Rumor Roundup: What NHL defensemen will be traded?

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL’s March 5 trade deadline is less than two months away, but the Olympic roster freeze (Feb. 9 to 25) could prompt some teams to get the jump on the trade market leading up to that period.

With veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg out for the season with a knee injury, the Boston Bruins will be in need of a skilled replacement if they are unable to address his absence from within. CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty suggested Dan Girardi or Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, Mark Stuart of the Winnipeg Jets, Christian Ehrhoff of the Buffalo Sabres, Andrej Meszaros of the Philadelphia Flyers and Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators as possible trade targets.

CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley noted the Washington Capitals blueline could use a boost. He also listed Girardi, Phillips and Stuart as trade options, along with Carolina’s Ron Hainsey, Buffalo’s Henrik Tallinder, Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin and Andrew MacDonald of the New York Islanders.

Of these defensemen, all but Del Zotto (restricted free agent) and Ehrhoff (under contract to 2021) are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Girardi and Del Zotto have featured prominently of late in the rumor mill, but only the latter is being shopped. With the Rangers battling for a playoff berth, they won’t trade away a key player like Girardi.

It remains to be seen if Tim Murray, the Sabres new GM, tries to move Ehrhoff and his contract. While more than half of the blueliner’s $40-million deal has already been paid out, the $4-million cap hit through 2020-21 could still prove difficult to move. His no-movement and modified no-trade clauses are also potential sticking points. Murray could opt to retain Ehrhoff for his skills and experience. Tallinder seems like a more likely trade candidate for the Sabres.

The Islanders hope to re-sign MacDonald, but that could depend upon his asking price, as he’ll be seeking a significant raise over his current $550,000 per season. It’s doubtful the Senators move Phillips, especially given their recent improvement. Meszaros was frequently mentioned in trade rumors last summer and earlier this season, but his recent improvement and that of the Flyers could keep him in Philadelphia for the remainder of 2013-14. Stuart, Hainsey and Nikitin could be available if their respective teams lose ground in the playoff chase.

The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins, in search of scoring depth, could also be active in the coming weeks.

NJ.com’s Randy Miller recently reported Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is monitoring the trade market, but added there’s isn’t anything currently available to help his club. Miller listed Colorado’s Paul Stastny, Buffalo’s Matt Moulson, Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri, Winnipeg’s Olli Jokinen or Devin Setoguchi and Florida’s Brad Boyes as options for the Devils.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen believes the Penguins could use the cap relief from placing Pascal Dupuis on LTIR to chase a rental player like Moulson, Setoguchi, Jokinen or Calgary’s Lee Stempniak.

All of these forwards are unrestricted free agents in July and all except Stastny could be had for draft picks and/or prospects. If the Avalanche decide to move Stastny, the asking price should be a top-four defenseman. Since early December they’ve been linked to Del Zotto and Dmitry Kulikov of the Florida Panthers.

Penguins GM Ray Shero is reportedly more interested in a long-term acquisition, but that could change depending upon his roster needs and the depth of talent available in the trade market.

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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