Every Friday this season, theScore's NHL editors are debating a hot-button issue in 'On The Fly,' our roundtable series. This week, we look at six players who could soon be on the move, and should be ready to pack their bags.
Hagerman: While the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to take the majority of the heat in regards to goalie limbo leading up to the expansion draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning are actually in the same - if not an even worse - position.
Since Bishop - who will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end - also currently costs the Lightning just under $6 million, he's the obvious choice to be shipped out.
With the draft and free agency upcoming, the Lightning face not just one, but two scenarios in which they could lose the former Vezina Trophy finalist for nothing. They might be better served by making a move at the trade deadline, and unless an unthinkable injury strikes Vasilevskiy in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, it's hard to imagine a situation where the Lightning don't flip Bishop to a team in goaltending need (cough, cough, Dallas).
Cuthbert: Having whirled with centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and, more recently, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi has been afforded every opportunity to be a productive member of the Edmonton Oilers as an 18-year-old in the NHL.
But that just hasn’t been the case through 20 games.
Without a goal since opening night, Puljujarvi's stuck on seven points and being denied access to the club’s power-play units. And since Drake Caggiula and Matt Hendricks became able bodies, he's been relegated to fourth-line rotation duties at practice, and the press box Thursday night in Winnipeg.
The clock officially started on his entry-level deal a few weeks back - and this wasn't necessarily a mistake. But given the opportunity for him to acquire big-league polish in the AHL with 20 minutes a night, and the added incentive of preserving a season of unrestricted free agency, the Oilers shouldn't have Puljujarvi in Edmonton beyond game No. 40.
Wilkins: Martin Hanzal is on borrowed time in the desert. The Arizona Coyotes center is a pending unrestricted free agent, and while the two sides informally talked extension around training camp, not much materialized. That makes Hanzal a prime target to be moved at the deadline, especially considering Arizona's spot in the standings.
Hanzal is a monstrous pivot who excels at both ends of the rink, in the dot, and in front of the net on the power play. He'd be a significant addition to any Cup contender. As for the Coyotes, things are a bit crowded up the middle with young centers like Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak expected to take on bigger roles in the next season or two, making an extension for Hanzal less of a priority. As such, the veteran's 10-year run with the Desert Dogs will end sooner rather than later.
On the heels of three consecutive seasons eclipsing 30 goals, Pacioretty has only five so far, and has bounced around the Habs' top three lines.
His friendly $4.5-million cap hit, however, could gather a decent haul for Marc Bergevin. Whether Bergevin values his captain's presence more than fixing the team's most glaring need as the season carries on remains to be seen, but the GM has already shown he isn't scared of a little scrutiny.
Murray's role in the Penguins' championship run and stellar play this season have made Fleury disposable, and the veteran hasn't done himself many favors, posting pedestrian numbers through 16 games.
Fleury is on the books for 2016-17 and then two more seasons at $5.75 million, while Murray counts for less than $1 million now before his three-year, $11.25-million extension begins in 2017-18.
The Penguins need to trade Fleury before his value evaporates. He's on Pittsburgh's protected list for the expansion draft by virtue of his no-movement clause. He'll be exposed if he waives it, but the Penguins shouldn't let it come to that point and risk losing him for nothing.
McLaren: The additions of David Backes, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore created a glut of forwards capable of lining up at the center spot for the Boston Bruins, and the odd man out early this season appears to be Ryan Spooner.
The 24-year-old came into his own last season while centering the third line, and broke out to the tune of 13 goals and 49 points. Recently, due to a crowded platoon of forwards, Spooner's been relegated to the fourth line.
But here's the thing - it's no secret the Bruins have been looking to add on defense, and Spooner makes a ton of sense as a literal centerpiece going the other way in a potential trade, despite his dip in production.
As such, it would not be surprising to see general manager Don Sweeney send Spooner packing at some point prior to the trade deadline.