One can always count on the run up to the trade deadline to ratchet the cranks spewing rumors into high gear. Some of the teams who will no doubt be sitting squarely atop the sprockets and wearing down the tonfas* of the mills as we get ever closer to deadline day. Who’s at the bottom of the stack hasn’t changed dramatically in the last couple of weeks, but the teams that should be humongous big sellers in the middle, will probably end up buyers.
The Columbus Blue Jackets brought in talent by free agency over the summer. They brought in talent via trade as well. What they didn’t bring in was anything vaguely like depth. When you are spending close to the cap and getting less than teams in your division you are outspending by an eight digit figure. While media pressure, and tradition and the hope of hype will say “draft Yakupov”, I have different advice: trade the pick and the middle or bottom of the roster for a stud defenseman and a good goalie. Shocking as it is to hear, goaltending is believed by some to be critical to winning. Also of note, of the last four Stanley Cup Champions three had a Norris winner on the roster. Just a thought.
The Edmonton Oilers: See all those things I said about defense? Yeah that. It applies to you too. Also, drafting guys with a history of frequent injuries might be something to consider skipping this year.
The Montreal Canadiens are to be sellers if you ask RDS scribe Mario Tremblay. Two of the players on his list of sellable bits just don’t make any sense from the perspective of work ethic and ability. Why someone would trade Lars Ellers who will undoubtedly wear the nickname “Danish Dynamo” when he’s an RFA this summer is beyond me. On the other hand the number of things that make zero sense in Habsland this season exceed the number that are perfectly sensible by an order of magnitude. Brian Gionta has certainly underperformed this year, but its a touch difficult to excel when you’ve got an average AHL team skating around with you. Possibly Gionta asked out? Who knows.
The Hurricanes kicked off the sell off with an early assault on competitiveness by jettisoning the admittedly underwhelming Ponikarovski to New Jersey for not a great deal. Speculation has Ruutu or Gleason (why not both?) being shipped north. Among the other potential destinations for No-Not-Jarkko-I’m-Tuomo Ruutu are the defending Stanley Cup champions. One wonders if Nathan Horton would get as much of a workout out of ragdolling whatever defeneman replaced Gleason in games between the two clubs.
The Buffalo Sabres who’s owner has already given them a pass on the season have bounced off the Hurricanes at the bottom of the east and are above them on the strength of having played two less games. Injuries have been a serious problem yes, but there’s some intangible missing on this team that begs for an overhaul nonetheless. Some would call it competitiveness. Having iced 30 skaters and 3 goalies across the course of the season they at least know what the their system holds. Robyn Regehr might be an attractive trade piece to move out the door even with singularly uninspiring offensive season thus far. Assuming someone thinks they can goose him hard enough to get him looking like a 40 goal scorer again, Brad Boyes is pending UFA and probably not on Lindy Ruff’s top three list of UFA’s to bring back.
If Koivu and Selanne were to ask for trades before the deadline, the return on the two of them would help the Ducks for years to come. Yes, trading the first and fifth leading scorers and second and first in plus-minus will probably make the post trade season look a lot like all of the year up to January when the Occasional-Big-Three remembered they were payed at a passable level to produce wings. That said, having a second line center or legitimate impact defenseman not named Visnovsky or Beauchemin for a couple seasons to come could make early trips to the draft podium a smidgin less likely.
The Flames should be selling, they will probably be buying but I don’t think they can buy enough: 1) A #1 Center, 2) Another solid winger to make any dent in the playoffs. They do still have to make it in, and do have more regulation wins than the three teams ahead of them but it will still be tough to make it in.
Tampa Bay needs a goalie, which I’m sure is the biggest bombshell dropped on the hockey world this year, but it still needs saying. Adding a defensive defenseman wouldn’t exactly kill the team either.
The Wild should try to be both buyers and sellers. Even more so than Buffalo injuries have rained on the parade of what looked to be the Cindarella team of the season. Swapping out a few of their spare defensemen for some scoring talent, particularly of the long term variety could make them a perennial contender. Having skated 10 defensemen among their 36 total players to take the ice this year it is a little hard to imagine them not having a handle on who is capable of what. Harding is also a UFA to be and teams wanting to evaluate him in their system and get a jump on negotiations with him might pay a premium to do so.
Figuring out what the Islanders should do is tough, (insert your joke here) they have a lot of pending UFA’s, and several promising prospects playing in juniors. Shipping a few of the elders out will bring some return, but what worth from a team that might not be in the lottery for the first time in years is anyones guess. For the future they have between 12 and 20 games covered in net by Dipietro’s cameos, and Poulin might just make it. Overall between the roster and the system they have 15 pending UFA’s including both Montoya and Nabokov in net.
*Thank you Harry Dresden. Parts 1 and Parts 2