With the NHL holiday trade freeze in place from Dec. 19-27, it’s an appropriate time to examine which player from each team could become trade bait. Today we’ll look at the Eastern Conference and on Thursday the Western Conference.
Atlanta Thrashers: Kari Lehtonen. Most trade rumors center upon Ilya Kovalchuk, but the Thrashers will have a logjam in goal once Lehtonen returns in January. Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg look to be their tandem on the team’s upward surge and that leaves Lehtonen the odd man out.
Boston Bruins: Andrew Ference. The Bruins are in need of offensive depth and Ference is a potential trade candidate due to his UFA eligibility next summer. He could be packaged with a high draft pick, which the Bruins have several of in 2010.
Buffalo Sabres: Henrik Tallinder. His UFA status next summer combined with the emergence of rookie Tyler Myers as a force on the Sabres blueline could make Tallinder trade bait if management opts to go shopping for depth.
Carolina Hurricanes: Ray Whitney. They’re believed to be peddling defenseman Aaron Ward and winger Scott Walker, but the 37-year-old Whitney – with 24 points in 33 games – is their most valuable trade chip.
Florida Panthers: Jordan Leopold. He’s a UFA after this season and only making $1.75 million. If the Panthers are out of the playoff race by late February, look for Leopold to go to a team in need of a mobile defenseman for depth. However, if Florida is still in the hunt, they’ll be reticent to move any assets that will help them get there.
Montreal Canadiens: Jaroslav Halak. The word is the Habs are shopping Halak, who surely yearns for more playing time, something he’s not going to get backing up Carey Price. The Canadiens are seeking offensive depth and could use him as the centerpiece in a package.
New Jersey Devils: Paul Martin. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello will retain Martin once he returns from injury, but he’s eligible for UFA status in July and the team has played well in his absence. If Martin has value on the trade market as the March deadline approaches, he’ll be moved.
New York Islanders: Martin Biron. It’s widely believed Biron will be shopped once Rick DiPietro returns from injury. With Dwayne Roloson getting the bulk of the starts, it looks more and more likely Biron will be dealt. But it all depends on when DiPietro makes his return.
New York Rangers: Chris Higgins. The three-time 20-goal scorer has been struggling in New York, unable to find his touch. With the Rangers falling in the standings, Higgins could hit the trade block in 2010.
Ottawa Senators: Chris Campoli. He isn’t the puck-moving blueliner the Senators hoped when they picked him up from Long Island last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer and with the Senators having limited cap space, Campoli could be moved.
Philadelphia Flyers: Jeff Carter. He’s the only significant Flyer without a movement clause who could fetch the type of return that might shake the team out of its slump. Management is loath to move him, but if they fail to rebound the pressure to shop Carter will be overwhelming.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Maxime Talbot. There’s little reason for management to make a deal now, but if the need arises down the stretch the popular Talbot could be moved. The Pens played well during his early season injury absence and they’ll need to free up cap space to re-sign other key players next summer.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Lukas Krajicek. GM Brian Lawton said he doesn’t intend on placing Krajicek, recently demoted, on re-entry waivers, leading to speculation he’s working on trading the blueliner, perhaps for a draft pick.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Lee Stempniak. Earlier in the season there was talk of the Leafs shopping Matt Stajan and/or Alexei Ponikarovsky, but that now is unlikely given the Leafs surge. Stempniak, like Stajan and Ponikarovsky, is a UFA next summer and a possible trade candidate.
Washington Capitals: Eric Fehr. The Capitals remain a strong offensive team that lacks experienced defensive grit crucial to post-season success. They’ll have to re-sign key players next summer, which could make budding star Fehr trade bait now.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays 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.