Ranking the top NHL trade-deadline candidates
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The 2019-20 trade deadline may ultimately lack the sizzle of its 2018-19 counterpart, but that doesn't mean this one will arrive without intrigue.

It doesn't appear as though big-ticket pending unrestricted free agents like Alex Pietrangelo, Braden Holtby, and Jacob Markstrom will be moved, but they could eventually be shipped out should they fail to sign extensions with their respective clubs. More impact players could also become available depending on which teams fall out of postseason contention before Feb. 24.

While those stars are far less likely to be sent packing, here are the biggest names that could be dealt prior to the deadline:

1. Chris Kreider, Rangers

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Position Age Contract Cap Hit
LW 28 Pending UFA $4.625M

Barring the sudden availability of a superior player, Kreider is the best name on the trade block and appears most likely to be traded.

Eight teams have reportedly informed the Rangers that Kreider's at the top of their respective wish list. The skilled winger's combination of speed and size, along with his age and relatively digestible cap hit, justify his status as the most coveted target.

2. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Senators

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
C 27 Pending UFA $3.1M

Pageau is having a career year for the lowly Senators, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the forward dealt given the club's history of unloading players. His inflated shooting percentage is bound to regress whether or not he stays in Ottawa, but he could still provide a contender with some scoring punch and strong two-way play from the center position.

3. Tyler Toffoli, Kings

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
RW 27 Pending UFA $4.6M

The struggling Kings would be foolish not to sell ahead of the deadline. Toffoli would arguably be their best trade chip, considering his age and offensive abilities. While he'll likely be a rental, the talented forward will undoubtedly be coveted by clubs looking to add a top-six winger.

4. Alec Martinez, Kings

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 32 Signed through 2020-21 $4M

Yes, Martinez has some miles on him, but the two-time Cup winner remains a responsible left-shot blue-liner who's posted respectable possession numbers this season for a lackluster Kings squad. His contract runs through next year, so while he comes with term, it's short enough to welcome potential suitors and could actually make him a more enticing target.

5. Sami Vatanen, Devils

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Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 28 Pending UFA $4.9M

Much like the Kings, the Devils are still languishing near the bottom of the standings after trading Taylor Hall and firing their head coach. So it would make sense for the teardown to continue with the trade of Vatanen, a versatile, productive blue-liner on an expiring contract. The Devils placed him on injured reserve Thursday, but the move's retroactive to Feb. 1, so he can be activated at any time.

6. Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
RW 36 Pending UFA $700K

Kovalchuk has been red-hot since the Canadiens inked him to a low-risk, one-year deal for the league minimum in early January. One would expect general manager Marc Bergevin to capitalize on that if Montreal isn't in playoff contention on deadline day. However, considering how well the Russian forward has fit in, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Canadiens hold onto him if they're in the playoff hunt.

7. Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
LW 25 Pending RFA $3M

The Red Wings have several pending restricted free agents, and while neither Anthony Mantha nor Tyler Bertuzzi are going anywhere, Athanasiou could be moved. Although he's been inconsistent this season, the speedy winger poured in 30 goals in 2018-19 and might have a shot at finding his old form on a better team.

8. Brenden Dillon, Sharks

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 29 Pending UFA $3.27M

Like Martinez, Dillon has never posted staggering offensive numbers, but his underlying figures are impressive given the Sharks' season. He also piles up hits and is on pace for about 250 of them in 2019-20 after registering a career-high 201 last season.

9. Matt Dumba, Wild

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 25 Signed through 2022-23 $6M

Dumba isn't a pending free agent and won't be for a while, but that could actually make the right-shot rearguard more attractive to teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who might be looking for a defenseman with term. He's picked up his play lately after a disappointing first half, and the struggling Wild could look to take advantage of that if they're out of the race by the deadline.

10. Shayne Gostisbehere, Flyers

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Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 26 Signed through 2022-23 $4.5M

The Flyers remain in the playoff mix, but Gostisbehere might still be moved for several reasons. He's struggled under head coach Alain Vigneault, and trading him would give the club some added cap flexibility with franchise goalie Carter Hart needing an extension next season. Gostisbehere missed about a month with an injury recently, but he's since returned and could benefit from a change of scenery.

11. Mikael Granlund, Predators

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
RW 27 Pending UFA $5.75M

After a slow start to the season, Granlund has started to produce and could be bolstering his trade value as a result. The question will be whether the Predators are still in the playoff hunt by deadline time. If not, Granlund would be a prime candidate to move with his expiring deal.

12. Alexandar Georgiev, Rangers

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
G 23 Pending RFA $792K

Unless Holtby or Markstrom suddenly hit the trade block, Georgiev is the best available goalie. Several teams, including the Leafs, have reportedly checked in with the Rangers to discuss the cost of acquiring him. Igor Shesterkin's arrival has made Georgiev expendable in New York, and the latter could make for a solid addition to a contender in need of a backup.

13. Kasperi Kapanen, Maple Leafs

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
RW 23 Signed through 2021-22 $3.2M

Kapanen is frequently cited as a potential trade chip. He's still young, locked in for a couple more seasons at an affordable rate, and expendable given Toronto's forward depth and all the money committed to its big four. Head coach Sheldon Keefe recently downplayed disciplining Kapanen for a "pattern" of tardiness, but if that trend were to continue, it could be yet another justification for trading the winger.

14. Andreas Johnsson, Maple Leafs

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty
Position Age Contract Cap Hit
LW 25 Signed through 2022-23 $3.4M

Johnsson is the other relatively young Maple Leafs forward who could be dangled in a trade, as they're clearly looking to upgrade on the back end. He's a bit older than Kapanen and gets paid a touch more, but Johnsson is coming off a 20-goal rookie season and still has enough promise to warrant interest in his own right. He'll likely miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, but he's under contract for a few more years after this one, so any potential suitors might not be too dissuaded from acquiring him.

15. Dylan DeMelo, Senators

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 26 Pending UFA $900K

Including Pageau and DeMelo, Ottawa has no less than 10 pending UFAs. While there might be a market for some of the others - like Vladislav Namestnikov, Ron Hainsey, or even Craig Anderson - none of those veterans are as young or as affordable as DeMelo, an effective defenseman who's somehow driving possession on a porous Senators club.

16. Ondrej Kase, Ducks

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
RW 24 Signed through 2020-21 $2.6M

While Kase's injury woes and lack of consistency have clouded his time with the Ducks, he's still relatively young and carries a team-friendly cap hit along with another year of term. Anaheim could try to get something for him while retaining the rest of its core forward group.

17. Josh Manson, Ducks

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
D 28 Signed through 2021-22 $4.1M

Anaheim loves Manson, a gritty stay-at-home blue-liner who's spent his whole six-year career with the Ducks. However, this rebuliding team is one of the league's most obvious candidates to sell, and he's yet another example of a reliable rearguard with term.

18. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks

Position Age Contract Cap Hit
G 35 Pending UFA $6M

Robin Lehner could've been on this list as well, as both Blackhawks goaltenders are playing out expiring contracts. However, Crawford's about six-and-a-half years older than his counterpart, and he's been outplayed by Lehner. Lehner appears more likely to be in Chicago's future plans, making Crawford an interesting trade candidate.

Ranking the top NHL trade-deadline candidates
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