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Searching for depth

Tuomo Ruutu is a physical scoring winger who fits the mold of player the Red Wings are looking for. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Tuomo Ruutu is a physical scoring winger who fits the mold of player the Red Wings are looking for. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

The deals made by Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli in the weeks leading up to last season's February trade deadline provided the additional depth for his team's successful Stanley Cup run.

With more than $3.1 million in available salary cap space this season, Chiarelli has sufficient space to test the trade market again in the run-up to this season's deadline.

Given his team's performance of late, Chiarelli has little reason to make any trades now. However, that doesn't mean he’ll stay away from the trade market, though his aggressiveness will depend on his club's needs as the season goes on.

If Chiarelli does make a deal, it'll likely be for players in the final year of their contracts.

The Boston Herald noted several Bruins (forwards Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, defensemen Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk) are unrestricted free agents next summer, while Tuukka Rask and Benoit Pouliot are restricted free agents.

Chiarelli will undoubtedly try to re-sign several of those players and must ensure he has sufficient cap space to do so.

The Bruins aren't the only Cup contender with enough cap space to add depth to their lineup near the trade deadline.

CBC's Elliotte Friedman noted the Chicago Blackhawks ($5.5 million in cap space), Detroit Red Wings ($5.6 million) and San Jose Sharks ($1.9 million) will also be worth watching come February.

Friedman reported the Blackhawks will try to land a puck-moving blueliner (similar to former Blackhawk Brian Campbell) whose contract expires after this season.

Finding one will be a tall order. Those who fit the bill (Ottawa's Filip Kuba, Montreal's Chris Campoli, Toronto's John-Michael Liles, Washington's Dennis Wideman) currently aren't available and will remain that way if their respective teams are in the playoff chase at the deadline.

They may also target a second-line center. The Hawks recently moved Patrick Kane from center to right wing on the first line with Jonathan Toews, which the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believed created a void that needs to be filled at center on the second line.

Matheson considered center Dave Bolland best suited for the third line, while Patrick Sharp is better on right wing than at center. Matheson feels no one should blame the Blackhawks if they showed interest in Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner, a teammate of Kane's during their junior hockey days.

Gagner's future in Edmonton remains murky and he will be available if the Oilers drop out of playoff contention near the trade deadline.

The Red Wings have been linked by Internet-generated rumors to Washington's Alexander Semin, but their preference is a physical winger with a decent scoring touch, such as Carolina Hurricanes right winger Tuomo Ruutu.

Veteran Wing Todd Bertuzzi has seen his skills decline to the point where this could be his final year as an NHL player. With only seven points in 20 games so far, the 36-year-old Bertuzzi is on pace for only 25 points this season.

Ruutu, 28, had eight goals and 14 points in 29 games on a thin Hurricanes roster, putting him on pace for 22 goals and 38 points and making him an attractive replacement for Bertuzzi in the short and long term.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson has always shown a willingness to make moves near the trade deadline, so this season shouldn't be considered any different.

How much Wilson will spend, and what roster needs he will address, depend on the return he gets from shopping goalie Antero Niittymaki, who'll be returning soon from off-season hip surgery.

With Thomas Greiss playing well as backup to Antti Niemi, Niittymaki is likely to become trade bait heading into the New Year.

It's believed Wilson won’t get much in return for Niittymaki, at best a draft pick or a minor league player. Still, if a rival GM becomes desperate for goaltending depth by February, Wilson could land a depth player.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.

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