By Stu Hackel
The NHL trade deadline arrives on Feb. 27 and unlike last year when February turned into trade season, there has been little movement thus far. As Kevin Allen noted last week in USA Today, the trade market appears to be stalled with many teams still evaluating their situation. Should they be “buyers” or “sellers”? Asking prices for potential trade targets are said to be prohibitively high.
The first deal, however, could break things open. That may not happen until we get closer to deadline day and the undecided teams determine for sure if they want to build for next season or take a shot at the playoffs. Then the “buyers” — the teams hoping for a playoff spot or a deep postseason run — will have more trading partners among the “sellers,” who will be looking more long term while trying to clear out cap space for future moves or acquiring useful players now.
The terms “buyers” and “sellers” can be a bit misleading. In the classic sense, the Bruins last year loaded up on depth that helped them win the Stanley Cup, so they certainly qualified as “buyers.” Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs were out of the playoff picture and considered “sellers,” sending defenseman Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim, which was driving hard for a playoff berth. Toronto got Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a conditional 2013 fourth-round draft pick in exchange. That turned into a pretty good trade for the Leafs, so in hindsight it’s hard to render them merely “sellers.”
Here’s a look at each team’s current status heading into the last days before the deadline. We’ve never gone in much for rumors, because they turn out wrong too often, but we’ve thrown some in here if only as a point of reference for the sort of player that each team covets and who they might have to offer.
Here’s the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference can be found here.
Anaheim Ducks — GM Bob Murray got everyone’s attention in January when he said his team’s only untradeables were aging veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Even before that, rumors circulated for weeks that Bobby Ryan would be moved. He’s still on the rumor wire, although it is imperative that the Ducks get a substantial return for him (a player, a prospect and a draft choice seems to be the asking price) in order to engage in a rebuild. That kind of haul might not be forthcoming by the deadline. Ryan Getzlaf, too, has reportedly been hotly pursued, but he, too, would command a big price. Murray may also part with Lubomir Visnovsky and Andrew Cogliano. Some think it’s possible that he’d move Teemu if the Finnish Flash asked to finish the season (and perhaps his career) with a Cup contender. Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register listed the Red Wings, Rangers, Kings, Sharks, Blackhawks and Penguins as interested in Selanne, although Teemu said as recently as last week that he was focused on the Ducks making the playoffs. As for the romantic notion of a curtain call with the Jets, that seems quite unlikely.
Calgary Flames – Whenever the subject of trades comes up in Calgary, Jarome Iginla’s name is always front and center for some people. GM Jay Feaster said back in December that he wasn’t moving his captain and now, with the Flames on an 8-3-3 run and just two points out of eighth place, he’s certainly not about to consider it. The seemingly perpetual need for an elite number one center to play with Iginla hasn’t vanished. however. While Olli Jokinen has played well with Iggy lately, he’s a pending UFA. Strangled by the salary cap, the Flames have six other pending UFAs, mostly depth players, who could be moved, but it’s uncertain what they would bring back in return, especially because some of them are banged up. Calgary does have a mounting injury list — Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross, Derek Smith, David Moss and Blair Jones — and all are due back after the deadline, so Feaster’s flexibility is limited. Michael Backlund suffered a shoulder injury over the weekend and if he’s going to be out a while too, along with Moss and Jones, that makes the Flames pretty thin at center.
Chicago Blackhawks – Little is going right for this team at the moment. Losers of eight straight and with hints that coach Joel Quennville’s job is not secure, the Blackhawks could be in for some turbulence. The season-ending injury to Dan Carcillo effectively ended the experiment that had Patrick Kane at center. With Dave Bolland thriving best in the three-hole, GM Stan Bowman is supposedly in the hunt for a second line center. Tim Sassone of The Daily Herald identifies Buffalo’s Derek Roy as a possibility. The Hawks’ defense corps as a whole has not played well, and there are questions about whether Nick Leddy is ready to be the top-four guy on defense the Hawks projected him to be this season. No one beneath him on the depth chart stepped up, so that is an area to address as well. As for Chicago’s goaltending, well, it hasn’t been good and an upgrade could be sought.
Colorado Avalanche — Their good run in December and early January has them thinking playoffs again. Getting Matt Duchene back from his knee injury would be a major boost for their chances, but he’s only now resumed light skating. If the Avs feel they still have a chance to make the postseason as the deadline draws nearer, Duchene’s status will play a role in their thinking. They’ve lacked an elite puck-moving defenseman since they traded Kevin Shattenkirk to the Blues last season, but it will be hard to grab one at the deadline. If they decide to go in a different direction, they do have some depth on defense and in goal to make trades, as Andi Duroux points out in Mile High Hockey. And in The Denver Post, Adrian Dater adds that underachieving top six forward David Jones’ name has been in the ether as well.
Columbus Blue Jackets – There’s no franchise more under the gun to make moves and quickly change direction than Columbus, something that was acknowledged at the ownership level in the wake of last offseason’s spending spree. Vinny Prospal is not going anywhere, but Jeff Carter was anointed the most likely ex-Blue Jacket almost from the moment he unhappily arrived in Columbus last June and that buzz hasn’t subsided. Forward Antoine Vermette and one of their goalies, Steve Mason or Curtis Sanford, could be moving on. And even captain Rick Nash could be made available, as John Shannon of Sportnet.ca noted earlier this month. But both Carter and Nash have very large and long contracts and GM Scott Howson can’t just cut guys like like them loose without getting a very substantial return in terms of players who can immediately help him, plus prospects and draft picks. Nash’s linemate, Derick Brassard, is also highly sought after and carries a smaller contract and shorter term, so he may find a new home on a club that is looking for a center.
UPDATE: Various reports that Nash is on the block have emerged and his move would likely be the biggest deal of the trade deadline period. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog rounds up the Nash news. Our first thoughts on the Nash situation can be found here.
Dallas Stars — One of the seven teams battling for the final three playoff spots in conference, the Stars aren’t thinking about being sellers just yet. In an interview with Mark Stepneski of ESPN Dallas’ Andrew’s Stars Page, owner Tom Gaglardi identified the players he thought would be in the core of his team going forward — Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley — and said GM Joe Nieuwendyk won’t make any deal that weakened his club even in the short term, like trading a top older player for draft picks. That’s one reason why not much has been heard about reports from late January that captain Brenden Morrow could be available at the deadline. The other reasons: he’s got a no-trade clause, has just been put on I.R. with a bad back and may not return until after the deadline. Even with a healthy Morrow, Dallas has to work hard to score and spends a lot of time in its own zone. If the Stars could add some offense, specifically a top six-forward, it might give them a leg up in the battle for a final playoff spot in the West. Gaglardi feels they have the depth on defense to attempt a deal.
Detroit Red Wings — While they’re battling for first overall and trying to pull away from the pack in the West, the Wings are not inclined to stand pat this month. First, Jimmy Howard’s broken finger put GM Ken Holland on alert for a backup goaltender when Ty Conklin stumbled. But Joey MacDonald has played pretty well the last few games, so it’s possible that concern may ease. Despite their offensive firepower and defensive depth, the Wings would like to add more — and who wouldn’t? — by adding another reliable d-man or scoring forward with size. Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News believes Sabres center Paul Gaustad would be ideal for the Red Wings.
Edmonton Oilers – One of the few teams that seems prepared to deal for the future, the Oilers’ needs are obvious: There’s lots of young talent in Edmonton, but not much of it is on the blueline. They’re going to hold on to rugged veteran Andy Sutton, who may not have brought much in return, so he was extended on Monday with a one-year deal. But the Oilers could put into play Shawn Horcoff (even though he’s carrying a big contract), Ryan Smyth (though he has a no-trade clause), Tom Gilbert and Ales Hemsky (who always seems to be in the rumor mill). Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal believes there’s a deal to be made with Nashville in which Hemsky would become a Predator in exchange for defenseman Jonathon Blum and perhaps a high draft choice.
Los Angeles Kings – Like Nashville, the Kings seem to perpetually live with an anemic offense. His team last in the league in goals scored, GM Dean Lombardi thought he had answered this problem last offseason, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Under both Terry Murray and now Darryl Sutter, the Kings play a structured defensive game, but no one seems capable of producing under those conditions. They may have to unload a big contract (or a few smaller ones) to create the cap space required for a big-ticket scorer. One suggestion from Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal was for Lombardi to pick up Jeff Carter from Columbus. It would be a fascinating move, reuniting him with his on-ice and off-ice running buddy Mike Richards. Lombardi would have to get Columbus to take some salary back in return, but he has a goalie Columbus would want in Jonathan Bernier. In fact, lots of teams are probably asking Lombardi about Bernier, a good netminder who watches Jonathan Quick from the Kings’ bench most nights.
Minnesota Wild — Another team battling for one of the last playoff spots. GM Chuck Fletcher told Mike Russo of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’s got to balance the desire to improve for a postseason run against the cost of surrendering young assets that could be part of a stronger team down the road. Fletcher is still kicking himself, or should be, for trading Nick Leddy to Chicago. With concussions taking both Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse from the lineup, he made a deal with the Rangers last week for pending UFA Erik Christensen, giving up Casey Wellman, who no longer fit the “top prospect” label in Minny. There are questions about how strong the Wild’s defense corps is and they are complicated by Greg Zanon, injured Clayton Stoner, and frequent scratch Mike Lundin all pending UFAs. This could be an area of focus for Fletcher. With a pair of good goalies in Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, he’s got some depth to make a deal for the right guy.
Nashville Predators – The chronic problem for the Preds is lack of offense, so adding a scoring forward has to be considered a priority for GM David Poile. You’d have to think Ales Hemsky, Jeff Carter, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and just about anyone with a hint of offensive ability will be considered, but like other GMs, Poile told David Boclair of The City Paper last week that there are too many buyers and not enough sellers at the moment.” It is, perhaps, more important to make that move now than before as both of their star defensemen, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, won’t be inclined to stick around if they feel the team isn’t making serious moves to upgrade and take the next step. A center who can score would be ideal. Suter is a pending UFA and most of the league would line up to have him even as a rental, but Poile almost certainly won’t trade him, and negotiations with his agent are ongoing.
Phoenix Coyotes – Most of the rumors about the Coyotes have to do with where the franchise will be located next season as the NHL seeks to end its ownership of the club. Although GM Don Maloney has reportedly been assured that he’ll have the resources he needs to make deals, it’s still unclear whether he’d be able to make the type of move that sees the Coyotes grab an impact offensive player with a large contract. Regardless, the first order of business might be to upgrade his defense corps. He’s got some pending UFA’s on his roster. Dealing captain Shane Doan is probably not in the cards, especially with the team having won five straight and in the playoff hunt. But should they fall out, the name most often mentioned in rumors has been 39-year-old forward Ray Whitney, who Pierre LeBrun said on TSN is being sought by the Sharks, Rangers and Bruins.
St. Louis Blues – This is one of those teams where tampering with the lineup might upset the team’s chemistry. Nevertheless, some differing thoughts have emerged on how the Blues might proceed. One school of thought has them going after some scoring depth, another has them targeting a defenseman, with Hal Gill’s and Johnny Oduya’s names coming up in rumors. But St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon believes there’s nothing wrong with the Blues defense. And GM Doug Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of The Post- Dispatch that with his forwards getting healthy again, he might not make a move at all. Some of that could be budget related, but with Andy McDonald back from his concussion and David Perron feeling more comfortable after his long layoff due to the same injury, the need for more offense could be resolving itself.
San Jose Sharks – Getting Martin Havlat back from his hamstring surgery before the season ends would be a boost, both offensively and (if he regains his leg strength) for the speed up front that always seems to be a question for the Sharks. David Pollak of The San Jose Mercury-News wrote last week that the Sharks were fishing for a scoring forward, especially with Havlat not due back until March. Besides the usual suspects (Teemu Selanne and Shane Doan), he named the Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger among others as a possibility. There have been suggestions the Sharks are looking for a good two-way forward who can be a reliable checker, and that has led to various suggestions that Montreal’s Travis Moen, Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad and Washington’s Mike Knuble are targets of GM Doug Wilson.
Vancouver Canucks – There was talk that the Canucks might be looking to add depth up front, but if big Byron Bitz — the former Bruin who missed all of last year to injury but was recently recalled and who played with the Sedins this week — can continue to create space and get points, it would change that need. Of course, Bitz isnt’ in the category of the kind of player Jason Botchford of The Vancouver Province said was rumored coming to the Canucks last month. That would be Corey Perry of the Ducks in a trade that made little sense in that it sent Corey Schneider south to a team that already has a pretty good goalie in Jonas Hiller. More realistically, Vancouver would probably still like to get another reliable defenseman to add depth. As for Schneider, any deal involving him likely won’t happen at the deadline.
Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference teams, what they are shopping for and who they might be shopping.
The story on this song, Motown’s first million seller and first national Number 1 hit, is that the Miracles recorded it and released it, and then a couple of weeks later, the label’s boss, Berry Gordy, grew worried it was too slow to be a national hit. So he phoned Smokey at 1 o’clock one morning, told him to round up the group and get down to the studio at 3 AM to recut a faster version. Gordy was right. The hit is the version you hear above. The rare original version, only released in Detroit, is below.
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