Saturday, February 27, 2010

NHL trade deadline: Who's selling, who's buying?

By Michael Rushton,

Philadelphia, PA  - General managers have had the entire Winter Olympic break to ponder making some roster moves, but the action can finally start taking place when the NHL resumes activities on March 1.

Atlanta, Toronto and Calgary have already gotten things started with some pre- break deals that have seen Ilya Kovalchuk, Dion Phaneuf, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Olli Jokinen change locations. Despite those completed deals, there is no shortage of players who still may be switching uniforms in the next week.

Who will be sellers? Who will be buyers? Who will be second-guessed for standing firm? Below is a look at some of the potential teams that might be active before the March 3 deadline, and who could be on the market:


Toronto Maple Leafs (19-31-11, 15th Seed in Eastern Conference)

Yes, the Maple Leafs have already been involved in two trades, but general manager Brian Burke said very bluntly after acquiring Phaneuf from the Flames and Giguere from the Ducks that he is still open for business.

Winger Alexei Ponikarovsky and defenseman Tomas Kaberle should net the Leafs a good return should either be dealt. Kaberle would probably fetch the higher value since he is signed through next season but he does have a no-trade clause.

Both should be prepared, as Burke is never one to shy away from altering his roster.

On the block: Ponikarovsky, Kaberle, RW Lee Stempniak

Edmonton Oilers (19-36-6, 15th Seed in Western Conference)

It's been losing streak after losing streak for a team that has struggled to stay healthy. The loss of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to a back injury certainly hasn't helped, as Edmonton is near the bottom of the league in both goals for and goals against.

Edmonton will try to move defenseman Sheldon Souray, but he is currently sidelined with a right hand injury and under contract through 2011-12. He also has a no-trade clause, but it is believed that he will waive it for the right team.
Captain Ethan Moreau is likely to get dealt as part of the rebuilding phase, while pending free agents Mike Comrie and Fernando Pisani could also be moved. Even youngsters Patrick O'Sullivan and Andrew Cogliano appear to be for sale.

On the block: Souray, Moreau, Comrie, Pisani, D Lubomir Visnovsky

Carolina Hurricanes (24-30-7, 14th Seed in East)

The Hurricanes entered the Olympic break having won five straight and nine of their last 11 games, but that still has them nine points back of a playoff spot. Carolina has already made one deal, sending center Matt Cullen to the Senators for Alexandre Picard and a 2010 second-round pick.

Carolina made that trade despite its recent win streak, so it isn't likely to pull its chips back now. Forward Ray Whitney is sure to get traded at the deadline, and there were reports that the pending unrestricted free agent used his no-trade clause to block a deal to the Los Angeles Kings because he wants a contract extension. Defenseman Joe Corvo, also set to become a free agent as season's end, could get dealt as well.

On the block: Whitney, Corvo, RW Scott Walker

Columbus Blue Jackets (25-28-10, 14th Seed in West)

Expectations before the season were high for the Blue Jackets, who were coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history. However, a sophomore slump by goaltender Steve Mason and poor defensive play has already led to a coaching change in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets are nine points out of a playoff spot and have a handful of pending free agents to deal, including forwards Fredrik Modin and Raffi Torres and defenseman Milan Jurcina, who was acquired from Washington in a trade earlier this season.

Forwards Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger are both signed through 2012-13, but one could be moved for the right price.
On the block: Modin, Torres, Jurcina

Florida Panthers (24-27-10, 12th in East)

The Panthers went 0-5-1 in their final six games before the break, but are just six points back of a playoff spot. They could be looked at as buyers before the deadline, but I'll put them in the seller category based on the fact that the Panthers could decide to trade goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun does have a no-trade clause, but if he doesn't accept a trade this season he might have to go through all the talk again in 2010-11, the final year of his current deal. Don't forget the Panthers did sign Scott Clemmensen prior to the season and he showed himself to be a very capable starter last year for the Devils when Martin Brodeur was hurt. Florida was also burned at the previous trade deadline by holding onto pending free agent Jay Bouwmeester in the hopes of making the postseason before trading his rights at the draft last year for a far lesser return.

Florida has already dealt center Dominic Moore to Montreal for a 2011 second- round pick and pending free agents Dennis Seidenberg and Jordan Leopold, both defensemen, could get moved as rentals. Should Florida really decide to shake things up, it could also entertain offers for 24-year-old center Nathan Horton, who is currently sidelined with a broken leg but could return in the first week of March.

On the block: Vokoun, Seidenberg, Leopold, RW Rostislav Olesz

Atlanta Thrashers (26-24-10, 11th Seed in East)

Yes, Atlanta is only two points back of a playoff spot but has also already traded away its franchise player in Kovalchuk. That means the Thrashers will likely be fielding phone calls until the deadline.

The loss of Kovalchuk could also impact Atlanta's upcoming offseason. After all, it may be tough to convince free agents to sign up for a club that just lost one of the best players in the league, and the Thrashers might need to build for the future by making deals instead.

The franchise has a host of pending free agents, including forwards Colby Armstrong, Slava Kozlov and Maxim Afinogenov, center Jim Slater as well as defenseman Pavel Kubina and Mark Popovic. Both Kubina and Kozlov have no-trade clauses.

Atlanta could also be in the market for a goaltending prospect, since it traded Kari Lehtonen in Dallas and Johan Hedberg is a free agent at season's end.

On the block: Armstrong, Kozlov, Kubina, D Christoph Schubert

New York Islanders (25-29-8, 13th Seed in West)

Much like left-handed relief pitching in baseball, the Islanders have something that everybody wants come playoff time: goaltending.

With the return of Rick DiPietro from knee surgery, New York has three netminders on its NHL roster. It has been going with DiPietro and Dwayne Roloson on most nights, leaving Martin Biron as the odd man out. The Islanders will likely try to move Biron, who is playing on just a one-year, $1.4 million contract and recently led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.

The Islanders, who are six points back of a playoff spot, also have a few veterans that will be free agents at season's end, including forwards Doug Weight and Richard Park, as well as defenseman Andy Sutton.
On the block: Biron, Weight, Sutton


Boston Bruins (27-22-11, 7th Seed in East)

One season after locking down the top seed in the conference, the Bruins sit 11 points back of the Senators for first place in the Northeast Division. However, they will come out of the break on a four-game winning streak, and could still make a run in the playoffs if healthy.

Adding some scoring will be the top priority, as Boston is dead last in the NHL with 141 goals, and there is no shortage of trading chips in Beantown. The Bruins picked up 2010 first-round and second-round picks from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade, and both figure to be high selections. Boston also got a 2011 first-round pick in the deal.

Another potential lure is netminder Tim Thomas even though he is just one season removed from winning the Vezina Trophy. Thomas, who does have a no- trade clause, is just 13-15-7 with a 2.52 goals-against average this year and it was backup Tuukka Rask that won Boston's final four games before the break.

Possible targets: Whitney, LW Paul Kariya (St. Louis), RW Marek Svatos (Colorado), Moreau

Washington Capitals (41-13-8, 1st Seed in East)

The Capitals have been a scoring force this year and not only do they own a 27-point advantage for first place in the Southeast Division, but their 90 points are 13 more than the second-seeded Devils in the East and one more than the Sharks for the most in the NHL.

That means the Capitals are set, right? Not exactly.

Washington lost its final three games before the break (0-1-2) and has allowed a total of 27 goals over its last six contests. While that could be a product of their high-flying offense leaving the defense out to dry, the Capitals could still look to bulk up their blueline before the deadline.

The Caps are all in for this season and they must also decide if they are comfortable with Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore in net. However, Varlamov was able to get the club to a seventh game in last season's conference semi- finals versus the eventual champion Penguins.

Possible targets: D Barret Jackman (St. Louis), D Ruslan Salei (Colorado), Leopold

Chicago Blackhawks (41-15-5, 2nd Seed in West)

The Blackhawks are another team cruising to a division title -- they currently own a 16-point edge over the second-place Predators -- but there are rumblings in the Windy City that the club may look to upgrade its goaltending.

The 34-year-old Cristobal Huet is 6-10 with a 2.73 GAA in 16 career playoff games, including 1-2 with a 3.23 GAA in three outings last year with the Blackhawks. Backup Antti Niemi, 26, has been outstanding in his reserve role but has never played in a NHL postseason game. Those listed reasons may be enough for management to roll the dice and go after a goaltender.

Chicago has already shaken up its defense, getting veteran Kim Johnsson from Minnesota for the younger but more expensive Cam Barker.

Possible targets: Biron, G Jaroslav Halak (Montreal)

Montreal Canadiens (29-28-6, 8th Seed in East)

Modern hockey was born in Montreal and its fans there will settle for nothing less than a championship. As of now, the Canadiens are on the bubble, just one point ahead of two teams for the final playoff spot in the East.

The Canadiens already have a solid and expensive core so adding a big-priced name might be hard to do. Instead, Montreal will likely be in the market for some lower-priced veterans that can add experience to the group while awaiting the return of Mike Cammalleri from a MCL injury in March.

Montreal could also decide to dangle a goaltender, as both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak are restricted free agents this summer. However, moving a netminder is not a top priority.

Possible targets: Kariya, Walker, Moreau, Corvo

Los Angeles Kings (37-20-4, 5th Seed in West)

For the first time in a long while, the Kings will be looking to upgrade their roster before the trade deadline, as opposed to holding an open sale themselves. Los Angeles comes out of the break in the hunt for the fourth spot in the West, which is the last to give home-ice advantage in the first round.

The Kings have long piled up prospects in exchange for veterans in seasons past so they should have some reserves in the minors to grab some help this time around without making a big change to their NHL roster. As mentioned earlier, there were reports the club is interested in Whitney.

Los Angeles is likely in the market for some blueline help to give 19-year-old stud and Olympian Drew Doughty a hand, though picking up some offense is never a bad thing either. Defenseman Jack Johnson is one of the Kings' biggest trading chips.

Possible targets: Whitney, Souray, Kozlov, Corvo, D John-Michael Liles (Colorado)

Anaheim Ducks (30-25-7, 11th Seed in West)

The Ducks have revived postseason hope by going 14-6-0 over their last 20 games and will put a club-record 11-game home winning streak on the line when they host the Avalanche on March 3.

Just two points back of a playoff spot, the Ducks may have decided to make a run even though Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer are all in the last year of their current deals. Offense shouldn't be a priority because of the current talent, and Anaheim did get forward Jason Blake in the deal that sent Giguere to Toronto.

Instead, the Ducks will compete with the Kings for defensive help to put in front of recently-extended netminder Jonas Hiller. Anaheim is 24th in the NHL, allowing nearly three goals per game.

Possible targets: Corvo, Visnovsky, Liles, Schubert

Nashville Predators (33-23-5, 7th Seed in West)

Once again in the playoff hunt, the Predators have as much cap space as anyone to pull off a deal and have made big moves before. Remember 2007, when Nashville sent a host of talent to the Flyers for Peter Forsberg?

Having just signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to a two-year contract extension, Nashville could entertain offers for upcoming unrestricted free agent Dan Ellis in the hopes of adding offense.

With solid defenders in Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis already in the mix, the Predators will probably look for offense prior to the deadline. Nashville is currently tied for 15th in the NHL with 2.70 goals per game.

Possible targets: Armstrong, Whitney, Ponikarovsky, RW Michael Ryder (Boston)

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