The NHL is under its annual holiday roster freeze until 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 28. With the Feb. 24 trade deadline only two months away, non-contending clubs will be targeted by playoff hopefuls attempting to bolster their rosters with rental players.
Here’s a look at five clubs that could soon become early sellers in the trade market.
Detroit Red Wings
Mired at the bottom of the standings, the once-mighty Red Wings have more rebuilding ahead of them. First-year general manager Steve Yzerman made a couple of early-season additions by acquiring Robby Fabbri from St. Louis and Brendan Perlini from Chicago. Given his club’s ongoing difficulties, he could be motivated to get an early start shedding players who no longer fit into his plans.
Unrestricted free agents like defensemen Mike Green and Trevor Daley are obvious trade candidates. Center Andreas Athanasiou could be another; he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights whose production is well down from last season’s career-best 30-goal performance.
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New Jersey Devils
Having traded former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall last week to the Arizona Coyotes, Devils GM Ray Shero might not be done dealing. While he’s dismissed the notion that the Hall trade signaled the start of another rebuild, he could shop one or two pending UFAs before the trade deadline.
Defensemen Sami Vatanen and Andy Greene, along with winger Wayne Simmonds, fall into that category. There’s also talk winger Miles Wood could be available. He’s signed through 2020-21 with an affordable $2.75-million annual salary-cap hit.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings’ Stanley Cup glory years are well behind them. Attempts at quick fixes, such as the 2018 signing of aging winger Ilya Kovalchuk, ended in failure. Last week, they and Kovalchuk mutually agreed to terminate his contract.
With the Kings in need of a long-overdue rebuild, free agents such as Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford could soon hit the trade block. Rival clubs could come calling about defenseman Alec Martinez once he returns from injury. Signed through next season with an annual average value of $4 million, he’ll draw interest from teams seeking blueline depth beyond this season.
Another former champion fallen on tough times, the Blackhawks’ efforts at rebuilding are hampered by having too many veterans carrying expensive, almost untradeable contracts. GM Stan Bowman could be forced to peddle a couple of pending free agents.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson isn’t expected to be re-signed and regularly pops up in this season’s rumor mill. Bowman will have to choose between re-signing long-time starting goalie Corey Crawford or 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner. One of them could be shopped in the coming weeks.
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The rebuilding Senators are more competitive than expected this season. They’re getting good results from talented youngsters including Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk and reclamation projects like winger Anthony Duclair.
While the Sens appear to have a bright future, they could be forced to shop some pending free agents. Topping the list is leading scorer Jean-Gabriel Pageau, whose speed and two-way skills make him an attractive trade target for playoff contenders. Center Vaclav Namestnikov and blueliners Dylan DeMelo and Mark Borowiecki could also draw interest.