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Western Conference

Patrick Marleau's contract extension could make him hard to deal.

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Patrick Marleau's contract extension could make him hard to deal.

With the NHL’s Christmas “trade freeze” set to begin on Dec. 19 and mid-season fast approaching, here’s a look at the latest Western Conference rumors.

Anaheim Ducks: GM Brian Burke has to dump about $900,000 to fit Scott Niedermayer’s contract under next season’s salary cap. Rampant speculation suggests Burke could shop a defenseman (Chris Pronger excepted) with Mathieu Schneider, Francois Beauchemin and Sean O’Donnell considered the leading candidates.

Calgary Flames:
Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff struggles have fueled speculation GM Darryl Sutter might be seeking an experienced backup. Sutter must also re-sign several key players, which could prompt him to free up cap space by shopping Craig Conroy, David Hale or Stephane Yelle.

Chicago Blackhawks: Their need for an experienced puck-moving blueliner has given rise to talk of GM Dale Tallon’s interest in the Ducks’ Mathieu Schneider, but his salary and the Ducks possible asking price of an affordable young player or high draft pick could be too rich for Tallon’s blood.

Columbus Blue Jackets: GM Scott Howson has been on the lookout for a scoring center since training camp and there’s a growing opinion he might target Edmonton’s struggling Jarret Stoll, whom Howson knows well from his days as the Oilers assistant-GM.

Colorado Avalanche: The recent struggles of goalies Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj has some observers suggesting Avs management could soon be in the market for an upgrade between the pipes. Defenseman John-Michael Liles, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, has recently been suggested as trade bait.

Dallas Stars:
Their recent change in management sparked significant improvement, but injuries are starting to bite into the Stars’ roster. Co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson would like to bolster their depth, but there’s not much in terms of affordable young talent they can offer up to tempt rival clubs.

Detroit Red Wings:
When you’re the top team in the NHL like the Wings, you’re not plagued by trade rumors. Still, GM Ken Holland will probably keep an ear open for any affordable bargains by the trade deadline to further bolster his club’s depth.

Edmonton Oilers: Part of the reason the Oilers are struggling this season is the inconsistent play of forwards Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll. Both were healthy scratches in a recent game, leading to speculation one or both could be dealt soon, with Ottawa, Boston and Columbus rumored to be potential destinations.

Los Angeles Kings: The rebuilding continues for the Kings, with goaltending and defense the main areas of concern. It’s been suggested veteran blueliner Rob Blake might waive his no-trade clause for a chance to play for a contender this season, but at this point in his career it appears Blake is content to remain with the Kings.

Minnesota Wild:
Like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Wild lack offensive depth at center, which could force GM Doug Risebrough into the trade market by the February trade deadline. To land such a center Risebrough could tap into his blueline depth and offer up Keith Carney, Sean Hill or Petteri Nummelin along with a draft pick or prospect.

Nashville Predators:
Forget about GM David Poile shopping restricted free agents Shea Weber or Martin Erat, as he’s indicated his intent to re-sign them before next summer. The Preds are lacking depth at left wing and Poile might consider shoring up that position by February, but don’t expect another blockbuster deal like the one he made with Philadelphia last season.

Phoenix Coyotes:
If they’re out of the playoff race by the trade deadline, GM Don Maloney might consider dumping some salary. Don’t expect Ed Jovanovski to be dealt as he has no desire to waive his no-trade clause, but fellow blueliners Derek Morris and Nick Boynton might become trade options.

San Jose Sharks: Despite their recent improvement, trade rumors continue to dog this team. Patrick Marleau has figured prominently in talk, but his new multi-year contract that begins next season makes a deal a remote possibility. GM Doug Wilson might instead use under-achieving forwards Steve Bernier and Joe Pavelski as bait to land an experienced offensive blueliner.

St. Louis Blues:
This club needs second line scoring and to address that management could tap its considerable blueline depth by perhaps shopping Barrett Jackman or Bryce Salvador. Don’t expect the Blues to find many takers for Jay McKee as his expensive salary and injury history should keep him in St. Louis.

Vancouver Canucks: Having bounced back from a slow start, the Canucks most pressing need is second-line scoring, leading to frequent rumors GM Dave Nonis could shop a defenseman for a scoring winger. If Nonis does go shopping it’ll likely be closer to the trade deadline and he’s unlikely to make any radical changes to his roster by then. 

Next week Rumor Roundup will look at the Eastern Conference.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, www.spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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