The NHL trade deadline is less than 2 weeks away so it is time that we take a look at what trades might or might not happen between now and then. Here are some of the selling teams to watch as we approach the deadline.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are clearly the worst team in the NHL this season and they also have several players that they will likely trade. The two soon to be unrestricted free agent veterans that will likely draw the most attention are center Doug Weight and winger Bill Guerin. Despite the Islanders problems both are having decent seasons and will be able to provide some solid secondary scoring for any team looking to make a playoff run. Mike Comrie is another forward that is available but I am not sure there will be much interest. Andy Hilbert is also a pending UFA and could be a useful and cheap addition for some teams who don’t want to spend too much at the deadline.
The Thrashers are likely the unanimous choice as the league’s second worst team and they have already made a couple moves, first by moving Jason Williams to Columbus a while back and more recently by sending Mathieu Schneider to the Canadiens. The next obvious candidate to be traded is pending UFA Niclas Havelid who could be a nice pickup for a team looking to add some depth on defense. There has been some talk that either Kari Lehtonen or Johan Hedberg could be traded but more likely a Lehtonen trade will occur in the off season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the more interesting teams to watch will be the Maple Leafs because everyone is wondering what new GM Brian Burke will do. Many are expecting Burke to make a number of significant moves to turn over his lineup, but the reality is Burke is under no pressure (except fan and media pressure which he doesn’t care about) to do very much at all. The reason is, most of the Leaf roster is signed for next season. The only unrestricted free agents on the team are Nik Antropov , Dominic Moore and Brad May and all indications are that Burke would like to sign Moore to a contract extension if the dollars make sense. That means Antropov is the only player that Burke is almost 100% certain to trade and if he doesn’t get the right offers there is certainly a chance that that is all he will do. But if the right offers come along you can expect Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Mike Van Ryn to all be available. The public word from Burke is that he does not expect Tomas Kaberle to be traded as he is reluctant to give up someone of Kaberle’s skill set who is signed long term at a very reasonable contract. While this makes perfect sense one also has to wonder if he is attempting to push the price of Kaberle up. Before the season began many thought that goalie Vesa Toskala would be one of the Leafs most sought after players at the trade deadline but that seems unlikely due to Toskala’s poor play. Finally, do not be surprised if the Leafs become buyers of contracts at the deadline. By that I mean the Leafs have the cap space to take on contracts that other teams are looking to dump in order to free up cap space to make another trade and in doing so add a draft pick. For example, if the Penguins needed to free some salary cap space to make another trade, Burke may be willing to take on Miroslav Satan and the remainder of his $3.5 million salary if the Penguins also sent the Leafs a third round pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning
There has been a lot of talk about the Lightning considering trading Vincent Lecavalier but I doubt this happens at the trade deadline. This is more of an off season move if it were to happen. But the Lightning have a couple veterans that might interest contending teams that likely won’t cost too much. Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts. Marek Malik may also draw some attention as a depth defenseman.
Probably the only team that is a sure bet to be sellers in the western conference at the trade deadline are the Colorado Avalanche and they will have several players available for trade. Pending UFA’s that they are likely to trade are Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold. The other big name that is rumoured to be up for grabs is Ryan Smyth but with his contract for 3 more years for a total of $16.5 million that might be a tough sell. Only teams with ample salary cap room in the upcoming years will likely consider him.
The Ducks are an interesting team to watch as they could either do a whole lot if they decide to give up on this season and rebuild. Brendan Morrison, Todd Marchant, Rob Niedermayer, Travis Moen, Sammy Pahlsson, Scott Niedermayer, Francois Beauchemin, Bret Hedican, and Steve Montador are all pending UFA’s that will be available at the right price and there has also been talk that Chris Pronger might be shopped as well. This is a team looking to find younger assets to add to their group of talented young forwards that includes Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz and Ryan. It is quite possible that anyone else on the team could be had for the right price and considering most of them won a Stanley Cup just 2 seasons ago they may be highly sought after by several cup contenders. With the emergence of Jonas Hiller as a very good goalie, do not be surprised if Anaheim looks at the possibility of moving JS Giguere should Giguere give any indication that he may be willing to waive his no trade clause to get to a team who will give him 60-70 starts a season. If this happens look no further than Toronto where GM Burke like to bring in players he knows well and is currently very unhappy with their existing goaltending situation.
Ottawa is a strange club to follow. Despite their recent winning streak with their new coach they are still in very tough to make the playoffs. They pretty much have to win 20 of their remaining 26 games to have a realistic shot at the playoffs. That said, there are still whispers that the Senators management hasn’t given up and will consider being buyers if they continue to play well leading up to the deadline. I believe it would be a mistake for them to be players in the rent-a-player market as they really need to get some younger prospects into their organization, not trading them away for soon to be free agents. If the Senators do become sellers look to Chris Neil and Filip Kuba being the most likely players to be dealt while Antoine Vermette is also a candidate in the right deal. If they could find any suckers to take Jason Smith’s contract off their hands they would be ecstatic but I don’t see that happening. Don’t forget about Martin Gerber though as some teams looking for an experienced backup might be willing to pick him up on re-entry waivers (Calgary, Washington come to mind).
The Coyotes not long ago were in 5th spot in the western conference but have been in free fall in recent weeks and once again find them on the outside of the playoffs and more likely than not in seller mode because of that, and because of their financial problem. The talk is the Coyotes may be willing to trade Olli Jokinen and Derek Morris to free themselves of their hefty contracts and if they decide to completely give up on their season pending UFA’s Stephen Reinprecht and Ken Klee will also be dumped for whatever they can get for them (which may not be much).