustrated winger. "The only thing I'm working on that has to be done is moving (Martin) Erat," McPhee said recently. "There are some teams interested. He still wants out. I'd love to be able to do it this weekend. But we'll see." Once a perennial 50-point scorer with the Nashville Predators, Erat's play has fallen off since joining Washington at last year's trade deadline; in 61 games with the Caps, he has scored only two goals and added 26 assists. The 32-year-old Czech would be a good option for any team looking for some secondary scoring, including the New York Rangers and the Phoenix Coyotes.
6 Brad Boyes, RW, Florida Panthers
With 17 goals and 28 points through 57 games this season, Brad Boyes is Florida's leading scorer. Although the Panthers would love to keep him, the combination of his offensive upside and his extremely reasonable $1 million cap hit will have more than a couple teams making offers. And with Florida clearly out of the playoff picture for this season, general manager Dale Tallon will likely make a move if it will improve the team down the road. A few of the teams reportedly interested in Boyes include the Montreal Canadiens, the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
5 David Legwand, C, Nashville Predators
It's hard to imagine Legwand wearing anything other than a Predators uniform, but the 33-year-old's time in the Music City may be over. Since Nashville drafted him second overall back in 1998, Legwand has compiled 566 points in 954 games, including 40 in 60 this season. That, along with his leadership abilities and 47 playoff games under his belt, will have teams lining up for a shot to land the big center. And with his contract expiring at the end of this season and the likelihood that he won't resign with Nashville, the Predators will probably see what they can get for him.
4 Ryan Smyth, LW, Edmonton Oilers
Smyth was already traded by Edmonton to be a rental player once, and after returning to the Oilers for a few seasons, it looks like the 38-year-old winger will be on the move again. The last time Smyth was used as a trade chip - the 2007 trade deadline, to the New York Islanders - he certainly had more value than he does now (he fetched a package including a first-round draft pick), but that doesn't mean he wouldn't help a playoff team down the stretch. He still has a passion for the game, and his leadership alone would make any locker room stronger. With 20 points in 51 games this season, Smyth can also still contribute offensively, particularly in front of the net on the powerplay.
3 Ales Hemsky, RW, Edmonton Oilers
Another Oiler likely to leave town before the trade deadline is the talented but frustratingly inconsistent Hemsky. At 30 years old, the Czech winger has had four seasons with more than 50 points, but none since 2008-09. While his skill is unquestionable, Hemsky has had some injury trouble over the years and his lack of motivation has had him involved in trade rumors for much of his time in Edmonton. With his current two-year/$10 million contract expiring at the end of this season, it appears the time has finally come. And thanks to a strong showing at the Sochi Olympics, Hemsky's value may the highest it's been in years.
2 Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buffalo Sabres
With a record of 18-34-8 and very few bright spots, the Sabres are on the cusp of completely blowing up their roster and rebuilding the team from top to bottom. And while there was a time not too long ago that Ehrhoff looked like one of Buffalo's blue-chip pieces moving forward, their situation - along with his value as trade bait - has made him expendable. With 29 points in 58 games, the 31-year-old defenseman isn't having his most productive season but during his time with the Vancouver Canucks he proved he can be one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the league. Ehrhoff is currently in the third season of a 10-year/$40 million deal, meaning that he will likely be picked up by a team who sees him as a part of their core moving forward and not just a playoff rental.
1 Mike Cammalleri, LW, Calgary Flames
Cammalleri may not be the sniper he was a few years ago, but there are still countless teams who could use him as a top-six forward. Despite an early-season injury, he is still on pace for 20 goals and has one of the best shots in the league. His biggest selling point, however, is that he's a proven playoff performer, having scored 17 goals and 32 points in 32 career post-season games. While Calgary will likely be entertaining offers from multiple teams, Cammalleri does have some control over his own destiny; given his limited no-trade clause, he can veto a trade to several teams of his choosing and will likely end up with a serious Stanley Cup contender.