It’s exactly four weeks, or 28 days until the most anticipated day of the year for hockey fans — trade deadline day. And for the first time in a long time it will happen on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday.
But how many deals will take place? Will the Oilers make a move in the next month to jumpstart their annual playoff push? It’s all but guaranteed the Oilers will make a move, but don’t expect them to land that coveted left-winger to play with Ales Hemsky. If Tamblowe makes that type of acquisition I would be stunned. Will the Flames tinker to ensure they get out of the first round? I think so.
Please don’t waste our time with an Eklund-like tale of Spezza for Grebeshkov and Cole, or some other fabricated rumour from your co-worker’s sister’s housecleaner that Lecavalier is coming to Edmonton.
Let’s try to look at it realistically. Most teams don’t want to add any salary past this year, so that takes a lot of players out of the equation. Not all of course, but many. So pending UFAs and RFAs will garner the most interest.
In the East there are five teams out of the race right now. The Leafs, Lightning, Senators, Thrashers and Islanders barring a major push in the next month will be sellers, and here are the players that might attract interest.
Along with their contract status after this season, and what their approximate cap hit would be if acquired on the 4th of March.
Mathieu Schneider | D-man | UFA | $1.125 million
Niclas Havelid | D-man | UFA | $540,000
Colby Armstrong | Forward | RFA | $240,000
Marty Reasoner | Forward | UFA | $200,000
Eric Perrin | Forward | UFA | $150,000
Schneider has the most appeal and will certainly get moved for something. He can quarterback a PP better than most, is a good puck mover and partnered with the right guy he can be solid 5-on-5.
Armstrong will get lots of interest, but if Atlanta deals him that just shows you why Don Waddell should be gone. Armstrong is a great energy guy and Pittsburgh would love to have him back.
The rest are bit players at best, and depending on a need might garner some interest.
New York Islanders
Bill Guerin | Forward | UFA | $900,000
Doug Weight | Forward | UFA | $350,000
Mike Comrie | Forward | UFA | $800,000
Richard Park | Forward | UFA | $160,000
Guerin has a no movement clause, so he will only go to a team he thinks has a legitimate shot, but expect him to be moved. Weight told me when he was in Edmonton that he would love to stay in Long Island, but wouldn’t be against a move. Translation he will be moved if they find a taker. Both of those veterans could add something. Guerin has 15 goals to date, while Weight is second on the Islanders in points with 34.
Comrie won’t get as much interest and the Islanders do need to keep some younger forwards around, plus Hillary Duff probably likes having him in New York. Park could be a serviceable 4th liner if a team was looking for depth.
Filip Kuba | D-man | UFA | $600,000
Jason Smith | D-man | One year left | $2.6 next year, $520,000 this year
Chris Neil | Forward | UFA | $240,000
Dean McCammond | Forward | UFA | $180,000
Neil is clearly the most attractive at almost every team would love what he brings. The Oilers would love to get an energy guy who can fight but can also play a regular shift. Kuba is as good as gone if the Sens can find a taker, and they would love to unload Jason Smith, but his foot speed and his contract for next year will make it tough.
McCammond can still fly, and if a team floats a mid-to-late round pick in Bryan Murray’s direction I could see him leaving. There has been lots of speculation surrounding Spezza being moved, but I’d be stunned if that happens. He’s 25, has scored 90 points three times already and is a top-five playmaking centre. Murray would be an idiot to move him.
Olaf Kolzig | Goalie | UFA | $300,000
Gary Roberts | Forward | UFA | $240,000
Mark Recchi | Forward | UFA | $240,000
Marek Malik | D-man | UFA | $240,000
Matt Pettinger | Forward | UFA | $220,000
Not a stellar list by any stretch. Roberts still has old man strength and is a great character guy, so I can see someone taking a shot on him. Recchi possibly, but his foot speed has deteriorated badly. Kolzig would be a good insurance policy. And I would be stunned if either Lecavalier or St. Louis is moved.
The Bolts would probably take a bag of pucks for any of the other five guys, just to save a bit of money down the stretch, but the long-term pain in dealing either of the big guns would be tough to take. Right now it is more likely that St. Louis gets moved ahead of Lecavalier, but, again, I think that is a stretch.
Nik Antropov | Forward | UFA | $410,000
Dominic Moore | Forward | UFA | $180,000
Pavel Kubina | D-man | One year left | $5 million next year, $1 million this year
Jason Blake | Forward | Three years left at $4 million | $800,000 this year)
Tomas Kaberle | D-man | Two years left at $4.25 million | $850,000 this year
Brian Burke wants to make a splash so you know he will make a few moves at the deadline. Moore is cheap and has become a pretty good PK guy, but he wouldn’t get lots in return. I can’t see any team really wanting Antropov, but someone might take a flier. Kaberle has a no-movement clause, but his salary is pretty decent and he would attract lots of interest if the Leafs can convince him to be traded. He and coach Ron Wilson don’t get along.
The other two are wishful thinking on the Leafs’ part and when you consider they both wear numbers higher than 40, then Burke clearly wants to move them. (In case you missed it Burke said last week that he would like no one to wear a number higher than 40. Stupid, but true.)
There are some other teams in the East who might consider being sellers, but at this point these are the sure bets to be out of the race. The interesting team to watch will be Pittsburgh. Remember they came out of nowhere to get Hossa last year, so don’t be surprised if they try to make a statement either way in the next four weeks.
In the West it’s a little harder to determine who the sellers are. Right now, even the 15th place Blues are only six points out of eighth place, but jumping seven teams to get in would be a stretch.
I think there might be four sellers in a month’s time, and maybe less, but here are my four.
Keith Tkachuk | Forward | UFA | $900,000
Dan Hinote | Forward | UFA | $200,000
Andy McDonald | Forward | UFA | $660,000
Brad Winchester | Forward | UFA | $120,000
Manny Legace | Goalie | UFA | $430,000
Tkachuk has a no-move clause, but the right team could persuade him to lift it. I can’t see the Blues signing him next season, unless he takes a big pay cut.
McDonald is the interesting one. The Blues are trying to extend him right now, but if they can’t by the deadline you wonder if they would move him to ensure they get something for him. Hinote is another pest who can play decent enough and would have some cache on the market. Same for Winchester, who is having a career year in St.Louis, but he is only 27 and dirt cheap right now. I suspect the Blues would like to re-sign him to a two-year deal.
The Blues would almost take anything to rid themselves of Legace, and considering there aren’t many UFA goalies that teams would be willing to deal he might garner some slight interest.
Denis Gauthier | D-man | UFA | $440,000
Sean O’Donnell | D-man | UFA | $250,000
Kyle Calder | Forward | UFA | $540,000
Derek Armstrong | Forward | UFA | $320,000
The Kings aren’t out of it yet, but with only eleven home games left out of 33 I don’t expect them to stick around. All of the Kings best assets are young and Dean Lombardi is not an idiot, so I would be shocked to see him move any of his young guns.
These four don’t exactly make you tingle with excitement, but Gauthier and O’Donnell are veterans who can play tough, and would be added depth on a blueline. Don’t be surprised to see the Wings or Sharks land one of these guys to protect themselves in case of an injury. Armstrong is near the end of his career and would love one last shot at a cup if the Kings can find a taker, while Calder would be a depth guy at best.
None of these guys would be a difference maker, but they might be an unsung guy for one important game during a Cup run.
Steve Sullivan | Forward | UFA | $640,000
Radek Bonk | Forward | UFA | $320,000
Scott Nichol | Forward | UFA | $180,000
Vern Fiddler | Forward | UFA | $150,000
Greg Devries | D-man | UFA | $550,000
Greg Zanon | D-man | UFA | $150,000
The Preds have won a few straight to get them within four points of the final spot, and they desperately want to get to the playoffs so they might not make any moves, but in a month’s time if they’re still six points out with four teams ahead of them then David Poile might have to sell off some assets.
Nichol would be attractive to many teams due to his salary, his tenacity and grit. The Oilers would love a guy like this to bring energy as would many other teams. Bonk is a good draw man and can be a good third- or fourth-line guy. Sullivan is an interesting player. The Preds have got nothing out of him for two years due to injury, so you wonder if they try to at least recoup something. Devries is a willy veteran who could solidify a third pairing. I’m sure lots of teams would take Zanon, who plays 20 minutes a night and is only a -1 in Nashville. Unless the Preds expect him to command a big raise in the off-season I don’t see why they would trade him.
Ian Laperriere | Forward | UFA | $230,000
Tyler Arnason | Forward | UFA | $350,000
Jordan Leopold | D-man | UFA | $300,000
Daniel Tjarnqvist | D-man | UFA | $150,000
Andrew Raycroft | Goalie | UFA | $160,000
Laperriere is a great locker room guy and an energy guy, so I’m sure lots of teams would have interest in him. If a team could predict they would play the Oilers, if they make it, in the first round, then picking up Arnason would be worth it. He plays and produces his best against the Oilers.
Leopold has been a bust since coming to Colorado, and if they could get anything for him they would. He might garner some interest, because when he is healthy, which is rare, he can still move the puck efficiently. Raycroft might be an insurance policy, albeit a risky one. The Avs would love to move Darcy Tucker, who was carved in the Rocky Mountain News last week as being the worst UFA signing in Avs history. He has one year left at $2.2 million so I doubt there will be any takers, but he might be a surprise come the deadline.
These are the nine teams who look to be out of it come Mar. 4, so they would be the best bets to be sellers. There are some other names that could be moved. What will the Hawks do with their goaltending? Can they afford to move Khabibulin? The Habs have eleven UFAs this summer; will Bob Gainey move one or two of them in order to make a big splash?
And will the Wild move Marian Gaborik? He could be the Marian Hossa of this year. Sure he is an injury waiting to happen, but when healthy he is a difference maker, and it sounds like there is little chance he will return to Minny. He should be cleared to return from his hip surgery in late March. Will a team take a chance on him?
He might become the most talked about player leading up to the deadline, because outside of him it doesn’t look like there is another big-name player that will be dealt. Let’s hope not.