Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd have become the most-discussed players of late in the rumor mill.With the Feb. 29 trade deadline looming, many observers are focused upon what the Winnipeg Jets will do with pending free agents Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, whatever decisions the Jets make with those two will directly affect the trade market in the coming weeks. The duo have become the most-discussed players of late in the rumor mill. Byfuglien, 30, has already been linked to the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. USA Today's Jimmy Hascup lists the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins as additional possible trade destinations. Given the Devils need for scoring punch at forward, Byfuglien wouldn't be a good fit for them. Yes, he can play forward, but he's more effective on defense. The Bruins could certainly use him on their blueline, but they won't part with significant assets for a player who could bolt via free agency in July. TSN's Pierre LeBrun considers the Los Angeles Kings a perfect fit for Byfuglien, allowing them to finally replace the departed Slava Voynov on right defense. While the Kings lack a first-round pick to offer the Jets as part of the return, LeBrun feels they have the depth in players and prospects to intrigue the Jets. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press claims the Detroit Red Wings like Byfuglien. Given his remaining salary and free-agent status, he's unlikely to land in Detroit by deadline day. Meanwhile, a recent report out of Winnipeg suggests the Anaheim Ducks could be a good fit for the 30-year-old Ladd. Other speculated destinations include the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens. Like Byfuglien, he's also been linked to the Panthers. Both skated at one time for Panthers general manager Dale Tallon during his tenure as Chicago Blackhawks GM. Byfuglien and Ladd, however, aren't the only members of the Jets who might be on the move. If Byfuglien is re-signed, Friedman speculates they'll be forced to part with one of their younger blueliners like Jacob Trouba or Tyler Myers. Trouba, 21, is a restricted free agent at season's end. He reportedly seeks an eight-year deal worth over $56 million. If Byfuglien's re-signed, and with Myers already inked through 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, Trouba could become too expensive to re-sign. The Jets could also face a decision between the pipes. Veteran goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is close to returning from a knee injury, but rookie Connor Hellebuyck is playing very well in the starter's role. The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe reports the 28-year-old Pavelec likely won't be happy playing second fiddle, plus he's earning too much in actual salary ($4.25-million this season, $4.75- million in 2016-17) to be riding the pine. If Hellebuyck maintains his solid play, Wiebe wonders if the Jets might shop Pavelec. Wiebe speculates the Calgary Flames as a possible trade partner, noting their current tandem of Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller are both UFAs at season's end. If the Jets agree to take back Hiller and a draft pick for Pavelec, Wiebe observes the move would free up nearly $4 million in cap space for next season. That savings could be put toward re-signing Byfuglien or Ladd. The Flames could use some stability in goal after this season, but Pavelec's been plagued by inconsistency through his NHL career. Should they part ways with their current tandem, they'll consider other options this summer. MORE RUMOR ROUNDUP:
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