Well, the weekend concluded with a bang. Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Michel Therrien has been relieved of his duties. Dan Bylsma, formerly the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) coach, has been appointed interim skipper (sound familiar?). A rather inauspicious start in his matinee debut, a shootout loss to a woeful Islanders club. But with a game occurring less than 20 hours after his appointment to head bench honcho, perhaps the team should be given a little more time to adjust.

Meanwhile, what might be looked back upon as the first domino to fall in this year’s NHL trade deadline (March 4th), the Montreal Canadiens acquired the puck mover that they wanted.

Here’s the deal:

Montreal acquires:
Mathieu Schneider ($5.625 million, UFA at season’s end)
Conditional 3rd or 4th or 5th round pick *

Atlanta acquires:
2nd round pick in 2009
3rd round pick in 2010

- The conditions of the pick involve the depth of Montreal’s trip into the playoffs.
If Montreal fails to qualify for the playoffs or loses in the first round, Montreal gets a 3rd round pick from Atlanta. If Montreal wins one round, Montreal gets a 4th round pick from Atlanta. And if Montreal wins two or more rounds, Montreal gets a 5th round pick from Atlanta.

Schneider, 39, was originally a Canadien third rounder in 1987 and played for the Bleu, Blanc et Rogue from 1989 to 1995. He was acquired just prior to the start of the season from Anaheim in exchange for spare parts Ken Klee, Brad Larsen and Chad Painchaud.

Schneider appeared in 44 games this year for Atlanta, registering four goals and 11 helpers to go along with a minus-10 rating.

Seems like as good a time as any to start commenting on other potential trades.

Maple Leafs blueliners Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina are expected to submit a list of teams that they would sign off on being traded to. Like most Maple Leafs from the John Ferguson, Jr. reign of error, they have no-trade clauses and therefore, call the shots.

There’s usually a stone cold lock of a deal at every deadline; a player(s) that is almost a certainty to be moved. In 2006, it was Brendan Witt and Mark Recchi. In 2007, Dainius Zubrus and you could make the claim for Todd Bertuzzi. In 2008, Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell were both virtual certainties to find new homes.

This year, so far, I think it’s the former 10th overall selection in 1998, Leafs center Nikolai Antropov. With a new GM at the helm, the oft-rumored Kazakh is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and is my early pick as “most likely to be dealt.”

Just a little preview of Faceoff Factor’s trade deadline coverage.

In Anaheim, their fall from grace is evident. The gradual erosion of talent and speed of Chris Pronger might entice them to deal him before it’s too late. Scott Niedermayer might go too, the Ducks could blow the whole thing up.

Colorado has quietly slipped to last in the West and they’re in the market for a young goaltender. They have a handful of moderately (or higher) priced defensemen that could be dealt. Between Clark, Salei and Leopold, the Avs might be able to wrangle up a goalie like Jaroslav Halak or Jonas Hiller.

Again, the St. Louis Blues find themselves looking up at the rest of the West and once again they have Keith Tkachuk at the end of a contract. There’s a fair possibility that he’ll need a U-Haul before the Ides of March, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Edmonton has Erik Cole on the last leg of a $4 million a year deal and he has been far from a bargain this season. The Oilers could find a new residence for him fairly easily, and you never know when someone finally decides they want to take a chance on YouTube All-Star Robbie Schremp.

The Islanders are playing the role of Atlas, supporting the sphere that is the Eastern Conference. Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Mike Comrie and Mike Sillinger are all UFAs and aren’t likely to be fixtures in the Island’s future. All of them could probably be had for a song at this point.

Tampa Bay is running out of players to make seemingly weekly roster moves with, but if Mark Recchi hangs around long enough, he could warrant a mid-round pick at the deadline. Maybe Gary Roberts will go with him.

The Senators are looking to dump Chris Neil on anyone with a reasonable draft pick. However, you have to wonder if something much bigger happens either here or at the draft. Could one of the big three (namely Spezza) find himself on the way out? Antoine Vermette is garnering a lot of interest, maybe the Sens will figure out a way to score Jay Bouwmeester if Florida is willing to part with him – part with him in place of making the playoffs.

The trade deadline, as always, will be filled with excitement and we hope that join us at Faceoff Factor for all your trade deadline coverage.