Less than three weeks to go until the trade deadline, and the Atlantic Division race is tight, with the Florida Panthers atop the standings. The teams behind them in the standings have been so inconsistent this season that there's no room for error down the stretch. Here is a look at the Atlantic's buyers and sellers heading toward the Feb. 29 trade deadline, from the divisional leaders on down:
There's growing confidence in Florida that a postseason berth is within reach this season. General manager Dale Tallon should be active in the coming weeks, and one name that continues to be a possibility for the Panthers is the Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Ladd. The veteran forward will likely gain attention from more than one team, but given his connection with Tallon dating back to their days with the Blackhawks, Ladd would be an interesting option for the Panthers. The 30-year-old has a cap hit of $4.4 million and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Jonathan Drouin saga continues. The 20-year-old forward remains a commodity even as he remains suspended for refusing to report to Tampa's AHL affiliate. More important, GM Steve Yzerman has to resolve the contract situation of captain Steven Stamkos. As the sides work on a possible contract for the pending UFA, it's hard to ignore the possibility that Stamkos could be traded. The Toronto Maple Leafs made things interesting where that's concerned with a nine-player trade that involved sending their captain, Dion Phaneuf, to the Ottawa Senators and shedding his salary. That move could allow the Maple Leafs to make a strong push for Stamkos, whether that means before the deadline or during the offseason. It's insane to think of the Lightning without Stamkos, though, especially with the team in second place in the division and poised for another postseason berth.
With the way goaltender Petr Mrazek is playing for the Red Wings, it wouldn't be a major surprise if GM Ken Holland decides to move netminder Jimmy Howard, who remains under contract through 2018-19 with an annual cap hit of $5.29 million and a full no-movement clause. That's a big number for another team to take on, but there are a few teams that could use solid goaltending, including the Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames. Detroit still needs offensive help, so moving Howard for some forward depth would help the Red Wings earn a 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs.
As the Bruins sit on the playoff bubble, a decision on pending UFA forward Loui Eriksson could come sooner rather than later. There's a possibility GM Don Sweeney trades Eriksson if the team doesn't believe it can get a contract extension done soon. The Bruins did offer him a deal earlier this season, but Eriksson is looking for upward of $6 million per season. Sweeney also has to think of future UFA Brad Marchand, who has one more season remaining on his current deal. If the Bruins give Eriksson an extension, then Marchand will want a bigger contract from the Bruins when he's eligible for free agency. So, Eriksson's status could directly affect Marchand's future. If Eriksson does get traded, the Bruins could use some help on defense in exchange.
As playoff hopes continue to dwindle for the Canadiens, GM Marc Bergevin could become a seller at the deadline. If he wants to make a splash, he could decide to move forwards David Desharnais or Alex Galchenyuk. Pending UFAs Tom Gilbert and Dale Weise could be on the block too. The rumors of Bergevin trading defenseman P.K. Subban are crazy, though. There's no way the Canadiens move him. It not only wouldn't make hockey sense, but it would be a PR nightmare for the team. Despite the team's struggles, it might be better for Bergevin to wait until the offseason to make changes. Maybe he could make a run at pending Arizona Coyotes UFA forward Mikkel Boedker.
The Senators also got forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert and defenseman Cody Donaghey in the Phaneuf deal, in exchange for forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg, defenseman Jared Cowen and Ottawa's second-round pick in the 2017 draft. The question is whether GM Bryan Murray is done. It's going to be interesting to see how Phaneuf fits with the Senators.
Despite what the standings say, the Sabres are playing exciting hockey and the future looks bright in Buffalo. The core of the team is young and the organizational rebuild is continuing, but it doesn't look like there will be much action in the way of trades prior to the deadline. I'm sure the Sabres are looking closely at their goaltending situation, but it wouldn't surprise me if the organization is quiet in the coming weeks.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Is GM Lou Lamoriello done? What a day he had on Tuesday when he pulled off that blockbuster deal, but no, he's not done. There's a reason the Maple Leafs' leadership wanted Lamoriello in the mix, and his decisions will prove crucial to the organization's rebuild. Now that Phaneuf is gone, how long will it be before Lamoriello sets his sights on Stamkos? He probably already has a blueprint for either executing a trade for or signing Stamkos this summer. Lamoriello is stealth, so expect more to come from the Maple Leafs.