As the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches, stars such as Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Evander Kane dominate the rumor mill. However, there are lesser lights who could become invaluable additions to playoff-contending teams. Here’s a look at the notable depth players potentially available at the trade deadline.
Michael Grabner, New York Rangers
A swift-skating goal scorer who’s also an effective penalty killer, Grabner could provide a welcome boost for clubs seeking a good secondary forward. TSN’s Frank Seravalli believes the 30-year-old winger could be a good fit with Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche or Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
Pageau, 25, is a hard-working two-way forward who can skate at center or on the wing. He’s also garnered a reputation as a strong postseason performer. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman recently observed Pageau was among several players linked to the Penguins.
Zack Smith, Ottawa Senators
The 29-year-old Smith has good size (6’2″, 208 lbs) and plays a physical two-way style. He’s used mainly at left wing but when necessary can also fill in as a center. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported the Flames recently scouted Smith.
Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Reports emerged last month saying Johnson requested a trade, though of late he’s seeing more second-pairing minutes. While the 31-year-old isn’t putting up the points he once did, he’s still an experienced puck-handling defenseman. Teams in need of a left-side blueliner, such as the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, could take a serious look at Johnson.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
The 35-year-old Plekanec’s best seasons are behind him, but he remains an effective defensive center and faceoff man. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported Saturday the Hab veteran was drawing interest from the Penguins and San Jose Sharks.
Erik Gudbranson, Vancouver Canucks
If the Canucks fail to re-sign Gudbranson they could shop him at the trade deadline. The 6’5″, 220-pound defenseman has terrific size and plays a physical shutdown game, but there is concern over his ability to contain swift-skating opponents. There was talk last month linking Gudbranson to the Leafs.
Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
Once projected as the Wings’ future starting goaltender, Mrazek has struggled over the last two years. His stats this season (2.99 goals-against average and .906 save percentage) aren’t very enticing, but he’s shown improvement in recent games and does have some postseason experience. With a league-worst goals-against per game of 3.67 entering this week, the New York Islanders might come calling.
Ian Cole, Pittsburgh Penguins
Trade rumors have dogged Cole since late-November. At the time, the Penguins were struggling offensively and the 28-year-old defenseman was considered the odd man out. The trade chatter has cooled of late, but Cole could still be enticing for clubs pursuing rearguards with playoff experience. Rumors linked him to the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and New York Islanders.
Mark Letestu, Edmonton Oilers
Another versatile forward, Letestu can skate at center or the wing and has solid defensive abilities. He’s also been linked to the Penguins at one point or another in the rumor mill. If the Jets consider adding a center, they could give Letestu some consideration.
Matt Cullen, Minnesota Wild
The 41-year-old veteran center is seeing limited ice time with the Wild, sparking speculation they could part ways by the trade deadline. Pittsburgh followers are hoping for a reunion with the Penguins, but he could also be a good fourth-line addition for any team in need of playoff experience and leadership.