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NHL trade deadline is approaching with a flurry of trades expected


Last Friday's game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals had the potential to upend not only the playoff race in the Eastern Conference but the NHL trading market with the deadline coming up fast.

Despite the 5-2 Capitals win, Washington is now expected to sell after falling flat in a loss to Arizona two days later. The Flyers could do some deals because it is unexpectedly in a playoff spot with less than six weeks to go in the regular season.

With many teams in limbo, the weekend provided some much-needed clarity around the league one year after the 2023 trade season featured a ton of big-name players changing places well before the deadline. Expect a flurry of activity as the week goes on ahead of the Friday 3 p.m. EST deadline.

“Everybody’s kicking tires,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said Sunday. “I think there were some big guys that went early and everybody’s trying to put some pieces together on their team that will help it and people are trying to look for the best value possible.”

There is value to be found at just about every position for Stanley Cup contenders looking for an upgrade.

Need a scoring winger? How about Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel. A No. 1 goaltender? Calgary's Jacob Markstrom is signed through 2026. A do-it-all fourth-line center? Washington's Nic Dowd is under contract for two potential playoff runs. Defensemen? Philadelphia has three pending free agents in Sean Walker, Nick Seeler and Marc Staal.

“We’re still open,” Flyers GM Briere said Friday night in Washington. “There’s been a lot of discussions. There’s a lot going on. You’ve seen what’s happened in the market. There’s obviously a lot of defensemen that are gone now, so we’re getting a lot of calls on our guys.”

Dallas last week got arguably the best defenseman available in acquiring Chris Tanev from the Flames and didn't have to give up a first-round pick to do it. Calgary's Noah Hanifin could also still be traded, along with Capitals veteran Joel Edmundson, among others at the position.

What might start the dominos falling? Pittsburgh lost at Calgary and Edmonton on back-to-back days, which could push GM Kyle Dubas closer to being a seller after he said their play would determine how he approaches the deadline.

By the time bitter rivals face off Thursday in Pittsburgh, the rosters of the Capitals and Penguins could look drastically different.

“Our priority would be the future of our club,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “All decisions will be based on (that). It’s not, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and rent a guy for the playoffs.’ We’re not in that game. We’re here to look for opportunities to find more young players, add more young players to our roster and compete.”

While the Capitals and Penguins, and to some extent the St. Louis Blues, are among the recent champions looking to tweak their rosters, the list of those competing for the Cup this season include Toronto, Detroit, Vegas, Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Boston, Florida and the New York Rangers.

They are expected to be the league's biggest buyers, looking for the right combination of rental players and those signed beyond this year.

“There’s people calling on everything right now,” Armstrong said Sunday, pumping the brakes on the rental market because recent seasons have made his colleagues rethink the process. "People are understanding how important the draft is and probably more now just trying to hold onto their picks and not give up as much on the trade deadline.

"But if you need a piece to complete your team, whether that might be depth or it’s an injury that has occurred, you’ve got to get it done.”

Teams worth watching include the Capitals, who may trade at least Edmundson and Anthony Mantha; New Jersey, which could decide the future of Tyler Toffoli; Anaheim, which may trade Adam Henrique and perhaps All-Star Frank Vatrano; and the San Jose Sharks offloading a handful of players in their lost season.

No team is more fascinating than the Flyers, who are surprisingly contending but are balancing winning now with accumulating assets for years to come when they can try to win it all.

“I’d have to say it’s a good problem to have because if the team doesn’t play the way they have, we’re not getting the attention from other teams about our players," Briere said. “Everything’s on the table, and we’re trying to figure out what’s best for the future.”