- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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With Wednesday’s 3 p.m. cutoff looming and some surprising names popping up on the market, this could be one of the most intriguing trade deadlines in recent memory. Only a handful of teams are truly out of the playoff hunt, which means there are a bevy of GMs looking to bolster their squads in preparation for a push. Here are the top storylines to monitor over the next few days about your favorite local teams:
1. Will the New York Rangers trade Callahan?
This saga will finally come to a close by Wednesday afternoon, when GM Glen Sather must decide whether or not to move his heart-and-soul captain, Ryan Callahan. Though there has been recent movement toward a contract extension for the pending unrestricted free agent, the two sides still have a gap to bridge on the annual average value. Though Callahan’s camp recently came off its initial request of a seven-year deal worth upwards of $7 million per year, neither side seems particularly encouraged about the progress up to this point. If Sather chooses to part ways with the 28-year-old winger, a gritty, homegrown talent, there should be plenty of interest in Callahan’s services. Callahan would be one of the premier rental players on the market, joining the likes of Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson as wingers that could provide a boost to a team in the playoff hunt. Though Callahan’s production does not compare to the other two players, the hard-working forward blocks shots, kills penalties and brings a relentless, punishing style of hockey on every shift.
2. What will New York Islanders get in return for Vanek and MacDonald?
With star player John Tavares done for the year with a season-ending knee injury suffered during the Olympics and his team in an a tailspin, Islanders general manager Garth Snow is under an enormous amount of pressure heading into this year’s trade deadline, more so than at any other time during his tenure as GM. Why? Snow holds two high-profile trade targets, one of which is among the most coveted players on the market: sniper Thomas Vanek. Snow will be seeking a hefty return for the two-time 40-goal scorer and it’s easy to see why. Early in the season, Snow landed Vanek in a deal with Buffalo that sent packing Matt Moulson and two high picks, a conditional first-round pick in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015. Now that the Islanders have plummeted to 26th place, that first-rounder has become a painful one to give up. Now, Snow can exercise his right to retain the pick and surrender one in 2015 instead if the Islanders finish in the bottom 10, but doing so runs the risk of parting with a coveted first-round pick in Connor McDavid’s draft class. That makes it even more imperative for Snow to recoup a first-rounder in a deal for Vanek, but he’ll be looking for more than that. Snow will likely be asking for a prospect and/or roster player in the deal as well. As for Andrew MacDonald? The 27-year-old defenseman has had a rough season, but he logs top-pair minutes for the Islanders and has an extremely cost-effective cap hit ($550,000) for any team looking to add depth to its blue line without breaking the bank. You’d expect the going rate for MacDonald to be a second-round pick, plus possibly a mid-grade prospect, but don’t be surprised if Snow shoots for the moon and asks for a first-rounder here as well.
3. Will the New Jersey Devils deal Brodeur?
Forty-one-year-old netminder Martin Brodeur, who has abdicated his starting position to Cory Schneider, made his first appearance in over a month this past weekend -- a 6-2 win over the Islanders on Saturday. You can’t blame the future Hall of Famer for wanting to explore an opportunity where he’d get the chance to play more than he is in New Jersey, and ultimately, Brodeur will have to make that decision. Brodeur is in the driver’s seat with a no-trade clause, meaning he’d probably have to approach GM Lou Lamoriello to say he’d like the chance to play elsewhere. If he does make that determination, there will be interest with Minnesota believed to be a team sniffing around for some help in net. Though Brodeur’s play has diminished -- he has a save percentage of only .900 this season -- the all-time wins leader has the playoff experience and pedigree that could provide a good option between the pipes for a team looking to shore up the position.