Tim Connolly might be on his way out of Buffalo if he can't agree on a new contract. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
In mid-February The Hockey News compiled its annual trade deadline special and asked each of its 30 NHL correspondents to classify their team as either a buyer or seller and identify some of the players who may be involved in deadline deals.
Here are the 30 team reports from THN’s Feb. 23 issue, updated to reflect any trades that may have taken place since they were written.
ANAHEIM - SELLER
Anaheim is in something of a quandary.
A disappointment thus far, the Ducks are still in position to finish as high as fifth in the West. At the same time, they could easily miss the playoffs.
If it appears Anaheim has a legitimate playoff shot, they’ll have the salary cap space to add a veteran defenseman or center. If things go the other way, look for the Ducks to shop some of their playoff-hardened vets in a bid to land some established younger players.
Defenseman Chris Pronger, who has a year remaining on his contract, might be the most attractive commodity, especially with the recent acquisition of Ryan Whitney from the Pens. But impending unrestricted free agent Scott Niedermayer may also intrigue as a rental player.
– DAN WOOD
ATLANTA - SELLER
The only race the Thrashers are in these days is for the right to draft John Tavares, but they were willing to send a couple of experienced defensemen away to help post-season teams.
Niclas Havelid, 35, ranks among NHL leaders in blocked shots and is a dependable, defense-first professional. An impending unrestricted free agent July 1, he was shipped to New Jersey Monday. Mathieu Schneider was already moved along with a conditional pick in 2009 for a second-rounder in 2009 and a third-rounder in 2010.
Ilya Kovalchuk is untouchable (for now), as are youngsters Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian. Slava Kozlov has a no-trade clause and no plans to waive it.
– MIKE KNOBLER
BOSTON - BUYER
After staying out of last year’s market to preserve team chemistry and young assets, the Bruins may try to buy this time.
Feeling positioned for a Stanley Cup challenge, Boston’s primary interest would be replacing the scoring and speed lost when left-winger Marco Sturm (team-high 27 goals last year) had season-ending knee surgery.
Goalie Manny Fernandez, his career revived – despite experiencing minor mid-season back problems – is a potential bargaining chip. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, as is winger P-J Axelsson, but the latter’s defensive abilities likely make him a keeper. Boston could also tap prospect depth, especially at center.
– MIKE LOFTUS
BUFFALO - BUYER
Darcy Regier does his heavy lifting in the off-season. The Sabres GM puts together a team he likes and lets it find its way until the trade deadline. Then he usually makes a tweak.
Buffalo figures to continue the fine-tuning this season. Don’t expect a major overhaul, mainly because Regier drafted most of his players and feels a kinship toward them. But with Tim Connolly, Ales Kotalik and the oft-injured Maxim Afinogenov in the final year of their contracts, the Sabres may try to find a player who can help now.
It helps that Regier is good at it, as past one-sided deadline deals for Daniel Briere, J-P Dumont, Mike Grier and Stu Barnes attest.
– JOHN VOGL
CALGARY - BUYER
GM Darryl Sutter typically doesn’t wait until the trade deadline to make his moves. Whether big or small, Sutter tries to do his work early and avoid the countdown frenzy.
Calgary has a solid club, but there are some holes. Like most teams gearing up for the playoffs, the Flames could use another defenseman. But if Sutter makes a big move, it will be for a second-line forward.
The Flames don’t have a lot of salary cap space, which will limit their options, but may jettison enough salary (Matthew Lombardi) and a prospect or two to become more offensive.
Another rumor that won’t go away is the need for a more proven backup goalie as insurance for Miikka Kiprusoff.
– RANDY SPORTAK
CAROLINA - SELLER
Squarely on the playoff bubble, the Hurricanes probably won’t have the option of being a buyer or a seller. Given the way their season has gone and the state of their finances, though, they’re more apt to dump salary than acquire it.
Problem is, they might not have much worth buying. Their two most marketable assets – Ray Whitney and Niclas Wallin – both have no-trade clauses and aren’t likely to waive them. Others, like Rod Brind’Amour or Sergei Samsonov, have multiple years left on their contracts.
While Dennis Seidenberg will be an unrestricted free agent, he has also been a bright spot. The Canes may gamble they can sign him to a long-term deal.
– LUKE DECOCK
CHICAGO - BUYER
GM Dale Tallon still must decide his course of action
Buyer? If the deal makes sense. Seller? Never say never. Stay the course? Good chance.
The Hawks’ biggest need is at center behind Jonathan Toews, but Tallon doesn’t want a rental player and his team is right up against the salary cap.
“We want someone who’s going to be with us,” Tallon said.
It’s looking as if he will keep both goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and winger Martin Havlat. But dealing either player will clear plenty of cap space for a center.
– TIM SASSONE
As a regular buyer in the past, the Avalanche muddled into February in last place in the Northwest, with little realistic hope of a playoff berth.
Players most likely to be moved in a fire sale figure to come from the defense. Brett Clark, Ruslan Salei and Jordan Leopold are veterans with ability at both ends. Clark and Salei are both set to make more than $3 million next season in the last year of their contracts. Forwards Marek Svatos and T.J. Hensick could also be available.
The Avs would want a decent forward in return, or perhaps a goalie. Depending on what Joe Sakic decides for next season, the Avs could have a lot of cash freed up for free agents so draft picks might be most attractive.
– ADRIAN DATER
COLUMBUS - BUYER
Longtime losers, first-time buyers. That’s the best way to describe the Blue Jackets, who desperately need an uplifting trade deadline as they pursue their first playoff berth.
The Jackets have a short but pricey wish list: a No. 1 center and a skilled, right-shooting D-man. Columbus is playing Manny Malhotra, R.J. Umberger, Jason Williams and Michael Peca at center. A true No. 1 pivot would allow Malhotra to return to a checking role and Umberger to go to the wing.
GM Scott Howson had a rough deadline last year, when a trade for Brad Richards fell through; captain Adam Foote demanded to be dealt; and No. 1 center Sergei Fedorov was sent to Washington for a prospect.
– AARON PORTZLINE
DALLAS - BUYER
Really, the Stars are wannabe buyers. Problem is, they’ve already got a big bill this year. While they could use another defenseman or a veteran backup goalie, chances are Dallas will be relatively quiet.
Injuries to Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov have cleared salary cap space, but the Stars have spent all the real money they can this year. Losing Sean Avery on re-entry waivers means half of his $3.8 million dollar salary will remain on Dallas’ cap for the next three years.
Adding players like Mark Parrish and Brian Sutherby during the season and trading Doug Janik to Montreal for forward Steve Begin helped balance injuries and the loss of Avery. So if they make it into the playoffs, it will be with the team they have now.
– MIKE HEIKA
DETROIT - BUYER
The Wings have little salary cap space, but are in the market for an inexpensive, fourth-line winger. Someone who can provide energy and a physical presence, much like Dallas Drake last season.
The Wings don’t want to trade a roster player, but will dangle a mid- to late-round draft pick or a middling prospect. Despite the fourth-line’s struggles this season, the team isn’t desperate to upgrade because of prospects Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
Goaltending has been a concern, but a reasonably priced upgrade will be hard to find in the trade market. Expect them to stick with Chris Osgood. If he falters, Detroit can turn to backup Ty Conklin.
– ANSAR KHAN
EDMONTON - BUYER
Edmonton’s intentions at the trade deadline are obvious: It depends.
If Edmonton believes they could do some damage in the post-season, they’ll definitely make a serious attempt to load up.
The Oilers need a high-end scorer to complement Ales Hemsky; a gritty, functional winger; and a shutdown defenseman.
On the other hand, there are players who could be moved. Erik Cole is an unrestricted free agent this summer; the Oilers have a glut of puck-moving defensemen and plenty of underachievers they’ll want to jettison.
– ROB TYCHKOWSKI
FLORIDA - SELLER
The Panthers are in the thick of a playoff race for the first time since the team last made the post-season in 2000.
South Florida is desperate for playoff hockey, which puts GM Jacques Martin in a tough spot. Jay Bouwmeester is a pending unrestricted free agent, so if he doesn’t sign with the Panthers before the trade deadline, odds are he’ll be dealt. Of course, trading their best player won’t help the Cats’ playoff push.
Aside from the Bouwmeester situation, Florida is looking for offensive help. The Panthers have scored more goals than in past years, but they still need help up front. There’s a shortage at center and Martin is aware that’s a weakness he may be able to fix come March 4.
– GEORGE RICHARDS
LOS ANGELES - SELLER
GM Dean Lombardi will shop judiciously as the trade deadline nears, but a bombshell deal is not out of the question.
Lombardi’s build-slow-from-within strategy has reached a crucial point, one in which his young players are starting to develop, but need some help from top-level veterans.
The Kings need a top-six winger and have a plethora of 2009 draft picks and a number of defense prospects to offer.
But Lombardi won’t make a trade simply for the sake of it. If the correct “big” deal isn’t there, the Kings will stay patient, dump veterans with expiring contracts (Kyle Calder, Sean O’Donnell) and wait for a top-six free agent forward.
– RICH HAMMOND
MINNESOTA - SELLER
The Wild is undoubtedly selling one commodity – the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Marian Gaborik.
Gaborik, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is sidelined following hip surgery and is expected to be out until late March. But the Wild is hoping a team in need of a goal-scorer will take a risk on him.
Last summer, the Wild lost Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra for nothing. Losing Gaborik the same way would be catastrophic.
– MICHAEL RUSSO
GM Bob Gainey has never worn his feelings on his sleeve. So, while he said in mid-January he was happy with his team’s plight, things have drastically changed.
The Canadiens haven’t been the dominant team many expected this season and have virtually no chance of catching Boston for first place in the Northeast Division. They’ll be in a fight for the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed.
And now, following the loss of Robert Lang, who underwent surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon, the Habs are perilously thin at center.
They have made moves for three players already, picking up Mathieu Schneider from Atlanta for draft picks, Glen Metropolit off waivers from Philly and Doug Janik from Dallas, while only giving up Steve Begin off their roster.
That being said, there undoubtedly will still be pressure on Gainey to trade for more forward reinforcements.
– HERB ZURKOWSKY
NASHVILLE - SELLER
The Predators showed signs of life after the all-star break. But with a logjam of opponents still ahead of them in the Western Conference, they’ll be moving players out of town before they add anybody.
Teams looking for a veteran blueliner with plenty of playoff experience will be interested in Greg de Vries. Another tempting possibility is defenseman Greg Zanon, who ranks among the league leaders in blocked shots. Zanon becomes an unrestricted free agent in July and will be relatively expensive.
The Preds already have a bundle of 2009 draft picks, but a couple more would allow the team to swing some significant off-season deals.
– JOHN GLENNON
NEW JERSEY - BUYER
GM Lou Lamoriello will be in “buy” mode at the trade deadline and got a head start by plucking Niclas Havelid from the Thrashers Monday.
The Devils would also like to acquire a playmaking center to use on a line with veteran wingers Brendan Shanahan and Brian Rolston. John Madden currently holds down that spot, but New Jersey no longer relies on his checking. The 35-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but Lamoriello has never dealt a player because he feared losing him for nothing in the summer. If the GM feels Madden can help, he’ll stay.
– RICH CHERE
ISLANDERS - SELLER
Coach Scott Gordon certainly made it easier on opposing NHL scouts when he retooled his forward lines following the all-star break.
Putting veterans Mike Comrie, Doug Weight and Bill Guerin on one unit primarily was done so the Isles could take a look at youngsters Blake Comeau, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo as a line for the future.
But it also aligned the team’s three primary trade chips prior to the March 4 deadline.
Comrie has already been dealt to Ottawa along with Chris Campoli for Dean McAmmond and a first-round pick in 2009. Weight and Guerin also have expiring contracts and will be very attractive as rentals, particularly the resurgent Weight as a power play specialist. Guerin led the Isles in goals through early February, but he has been held out of the last few games and could be moved any time.
– PETER BOTTE
RANGERS - BUYER
GM Glen Sather heads toward the deadline with many needs and not nearly enough salary cap space to fill them all.
Lacking a power forward, a goal-scoring threat on the wing, a physical presence on the blueline and a power play quarterback with a big shot (oh, you thought that’s what last July was all about), the Rangers have only about $1 million in cap space with which to work.
Making the task even tougher, the Rangers have few assets of value to offer in exchange for rentals given Sather’s appropriate reluctance to deal top draft picks or prospects for veterans. Sean Avery was picked up off waivers and, if well-behaved, will help shore up some of those issues. But one shouldn’t expect any Blueshirt blockbusters via trade.
– LARRY BROOKS
OTTAWA - SELLER
How the mighty have fallen. After firing coach Craig Hartsburg and making Cory Clouston the fourth man behind the bench in less than a calendar year, Senators GM Bryan Murray will try to purge players at the trade deadline and get some salaries off the books.
While Chris Neil, Filip Kuba and Martin Gerber are all eligible for unrestricted free agency, the Sens are willing to move just about anybody. Antoine Vermette and Christoph Schubert are also attracting suitors.
Ottawa won’t want a lot in return for its UFAs, but they feel Vermette and Schubert have value so the Sens would demand something worthwhile in return.
The Sens have already swapped Dean McAmmond and a 2009 first-round pick with the Islanders for defenseman Chris Campoli and expiring contract, Mike Comrie.
– BRUCE GARRIOCH
PHILADELPHIA - SELLER
Good health is coming at a bad time for the Flyers.
It’s been a season of financial tightrope-walking for GM Paul Holmgren; only salary cap relief due to injuries has prevented a fall to that “non-compliance” concrete floor. But with center Daniel Briere and his $6.5-million salary scheduled to return from groin surgery right around the March 4 trade deadline, the Flyers will have to unload a player or two to fit his salary in.
They’d rather be buyers because they could use another physical defenseman to help replace the season-long void left by Derian Hatcher (knee).
Instead, trading a player in exchange for a prospect or a draft pick looks like it will be a necessity come draft day.
– WAYNE FISH
PHOENIX - BUYER
The arrival of GM Don Maloney changed the Coyotes’ view of the trade deadline. His plan to rebuild the downtrodden organization slowly is showing signs of paying off, as he is trying to improve the team with a mixture of youth, trades and free agency.
“We’re certainly not a seller,” said Maloney, adding that he’s not actively pursuing trades. “Whether we’re a buyer is the question. We’d like to look to help ourselves.”
Until the Coyotes reach the stage where they’re a perennial playoff contender, they’ll be in the mode to acquire young assets rather than give them up. Maloney left the door open a little, saying a deal “would have to make a lot of sense.”
– JIM GINTONIO
PITTSBURGH – BUYER
Penguins GM Ray Shero didn’t mince words about managing his roster as the March 4 trade deadline approaches:
“With anything in terms of improving the team up until the deadline, I’m willing to do that. We have to be a playoff team and our expectations internally are higher than that.”
The Pens made a run to the Stanley Cup final last season after the trade deadline acquisitions of Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis and Hal Gill. To duplicate that success this season, Shero must dramatically improve a disappointing club.
The “core,” as Shero is fond of calling the group of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Brooks Orpik, is viewed as the promise of future Cup champions in Pittsburgh. But Shero did not rule out moving a member of it before the deadline to solidify the Penguins for this season. The Pens need a couple of quality wingers and some grit up front; they’re stocked with defensemen, with nine NHL-quality upon Sergei Gonchar’s impending return from injury.
Pittsburgh got the ball rolling on the improvements before the deadline by adding Chris Kunitz and prospect forward Eric Tangradi from Anaheim for Ryan Whitney, dwindling the D-man number to eight.
– ROB ROSSI
ST. LOUIS - SELLER
Flirting with a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference makes the Blues’ decision to sell a difficult one, but it’s a choice that must be made.
With a rash of injuries to key players, the club has admirably put itself into position for a run at the playoffs – but not a playoff run, at least not with the current roster.
Over the past three seasons, the Blues have dutifully constructed a roster on the rise by trading assets (Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin) for draft picks and prospects at the deadline.
St. Louis must continue to follow that strategy, with Tkachuk, a pending free agent, once again the chip who could land the Blues some young talent.
– JEREMY RUTHERFORD
SAN JOSE - BUYER
The well-positioned Sharks figure their roster will be upgraded for the playoffs even if they do nothing before March 4.
That’s because three injured regulars – forwards Torrey Mitchell and Jeremy Roenick and defenseman Brad Lukowich – should be returning to the lineup around then. Throw un-retired veteran Claude Lemieux into the mix and San Jose’s third and fourth lines have a totally new look.
The reality is the Sharks could go with those changes alone and feel pretty good about ending their long streak of Stanley Cup frustration. But GM Doug Wilson isn’t one to stand pat if he thinks he can improve his team’s odds.
– DAVID POLLAK
TAMPA BAY - SELLER
Look for the Lightning to move some bodies before the trade deadline, a situation that has as much to do with having too many players on the roster as it has with the team’s position in the standings.
The expectation, though, is that Vincent Lecavalier will remain with the team for the rest of the season. That means veterans such as Mark Recchi are the most likely chips with which Tampa Bay will play. Recchi, even at 40, still has value, with 11 goals and 33 points in 50 games.
Despite needing to trim its roster, the Lightning needs help on defense, though that order might not be filled until the summer.
– DAMIAN CRISTODERO
TORONTO - SELLER
Brian Burke’s garage sale is officially underway.
With an asking price of draft choices and prospects, the Maple Leafs have a cache of veterans to be moved: Forwards Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky, defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina and goalie Vesa Toskala.
Antropov’s stock on the open market took a hit during a 16-game goal drought, but he is back on track. Both Kaberle and Kubina have no-trade clauses, but the former, at least, is willing to listen to potential trades.
The Leafs have plenty of cap space, so Burke will take on another team’s salary dump, as long as a high draft pick is part of the package.
– MIKE ZEISBERGER
VANCOUVER - BUYER
While the mid-December signing of Mats Sundin indicated the Canucks are serious about returning to the playoffs and making some noise, a nosedive in January – eight straight losses – might bring about a change of heart.
For now, the Canucks need to add quickness on the blueline and a scoring winger. Their defense corps is solid, but not particularly fast.
Up front, the Canucks don’t have enough speed to back off opposing defensemen. They have enough cap room to add a player with a $3 million salary, but don’t want to trade away prospects or draft picks for a rental because their system isn’t loaded with blue-chippers. They began the change by picking up defenseman Ossi Vaananen off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers.
– ELLIOTT PAP
WASHINGTON - BUYER
If GM George McPhee thinks the Capitals are playoff contenders, he’ll tinker and adjust the roster. But the shrewd wheeler-dealer is constrained by a cap crunch and will have to shed salary to add talent.
Center Michael Nylander is most likely to depart and Washington would like to fortify its defense with a puck-moving veteran. Barely halfway through a four-year, $19.5-million deal, Nylander has underperformed and doesn’t seem comfortable in coach Bruce Boudreau’s system. Chicago likes the veteran pivot and a trade might benefit both parties.
McPhee is known for bold, unpredictable moves, so chances are he’ll be active.
– PETER KERZEL
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