Top-10 “trade bait” players, an update on Eric Staal plus the latest on the Canadiens, Sharks, Ducks, Blackhawks, Sabres and Avalanche in your NHL rumor mill.

Highlights from TSN’s Insiders.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports we don’t know yet what the trade market will be leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. No one has a strong feel yet if teams are willing to part with first-round picks, and if they do for which players, or if they’ll do like last season and toss around second- and third-round picks “like candy”. Pierre LeBrun suggests concerns of a flat cap for next season could also affect the market, as teams could retain their first-round picks compared to previous years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams could be unwilling to part with those picks, but I daresay there will be a GM or two in “win now” mode willing to make the gamble. 

Darren Dreger lists five of the seven Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) join Buffalo among the sellers as this year’s deadline. It’s possible all seven Canadian clubs could become sellers. The buyers could include Anaheim, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, Pittsburgh  and St. Louis.

Don't expect the Canadiens to trade P.K. Subban.

Don’t expect the Canadiens to trade P.K. Subban.

TSN’s list of trade bait includes Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson, Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd, Arizona Coyotes winger Mikkel Boedker, Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin, Carolina Hurricanes forward Eric Staal, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Calgary Flames blueliner Kris Russell, Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Roman Polak, Montreal Canadiens right wing Dale Weise and Flames winger Jiri Hudler.

In their latest “Insider Trading” segment, LeBrun reports unless Canadiens ownership forces something, GM Marc Bergevin won’t fire head coach Michel Therrien. LeBrun doesn’t believe Bergevin has any intention of trading defenseman P.K. Subban. Dreger claims Habs forward Lars Eller has been available for quite some time, though he said Bergevin isn’t shopping him or trying to push Eller out the door.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Bergevin trades Subban, it’ll be the worst move by a Habs GM since Rejean Houle dealt Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche over 20 years ago. That trade set the Habs back for over a decade. As a Habs blogger recently observed, unless the return is Connor McDavid or Erik Karlsson, trading Subban will have the same effect. 

McKenzie claims the Blackhawks are aggressively pursuing a top-line rental left winger. He notes Ladd, Boedker, Eriksson and perhaps Eric Staal could be available at the deadline. He points out the ‘Hawks can make room for a $4 million cap-hit player at the deadline. If another team could retain salary it could be a more significant add.

LeBrun reports the hockey world is wondering what Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will do with Drouin, claiming Yzerman will move Drouin only when he gets the right offer, suggesting it could take until this summer to get it done.

Dreger claims the Sharks and Kings seek a top-five defenseman, with the Sharks pushing hard on this. He suggests Toronto’s Polak or Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis, though the Canucks haven’t approached him about waiving his no-trade clause.

LeBrun also doubts the Ducks will move Frederik Andersen now, preferring to keep their tandem of Andersen and John Gibson intact for the stretch run and the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with LeBrun. Now that the Ducks have climbed back into the playoff picture, they won’t move Andersen.


Update on the Canadiens and Oilers.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun also reports the Canadiens could try to shop pending UFAs like Weise, Tom Gilbert and Tomas Fleischmann at the trade deadline, but could retain Paul Byron in hopes of re-signing him. LeBrun claims some teams have expressed interest in defenseman Alexei Emelin, but unless his reps seeks a trade it’s unlikely he’ll be traded. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could wait until this summer to make bigger moves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t expect those bigger moves to include P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Max Pacioretty or Brendan Gallagher. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if Alex Galchenyuk is shopped. I get the feeling that Bergevin could be running out of patience with his development. Eller could also be peddled and maybe Bergevin asks Emelin if he’ll be receptive to a trade. As LeBrun noted, the Habs struggles this season highlights the roster weaknesses Price’s performance had overshadowed. Now that they’re glaringly appparent, I expect Bergevin will take steps this summer to address them. 

LeBrun also spoke with a hockey executive who suggests it wouldn’t be surprising if the Edmonton Oilers shop their first-round pick for a top defenseman. If they got the first overall pick again, would it be possible they offer that pick to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson? The Coyotes could then use that pick to select Arizona native Auston Matthews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson mused about the same thing a couple of months ago. As LeBrun said, food for thought if the Oilers win the draft lottery again. 

An update on Eric Staal.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said he wouldn’t be crushed if he were moved by the trade deadline, but his focus right now is helping his club win games. If the Hurricanes decide to move the pending UFA, Garrioch cites a league insider suggesting the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers could be interested. Staal must agree to waive his no-movement clause for a deal to take place.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: GM Ron Francis faces a tough decision. Does he retain Staal in hopes of pushing for a playoff berth and risk losing him for nothing this summer to free agency? Or move him for the best return? If it’s the latter, I believe Staal will accept a trade. 

Latest on the Sabres and Avalanche.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Unrestricted free agents Jamie McGinn, David Legwand, goaltender Chad Johnson and defensemen Mike Weber and Carlo Colaiacovo could be shopped by the Sabres at the trade deadline, along with RFAs Marcus Foligno and Johan Larsson. Winger Tyler Ennis, with three years at $4.6 million left on his contract, and defenseman Cody Franson (one year left at $3.325 million), could also be dangled.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien reports Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic seeks a top-four defenseman, but that asset is difficult to find at this time of year. He’s also seeking a “puck-management forward”. O’Brien speculates the Avs could be interested in playoff rentals, but don’t want to give up a high-end draft pick unless it’s for an asset that can help them beyond this season. Winger Alex Tanguay may or may not be available.