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Trade market should heat up sooner
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A trade freeze will be implemented from Feb. 13-28, leaving only three days following the end of the freeze for general managers to swing deals prior to the 3 p.m. ET deadline on March 3.
That’s not much time for playoff-bound teams to bolster their rosters or for non-playoff clubs to jettison salaries, meaning the next five weeks could see far more trade activity than we’ve been used to seeing over the same time in recent years.
Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli recently told the Boston Globe that trade talk amongst his peers was picking up, which only lends credence to the theory of increased player movement prior to the Olympic break.
For now, only the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers would be considered certain sellers as their chances of climbing back into the postseason race are pretty much non-existent.
Ignore Wild internet speculation of the Hurricanes shopping franchise players Eric Staal and Cam Ward as the players they’ll likely move are impending unrestricted free agent forwards Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen.
Meanwhile, the Oilers could receive considerable interest in veterans Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios as well as young forward Andrew Cogliano.
Defenseman Sheldon Souray said last week that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause if a deal made sense for both he and the team, but he’s got two more years at a cap hit of $5.4 million per season left on his contract, making him all but impossible to move this season.
East to west
The Toronto Maple Leafs are presently second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and could begin shopping players soon. Trade rumors out of Leafs Nation center on pending free agents Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak and Vesa Toskala.
With only six points separating the seventh overall New York Rangers from the 13th overall Tampa Bay Lightning, there might not be many sellers emerging from the Eastern Conference over the next month.
It’s a different story in the Western Conference where the gap between seventh and 12th overall is considerably wider, which could push more of that conference’s lower-placed teams into the trade market.
The Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets fall into that category, as could the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars if they don’t soon make significant improvement in the standings.
It’s believed the Ducks could try to move veterans like Scott Niedermayer, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne and Todd Marchant. Sophomore winger Bobby Ryan was mentioned in trade rumors earlier in the season but with 20 goals in 45 games, he’s probably not going anywhere.
Goalie J.S. Giguere has also been a frequent fixture in the rumor mill but with a no-movement clause and another season with a cap hit of $6 million remaining on his contract, he probably won’t be moved this season.
The Blues have made little improvement despite a recent coaching change and could try to move veteran forwards Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk.
As for the Blue Jackets, they’ve already attempted a roster shakeup by shipping winger Jason Chimera to Washington for forward Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina but thus far. there’s been little improvement. They could consider a coaching change before making another trade.
It may be too soon to start speculating over which players the Wild and Stars could try to move. Their respective situations should become clearer by the Olympic break.
Stars on the block
Each year there’s always a big-name player whose name gets bandied about as trade bait and this season is no different.
Atlanta Thrashers superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk is eligible for UFA status in July and while talks between his camp and Thrashers management are ongoing, there’s little indication they’ll get him under contract by the trade deadline, leading to the inevitable speculation he’ll be shopped by March 3.
It’s possible the Thrashers could face no choice but to go that route, but it’s by no means a sure thing. If they’re still in the thick of the playoff race by the deadline they could opt to retain him as their postseason hopes are better with him than without.
A similar scenario unfolded last season with the Florida Panthers, who surprised many by retaining rather than trading pending free agent star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, so unless the Thrashers fall completely out of playoff contention in the next several weeks take the Kovalchuk trade rumors with a grain of salt.
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