Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Unlike a year ago, when there was all kinds of discussion about potential landing spots for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo -- who ended up staying put -- there are actually teams looking to bolster their goaltending situations this season. It's fair to say the St. Louis Blues' chances of winning a Cup go up exponentially if Miller is between their pipes. And if you're Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota and are looking at a playoff tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom, given the uncertainty over Josh Harding's health, well, that's a bit scary for a team with high expectations. As long as new Buffalo GM Tim Murray plays his cards right -- for example, rather than asking for the entire moon, maybe asking for only three-quarters of it -- there's no reason he can't accomplish what the Canucks were unable to do and move an elite netminder at the deadline.
Our guess: Miller in a Bluenote jersey strikes the right chord for us.
Thomas Vanek, New York Islanders
You don't think of Vanek as having all that much playoff experience, but he actually performed quite well in the postseason with the Sabres, delivering 15 goals in 36 games. And we know that hockey folk in general are dismissive of Vanek's party Olympics in Sochi, when he and the rest of the Austrians whooped it up the day/night before their embarrassing qualifying-round loss to Slovenia. That bugs me if I'm a GM thinking of handing over a first-round pick and a top prospect for Vanek, but he is the top true rental player on the market this season. It took a while, but Vanek eventually meshed nicely with John Tavares (OK, who wouldn't mesh with Tavares?) and Kyle Okposo in New York. Islanders GM Garth Snow has once again made hash of his team and is (or should be) desperate to unload Vanek, who will go to market in July as a free agent. The obvious destination is Los Angeles, where scoring is scarce and the Kings have a bevy of nearly NHL-ready young forwards who could be attractive to Snow. Don't snooze on the Penguins, though, because GM Ray Shero has never been shy about getting in on the big guns at the deadline.
Our guess: Vanek is a King by week's end.
Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
We all know that the Rangers would like to keep their captain and two-time U.S. Olympian. But we also know GM Glen Sather is opposed to letting Callahan walk for nothing in July and the team isn't interested in the contract length/dollars Callahan is reportedly seeking. Some have scoffed at the idea of a one-for-one, Callahan-for-Martin St. Louis deal, but if neither player is going to be with his current team long-term, why not? The Rangers would certainly miss Callahan's toughness and his play on the penalty kill, but St. Louis is best buds with Brad Richards, dating back to their time in Tampa, where they won a Cup in '04. For us, Callahan fits nicely with a Bolts team that has lots of interesting moving parts. If Steven Stamkos returns to form and Valtteri Filppula is also healthy after the Olympic break, Callahan adds a different component to their forward contingent.