The NHL Olympic roster freeze lifts at midnight ET on February 23, leaving only 10 days for GMs to make any moves before the trade deadline at 3 pm ET on March 5. Only five teams – Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders – are considered sellers. Depending upon the performance of several playoff bubble teams, however, that list could grow by March 5.
In the Eastern Conference, five teams – Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils – remain just outside the playoff picture. In the West, four clubs – Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators – are still in the hunt.
These nine clubs are considered buyers for now, but several could become sellers if they struggle leading up to the trade deadline. Here’s a look at the notable players from these teams who could become trade bait by March 5.
David Booth, LW, Vancouver Canucks: Booth’s been a bust with the Canucks, who could try to dump the remaining year (at a cap hit of $4.25 million) from their payroll. A team that needs to reach next season’s salary cap minimum could take a chance on him.
Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils: Brodeur has admitted if Devils GM Lou Lamoriello approached him about a trade he’d consider it. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and with a $4.5-million cap hit would be a more affordable rental goalie than Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
Marian Gaborik, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets: Gaborik is set to return from a broken collarbone following the Olympic break. Like Brodeur, he’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and isn’t expected to be re-signed. The Jackets could shop him if they stumble following the Olympic break.
Olli Jokinen, C, Winnipeg Jets: Jokinen is also eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. His experience and improved performance this season could interest contenders seeking a skilled center.
David Legwand, C, Nashville Predators: Another pending UFA, the 33-year-old Legwand would attract considerable interest from playoff clubs seeking a second-line center. His no-trade clause, however, gives him full control over his destinations.
Milan Michalek, LW Ottawa Senators: Michalek is also eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. He’s struggled offensively this season (25 points in 59 games) but could interest clubs in need of scoring depth.
Michal Neuvirth, G, Washington Capitals: Neuvirth requested a trade in late-December over a lack of playing time. With promising Philipp Grubauer waiting in the wings Neuvirth doesn’t have a future in Washington. He’s also signed through 2014-15 at a cap hit of $2.5 million.
Radim Vrbata, RW, Phoenix Coyotes: If Vrbata and the Coyotes fail to reach agreement on a new contract he could be moved. His modified no-trade clause could be a sticking point. With 39 points in 56 games, Vrbata would attract interest from clubs seeking a top-six winger.
Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes: Ward’s injury history combined with Anton Khudobin’s strong play has raised questions about his future with the Hurricanes. Two major stumbling blocks are Ward’s no-trade clause and his $6.3-million annual cap hit through 2015-16.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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