SPORTS

Many big-name players not traded at deadline could change places in off-season

03/03/2015 12:28 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - A deadline isn't really a deadline when there's time to spare.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs that meant no rush to trade captain Dion Phaneuf or star winger Phil Kessel and for the Carolina Hurricanes no hurry to trade Eric or Jordan Staal or Cam Ward by 3 p.m. Monday. Rookie Carolina general manager Ron Francis said on a conference call he didn't get a lot of interest in those players on deadline day.

Toronto's Dave Nonis listened but didn't put up a fire-sale sign outside Air Canada Centre.

"I think bigger contracts generally move in the off-season," Nonis said at a news conference Monday. "That's the way that it is now, and I think that's the way it's always going to be in the cap era."

In the off-season, there's less immediacy but more teams with salary-cap space who could enter the fray for bigger names. With that in mind, here are some players not traded at the deadline who are likely to be moved this off-season:

DION PHANEUF: As the Leafs cast off on a rebuilding effort, Phaneuf and the six years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of US$7 million probably don't fit. Phaneuf could be better suited as a No. 2 or 3 defenceman with a lighter workload elsewhere.

JORDAN STAAL: Reports that the Penguins are interested in Staal make sense, considering former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is calling the shots in Pittsburgh. Still in his prime, Staal will be 27 in September and has seven seasons left with a cap hit of $6 million.

ERIC STAAL: The older Staal brother would be a one-year rental and a candidate to sign an extension with a contender. The 2006 Stanley Cup winner still has plenty left in the tank at 30 and showed this season he can excel on the wing as well as at centre.

PHIL KESSEL: If the Leafs win the Connor McDavid draft lottery, they might opt to keep the high-scoring right-winger who piles up the goals for $8 million a season. If they don't and choose to stay the rebuilding course, Florida might love a 30-goal scorer to build around.

PATRICK SHARP: With new deals beginning for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at matching cap hits of $10.5 million, the Blackhawks again have to shed some salary. Throw the rumours of dressing-room discord away: Trading Sharp would be a money move, and Chicago has the depth to do it.

NICKLAS GROSSMANN: Flyers GM Ron Hextall already traded one defenceman in Braydon Coburn, and Grossmann could be next given that he has just one year left on his contract. Philadelphia has to clear cap space and make room for prospects like Samuel Morin.

TYLER BOZAK: The centre has three more years left at a manageable $4.2 million cap hit and could be attractive to teams who see him in a second-line role. If restricted free agent Nazem Kadri gets a new contract in Toronto, it could spell the end for Bozak.

CAM WARD: Like with Eric Staal, Ward has a year left on his contract and isn't likely part of the future in Carolina. Getting McDavid might change things, but with Anton Khudobin an established NHL goalie, Ward could be an interesting trade possibility for a lot of teams.

COLIN GREENING: The Ottawa Senators forward has two years left at a cap hit of just under $2.3 million. GM Bryan Murray tried to find a taker for him at the deadline, but the team might have to retain salary and hope someone sees potential in the 28-year-old Greening.

RYAN O'REILLY: A year away from hitting unrestricted free agency at the tender age of 25, O'Reilly could be headed for a raise beyond his $6 million annual cost. With Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon in the fold, the Colorado Avalanche could cash out on O'Reilly.

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