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Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks has 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games this season. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks has 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games this season. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s interesting how things can change over the course of a long NHL season. Injuries, slumps, emerging talent and improved performances can completely change the roster needs of a team over an 82-game schedule.

Those factors also have a significant impact on trade rumors. Often, players believed to be trade bait in October turn out to be invaluable come February, while some untouchables in the fall pop up in the rumor mill by mid-winter.

For example, take Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and right winger Martin Havlat, both of whom are eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer.

Last fall Khabibulin was on waivers as Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon tried, in vain, to trade him and Havlat was expected to be shopped by the trade deadline.

Fast forward to February and Khabibulin has been the Blackhawks’ best netminder, while reports out of Chicago claim management is considering offering a contract extension to Havlat.

Another example is Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik, whose desire to test the 2009 UFA market made his trade status a dominant storyline for several weeks last fall.

Alas, nagging injuries, which ultimately required surgery, put him on the shelf for most of the season, making the likelihood of a trade by the March 4 deadline remote, at best.

Yet another example is Boston Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez, whom many expected to be shopped for a defenseman or scoring forward.

But thanks to the Bruins’ impressive performance this season – due in part to the rise of young talent such as Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Milan Lucic – GM Peter Chiarelli has the luxury of sticking with Fernandez and Tim Thomas as his tandem for the remainder of the season.

Florida Panthers blueliner Jay Bouwmeester also fits into this group. He was a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline last season when the Panthers were off to yet another slow start. However, the team decided to hold onto him and now that they’re in playoff contention there’s a good chance Bouwmeester could finish this season in Florida.

Still, rumors persist Bouwmeester won’t re-sign with the Panthers and that continues to stoke trade speculation.  However, the extra revenue a post-season berth could bring, combined with a likely boost in season ticket sales, Florida could opt to risk losing him for nothing this summer.

Finally there’s Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger. Long considered an untouchable asset, Pronger’s name has popped up in the rumor mill lately because of the Ducks’ struggles.

It wouldn’t make sense for Anaheim to move Pronger because he’s the only top-six defenseman they have signed for next season, but some pundits are now suggesting if the Ducks fall out of the playoff race by the end of February the once unthinkable could occur and Pronger could be dealt.

The immediate future remains uncertain for the aforementioned players and anything can happen between now and March 4, but these cases in particular show just how drastically things can change over the course of a season.

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

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