NHL Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Top Players and Teams Entering 2018 Deadline

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2018

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10:  Erik Karlsson #65 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 10, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The 2018 NHL trade deadline will arrive Monday at 3 p.m. ET. The activity has already started to pick up in recent days, with the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring Derick Brassard as part of a three-team swap and the New Jersey Devils getting Michael Grabner in a deal with the New York Rangers.

Since the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pens have already bolstered their roster, the onus is on other contenders around the league to keep pace. That's good news for front offices looking to sell after falling out of playoff contention.

Let's check out some of the latest rumors from around the league and analyze what it could mean for the players and teams involved before the deadline-day frenzy.

                            

Ottawa Senators Getting Creative with Erik Karlsson Talks

Dealing Erik Karlsson, who is one of the league's most valuable players, isn't an ideal endgame for the Ottawa Senators, but it's a move they may be forced to make sometime in the next year. His contract is set to run out after next season, and with no extension imminent, they can't afford to lose him for nothing.

Trading him before the deadline has become a more realistic outcome in recent weeks. Ottawa has faded from the postseason hunt, and the 27-year-old defenseman would command a greater return with a year left on his contract than he would as a rental in 12 months' time.

Travis Yost of TSN reported the Senators are looking into a potential three- or four-team trade in order to maximize the number of suitors by spreading the money around. In addition, the front office is trying to include Bobby Ryan's bloated $7.25 million cap hit in the deal.

All told, the Tampa Bay Lightning still feel like the most logical fit for Karlsson. They are a championship contender with a ridiculous amount of talent up front, led by Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Picking up another high-end blueliner could put them over the top.

                            

Ryan McDonagh Possible Target for Atlantic Division Contenders

The New York Rangers sit in the Metropolitan Division basement, which could lead to some veteran players' departures, including the likes of Ryan McDonagh and winger Rick Nash.

Like Karlsson, the 28-year-old's contract expires after the 2018-19 campaign. So New York must at least consider moving him now or during the offseason, when they should be able to recoup some serious future assets in a trade.

Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins are among the potential landing spots for the defenseman, who's tallied 26 points in 49 games this season. The Bruins are waiting to see whether the asking prices falls before the deadline, though.

Toronto is an intriguing fit since its up-and-down defensive play has wasted some strong performances from Auston Matthews and the team's young, dynamic offense. McDonagh would bring much-needed defensive stability and leadership to the organization.

                     

Josh Gorges Emerges as Potential Depth Option

Josh Gorges isn't anywhere near the same level of trade bait as the likes of Karlsson or McDonagh. The Buffalo Sabres defenseman could slide into the role of a sixth or seventh blueliner for a contender, though.

He's a limited offensive contributor, as his career high of 23 points in a season indicates, but he's reliable in his own zone, engages in the physical side of the game and can bring 68 games of postseason experience to a team looking for a little insurance on the back end down the stretch.

TSN's Darren Dreger told WGR 550 that Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill has discussed the 33-year-old Canadian with a "few teams" leading up to the deadline.

A team like the New York Islanders, who are battling for a wild-card berth despite being among the league's worst defensive clubs, could benefit from taking what should be a relatively cheap flier on Gorges.

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