Pending UFA Chris Phillips has been mentioned in the rumor mill for the past few weeks. (Getty Images)
In another transaction well ahead of the trade deadline, Chris Kelly was shipped to Boston from Ottawa Tuesday in exchange for a second round pick. He joins former Leaf (and new Flyer) Kris Versteeg, former Leaf (and second-time Anaheim Duck) Francois Beauchemin and former Blackhawk (and new Florida Panther) Jack Skille as the latest NHLers to be traded.
Who else should prepare to be dealt by or before the Feb. 28 deadline? Here are the top 10 players we think are most likely to change addresses:
Richards was the subject of intense trade speculation at the start of the season, but as the Stars unexpectedly soared through the standings in the last months of 2010, many assumed Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk would be loathe to give him up – even in the face of the pivot’s pending unrestricted free agency this summer. However, the Stars have won just two of their past 10 games. If that means Richards is back on the block, there will be no shortage of teams (including the Rangers and, perhaps, the Penguins) lining up to acquire him.
The Blues still have a fair shot at making the playoffs, but currently are 13th in the Western Conference and have won only three of their past 10. Unless there’s a drastic turnaround, GM Doug Armstrong will have no choice but to look at moving Brewer, a UFA at season’s end. Brewer does have a no-trade clause that gives him control over any deal, but at age 31 he may want to take a shot with a Stanley Cup contender while he still has the chance.
The Flames winger already has set a new career high in goals – 19, breaking his old mark of 15 – and will be a UFA this summer. The Flames’ recent hot streak may give interim GM Jay Feaster pause to consider dealing Glencross, but with the team already pushing the cap limit for next season, he may have no choice but to deal the 28-year-old.
The Blue Jackets are another team on the periphery of the playoff race and Hejda is another UFA defenseman who can munch major minutes. At $2 million a season, he’s a relative bargain and will interest any team looking to bolster the blueline.
Montador is a veteran journeyman who is a UFA after this season and who is second on the Sabres in plus-minus (plus-9). Buffalo currently sits in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference, but with a new owner coming in, the team may want to start anew with as many fresh faces as possible, as soon as possible.
Injuries have limited the 30-year-old Vandermeer to just 37 games this season. But he’s a rugged D-man who has overcome a slow start to the year to become one of the more dependable Oilers of late. He’s also a UFA this summer, which is always an attractive attribute for any GM looking for blueline depth.
The Islanders already have dealt goalie Dwayne Roloson and defenseman James Wisniewski this year and Martinek seems a safe bet to be the next to go. The 34-year-old Czech native, a UFA after the season, can provide upwards of 20 minutes of ice time to any team that acquires him and his cap hit (a reasonable $1.5 million) makes him a decent option for virtually any cash-strapped contender that needs help.
Arnott’s second go-round in New Jersey has not gone as planned, if not from an individual perspective, then certainly from a team perspective. That said, the Devils have been one of the league’s better teams since changing coaches and still have at least a theoretical shot at the post-season, leaving some to speculate they may choose to keep Arnott (a UFA at season’s end) around. But many still think the 6-foot-5, 36-year-old pivot will be moved to a real contender and we do as well.
Kaberle has been a staple of trade speculation for the past few years, but now that his contract is due to expire at the end of the season, it’s a virtual certainty he’ll be dealt by the only NHL team he’s played for. Boston has been mentioned as the most likely destination, but if Leafs GM Brian Burke doesn’t get his asking price, it won’t be a complete surprise if he pulls Kaberle off the market.
The Senators have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season and as a result Chris Kelly (traded to Boston for draft picks) and Mike Fisher (traded to Nashville for draft picks) have paid the price and been moved out of town. Phillips – a UFA who also has a no-trade clause – will be the next to go; the 32-year-old is having a horrendous year (a team-worst minus-27), but his experience and grit would help any team.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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