Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler wasn't supposed to still be here.
The combination of the Ducks' salary-cap issues, general manager Bob Murray unafraid to make major trades and Fowler's skill set and reasonable salary made him the subject of numerous rumors at the start of the season.
Fowler is having his finest run with the Ducks (11 goals, 19 assists in 60 games). He played in the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29 and trade talk involving him has shut down at a traditionally overheated time.
Video: COL@ANA: Fowler wires a quick shot past Pickard
"I knew coming into this season, Bob had some decisions to make," Fowler said. "So once I took the personal aspect out of it and knew it was business, I understood there was a decision to make. But I used it as a little bit of a kick in the pants: Hey, you need to prove that you're worth everything and people want you here."
If Murray does make a trade, don't expect it to be for a rental because the Ducks have no cap room. He said Sunday he is looking to make a "hockey trade" but nothing appears imminent this far out from the deadline.
Fowler is in his seventh season with the Ducks. Experience helped him get through the months of uncertainty, starting at the 2016 NHL Draft and picking up again at the start of the season when the Ducks were trying to sign their restricted free agents, defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell.
"I put it aside for the most part, once nothing happened at the draft," Fowler said. "It really ramped up at the start of the season and then it went away again. Basically since the beginning of the year, I haven't thought about it at all, even with the deadline coming up. I feel like I'm a big part of the team and doing the best I can. I'm really comfortable."
It wasn't always as easy to be so focused.
"I've been lucky to stay on a team for seven seasons. Not many people get a chance to say that," Fowler said. "This isn't the first time I've dealt with trade rumors.
"When I was younger, even two, three years ago, it was really something that would bug me, really bottle up inside. I would think about it a lot. This year, for whatever reason, I've been able to put it aside and focus on hockey and my family and my friends."
With the Oilers looking more and more as if they'll end their 10-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought, they find themselves in a new position before the deadline, buyers rather than sellers. Though general manager Peter Chiarelli is not about to invest heavily in rentals at the cost of young assets, he is shopping for upgrades at center, right wing and goaltender, where the Oilers need an experienced backup to give starter Cam Talbot some rest.
Video: EDM@CHI: Talbot turns away Panarin's slapper
Ideally, the Oilers would like to acquire someone on an expiring contract -- say Michal Neuvirth of the Philadelphia Flyers -- but if they can't make that happen, an option might be Jaroslav Halak, who is playing for the New York Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport. The only downside to Halak is that he has one year left on his contract, an average annual value of $4.5 million, according to CapFriendly.com.
The Oilers' other pressing need is in the face-off circle, where they are 30th in the League (47.2 percent). It's why they've been linked to Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Oilers have done a solid job adding size up front in the past 12 months; left wing Milan Lucic is 6-foot-3, 233 pounds and forward Patrick Maroon is 6-3, 230. Boyle, at 6-foot-7, 243 pounds, would fit nicely. Boyle's playoff pedigree -- 100 playoff games with the New York Rangers and Lightning -- is also attractive.
Another intriguing option for the Oilers would be likely Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, who's playing out his contract with the Colorado Avalanche. Iginla is from St. Albert, an Edmonton suburb, and has stated he would like one last crack at winning the Stanley Cup. Returning to play for his hometown team could bring his NHL career full circle and the acquisition cost likely wouldn't be too high.
So where might Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford turn for help this time?
Even before the Penguins lost defensemen Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz to injuries during a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday, Rutherford was looking to add depth to his defense. Their absences will only increase the search.
Maatta will be out up to six weeks following hand surgery, while Schultz's timeline is vaguer given that he's recovering from a concussion. Rutherford acquired Schultz prior to the deadline last season. He was a useful pick up then and became an integral part of the Penguins this season, especially during Kris Letang's lengthy injury absence, and is sixth in NHL scoring among defensemen with 39 points (nine goals, 30 assists).
Video: PIT@STL: Schultz hammers a one-timer from down low
After Anaheim, no team has greater organizational depth on defense than the Carolina Hurricanes, and pending unrestricted free agent Ron Hainsey might fit the bill in Pittsburgh as a rental.
There has long been a pipeline between the two organizations. Rutherford was Hurricanes GM for 20 years. Carolina's current general manager is Ron Francis, who played eight seasons with the Penguins during a Hall of Fame career.
Thanks to the emergence of defensemen Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, who are playing big minutes as second-year pros, the Hurricanes might be coaxed into listening to offers for Justin Faulk, who at 24 is in his sixth NHL season and has a hard shot from the point. If Carolina made Faulk available, the suitors would be lined up outside Francis' door, though it's the sort of potential franchise-altering deal that usually only takes place prior to the deadline.
Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, might also be an option for the Penguins if he wasn't playing for their cross-state rivals, whom they'll face in the 2017 NHL Coors Light Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on Feb. 25 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV).
Schultz is one of three veteran Flyers defensemen who general manager Ron Hextall could make available -- the others are Michael Del Zotto and Mark Streit -- but it would take a giant leap of faith by the two Pennsylvania-based GMs to make that happen.
The Calgary Flames could have found an answer to one of their primary needs, a second-pair defense partner for TJ Brodie.
The Flames acquired defenseman Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes on Monday for a third-round pick at the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2018.
Bob McKenzie of TSN reported the Coyotes would retain half of Stone's $4 million salary and that Arizona would receive the conditional pick if the Flames re-sign Stone. Stone will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"He's a right-shot defenseman, which are hard to come by, and he can do a lot of things," Flames general manager Brad Treliving told NHL.com. "He can play on both sides of special teams.
"Mike's probably going through one of his toughest years. He came back from a real serious knee injury. Those things are hard to come back from. When we looked at our team, one of the things we tried to do was to see if we could add depth to our blue line."
Calgary is hoping for a fit for Brodie and it would be a minimal cost for the Flames should Stone come close to last season's form, when he had an NHL career-high 36 points.
Stone, who had knee surgery in the offseason, started slowly with three assists through mid-January and has one goal and eight assists in 45 games, but is logging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game. He missed six games in November because of an upper-body injury.
"The last month or two you could see him game rounding back into form and we've kept a close eye on him," Treliving said. "You look at the market, and it's not like there's a plethora of guys out there now. The acquisition cost made sense and it's a chance to get somebody in here that can help us."