The NHL’s Trade Deadline is just two weeks away, but there’s already been a flurry of high-impact trades.
First, the Ottawa Senators sent Mike Fisher to Nashville for the Predators’ first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and future considerations in the 2012 Draft.; the Panters dealt Michael Frolik to the Chicago Blackhawks in a five-player deal that included forward Jack Skille; Ex-Maple Leaf Francois Beauchamen returned to Anaheim in exchange for Joffrey Lupul, a prospect and a conditional pick; and Kris Versteeg was dealt from the Leafs to the Flyers for a first and third round picks.
Add to that the ultra-tight races for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and you have the makings of a very interesting trade deadline season.
Here are the most intriguing players who might be “in play” between now and the trade deadline:
Mathieu Garon, Columbus Blue Jackets
Garon, long believed to be a solid backup, but never a classic No. 1 goalie could certainly draw interest from teams who appear to be primed for post-season play. If the Blue Jackets begin to struggle in their next few games and appear to be primed as sellers, expect Garon to be dealt.
Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche
With the Avs in the midst of an epic freefall, having lost eight games in a row, and with Anderson experiencing a dreadful second year in the Rockies, the Avs may ‘cut their losses’ and finish the season with Peter Budaj. As the Peter “Foppa” Forsberg experiment failed (again), what’s the harm in giving Budaj the lion’s share of work for the remainder of the skein?
Rostislav Klesla, Columbus Blue Jackets
This player carries a warning label, once which will definitely limit the chances he’ll be dealt by the trade deadline. While a sturdy, stay at home defenseman, and a serviceable contributor, Klesla’s penchant for injuries over the past few seasons—Klesla is currently on Injured Reserve—might limit his value, even if Columbus does indeed go into seller mode.
Bryan McCabe, Florida Panthers
McCabe is regarded as power-play quarterback and a veteran leader. McCabe can certainly help a team in need of a PP specialist, particularly for a team making a playoff push. Caveats for McCabe are his age, 35; him being in his last year of a contract; thus, a rental; and a propensity to make mistakes in his own defensive zone. However, for both leadership and a heavy PP shot, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another player to fill the bill.
Cory Stillman, Florida Panthers
While not the offensively-prolific player he once was, the 38-year old Stillman relies on savvy and solid offensive instincts. The veteran is slated to be an UFA at season’s end, so this season might be his last chance at playoff glory.
PA Parenteau, New York Islanders
Parenteau is a 27-year old winger who–now given the chance to play at the NHL level–has shown excellent offensive instincts on a struggling team. And with only a $600,000 price tag, Parentau can help a team by providing depth scoring and versatility in playing all three forward positions.
Chris Higgins, Florida Panthers
Notice a pattern here? It’s no secret new Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon is looking to rebuild this moribund organization, and trading solid assets for prospects and draft choices will probably be his course of action. Higgins is a quick, solid two-way winger with a north-south game tailor-made for that type of system. Moreover, his $1.6 million price tag is cap-friendly.
Ty Conklin, St. Louis Blues
Conkin is similar to Garon as a solid, quality backup. Conklin is also in the last year of his contract with the Blues, and will be eligible to become a UFA at season’s end. With a cap-friendly $1.4 million price tag, a team making a serious Stanley Cup run could certainly use Conklin’s services.
Joni Pitkanen, Carolina Hurricanes
While Pitkanen has bounced around quite a bit during his career, and is at times prone to injuries, his offensive potential, grit and penchant for accumulating big minutes make him an ideal trade acquisition for a team’s playoff run. As Pitkanen is also in his last year of his contract with the ‘Canes, he would fall into the category of a possible player rental.
Joe Corvo, Carolina Hurricanes
Corvo is a bona fide offensive defenseman with excellent power play proclivity. The risk with Corvo does come on the defensive end, where he is prone to turning the puck over and isn’t the most physical presence. But, for a team in need of a scoring threat from the blueline, at a reasonable price tag of $2.3 million, Corvo can fill their needs.
Eric Brewer, St. Louis Blues
Brewer is a stabilizing defensive presence and leader, with a sturdy shot from the point. The UFA-to-be carries a price tag of $4.5 million, but, should the Blues struggle to get into playoff contention, Brewer can be a reliable player to help a Cup-contending team.
Radek Martinek, New York Islanders
Martinek can log a lot of minutes on the defensive end, while displaying an ability to move the puck through all zones and possesses a hard shot from the point. Martinek is also an UFA and carries a reasonable $1.5 million price tag.
Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers
Hard to believe the former No. 3 overall pick from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft could already be considered “in play”, but rumors have surfaced as to his availability. While Bogosian has struggled this season and has been prone to defensive-zone coverage issues, he has great mobility and has the chance, in the right system, to be a all-around, all star for years to come. It should also be noted that Bogosian will be an RFA at season’s end.
Chris Phllips, Ottawa Senators
Phillips’ availabilty has been about the worst kept secret currently going in the NHL, as the Senators are going nowhere and are looking to rebuild through the draft, as well as preserve GM Bryan Murray’s job. Phillips provides classic shutdown defensive prowess with some offensive ability. Phillips is also an UFA at season’s end, and could help both a contending team as well as audition for a long-term signing during this summer’s UFA signing period.
Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kaberle’s availability has been one of the NHL’s longest-running broken records for some time now, complicated by him not waiving his no-trade clause on prior occasions. Kaberle is one of the premier puck-moving and passing defensemen in the NHL, with a solid shot from the point, although a bit prone to not shoot enough. He is also an UFA at season’s end, although one wonders about his reluctance to waive his NTC being an indication that he might chose to remain with the Leafs.
Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche
Hejduk is a solid, point-a-game winger with fabulous hands and an ultra-quick shot. Again, he is also an UFA at the end of the season and can definitely help a playoff-contending team with offensive needs. As the Avs appear to be nearly out of the playoff picture, Hejduk could draw great interest.
Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
While possessing a $5.7 million price tag, this world-class netminder and another UFA-to-be could certainly help a team with goaltending needs and could be the missing link towards Stanley Cup championship glory. Vokoun is a workhorse and can carry a team, particularly while riding a hot streak. As the Panthers appear to be in full-bore selling mode, Vokoun can command premium draft picks or top-notch prospects.
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
Hemsky has recently been rumored to be available, along with Dustin Penner, as it appears Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini will attempt to rebuild the Oilers with speed and youth, as evidenced by their stellar “kiddie line” of Linus Omark, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Hemsky is a stellar playmaker and has incredible puck skills. His recent penchant for injuries could be a cause for shying away from him.
Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers
Penner, the other Oiler who’s been considered “in play”, is a proven goal-scoring machine, albeit in streaks. He does suffer from inconsistent play and some issues with conditioning and motivation, but Penner was a valuable piece of the Anaheim Ducks 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship team. With the Oilers youth movement in full swing, Penner could draw some serious return and consideration from several NHL teams.
Alex Kovalev, Ottawa Senators
Kovalev appeared to be wallowing in Ottawa, having been both disgruntled and buried on the Sens fourth line, but his recent goal-scoring surge has made him an extremely intriguing possibility for a variety of NHL teams. Kovalev is (yet) another UFA-to-be, but still possesses a slew of offensive skills with the puck and may still be one of the best stickhandlers in the NHL. A contending Stanley Cup contender may consider Kovalev for a playoff run, albeit as a rental.
Jakub Voracek, Columbus Blue Jackets
Voracek may be the Blue Jackets hottest tradable asset, as the Blue Jackets have recently climbed into playoff consideration. Voracek has excellent offensive upside and is a clutch performer, although is prone to inconsistent stretches of play. On a contending team, however, this skilled winger can help a team during the playoff push and for years to come. Voracek is one Blue Jacket commodity who can garner some serious return.
Jarkko Ruutu, Ottawa Senators
Ruutu is one of the NHL’s great agitators and a stellar penalty-killer and is a versatile, all-around forward. The UFA-to-be also carries a very cap-friendly salary and can help a Stanley Cup-contending team with a level of moxie and defensive skills necessary for playoff success.
Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks
This gritty, physical defenseman owns a massive shot from the point, and is one of the more adept fighters in the NHL. Bieksa may be tradable simply due to the Canucks depth on their blueline and can garner some solid prospects or draft picks, thus providing the Canucks with a wealth of riches of prospective scoring wingers.
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars
While this may border on insanity, as Richards is the Stars primary offensive weapon, the Stars inability to offer a contract extension to the premier center may result in trading him away. Richards will command serious return from just about every team in the NHL, and could be that missing piece to raising the Stanley Cup.
Jason Arnott, New Jersey Devils
This one is a hard one to handicap, as the Devils are on a tear and still have designs on possibly getting into the playoffs, IF they can maintain their recent torrid pace. But, at 36 years of, the UFA-to-be certainly doesn’t fit into the Devils’ long term plans. However, for a Stanley Cup-contending team, Arnott can log serious minutes, provide some scoring from the center position and provides leadership for even a young, playoff-contending team.
Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators
I’ve added Spezza as the 26th most intriguing player possibly “in play” (my original list was 25), although the recent trade of Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson’s injury changes that possibility. However, Ottawa’s repeated dangling of Spezza over the past few seasons makes for an unhappy player, and one which could definitely use a change of scenery. Spezza is one of the NHL’s most creative playmaking centers and could elevate a team’s fortunes, immediately and for years to come. He would command a serious return of solid, young NHL stars to be and/or a slew of high draft picks.