The abundance of talented pending unrestricted free agents and other notable names who could be available ahead of the NHL trade deadline presents some tantalizing potential deals.
Several surefire Stanley Cup contenders could make their already deep rosters even more formidable, while solid teams looking to close the gap are primed to acquire a major piece that addresses a need. In short, there's no shortage of scenarios that could play out before the clock strikes 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 25.
Here's a handful of deals we'd love to see come to fruition leading up to the deadline:
Artemi Panarin, the most potent weapon on the trade market, would be a perfect fit for a Nashville team in need of a significant offensive boost. The Predators entered Thursday's action with the NHL's worst power play and ranked outside the league's top 10 in goals per game.
For the Jackets, the conversation likely begins with Nashville's top prospect, Eeli Tolvanen. Although the Predators would be reluctant to give up Tolvanen for a rental - Panarin has expressed a desire to test the free-agent market - the Predators need to do something to get over the hump, and it's time for them to go all-in for the Stanley Cup.
One would think a package of Tolvanen, a relatively high draft pick, and a roster player like Colton Sissons would be enough for Columbus. If Tolvanen's not involved, the price would conceivably have to be a first-rounder plus a different prospect and a roster player, particularly if the Blue Jackets intend to flip what they get for a player that keeps them competitive in the short term.
Much like last year, the Jets are likely looking to add to their top six. Just as the club added Paul Stastny for the stretch drive in 2018, Duchene would provide a similar upgrade at an all-important position.
Duchene, a pending unrestricted free agent, is likelier to sign a contract extension than Panarin, so that could increase the price.
The Jets have plenty of depth pieces and a wealth of prospects to offer, including promising defenseman Sami Niku and forward Mason Appleton. Plus, they still have all of their first- and second-round picks for the next three drafts to throw in, as well. A prospect, a pick, and a roster player to acquire Duchene would make sense here.
The Calgary Flames need an upgrade at right wing over Michael Frolik to play with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, and Mark Stone fits the bill as one of the best in the game to play his position.
While the Flames don't have much wiggle room under the cap to accommodate Stone's $7.35-million hit or what he'll command on a new deal, general manager Brad Treliving has proven to be one of the most creative executives in the league.
The Flames will probably have to trade away a roster player or two in the offseason in order to keep Stone long term, but Treliving can figure that out in the summer. Acquiring the 26-year-old winger would be the best way for Calgary to keep up in the Western Conference arms race.
It's not the most likely trade given Toronto's cap constraints, but a potential Dougie Hamilton blockbuster would add even more fireworks to an already promising deadline while providing the Leafs with another right-shot defenseman for both this season and beyond.
Toronto reportedly doesn't want to deal away Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, or a first-round pick for a rental, but you'd have to think the Leafs would be more willing to offer one or more of those assets in a trade for Hamilton, who has two years remaining on his deal after this one.
They'd probably need to rid themselves of Nikita Zaitsev's contract to make the money work, and that won't be easy. Toronto could make it more enticing by including a prospect or pick in a separate move, or by packaging him with a top prospect or pick in a larger Hamilton swap.
Forward prospects Jeremy Bracco and Trevor Moore, and/or a roster player like Connor Brown - who's on the books for $2.1 million this season and the next - could also be thrown in, depending on the scale of the purely hypothetical blockbuster.
Hamilton would solidify the Leafs' top four for their upcoming playoff run and beyond without significantly compromising the team's future.
Even if star forward David Pastrnak is able to return from injury shortly after the trade deadline, the Boston Bruins will still need another scoring winger. Although Panarin and Stone are intriguing options for the Bruins, Wayne Simmonds makes a lot of sense for Boston and would come at a lower price.
Complicating matters is the fact that Simmonds has the right to submit a 12-team no-trade list, according to CapFriendly, and his Philadelphia Flyers have been on a roll lately. But, according to reports, Simmonds and the Flyers haven't made progress in contract talks, and he's reportedly more likely than not to be dealt.
Simmonds would bring a mix of skill and physical play to a Bruins squad that would welcome both, especially come playoff time.