With the excitement of the NHL Trade Deadline upon us again, we take a look at the ever-prevalent rumors floating about the league. With the trade deadline falling slightly earlier in the season than it did before the lockout and the overtime loss point still a big part of the NHL standings, the line between buyer and seller has blurred considerably. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for instance, may well be buyers at the trade deadline but with uncertain salary cap commitments due to the ongoing injury saga of the Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The Anaheim Ducks are hot right now, they went from almost certain lottery team to potential playoff team as they are on a 15-2-4 run in their last 21 – will they end up being buyers at the deadline to get their all important playoff revenues? And then there are the perceived under-achievers such as Chicago and Washington who both have serious issues staring them in the face if they fail to make the postseason. What will their strategies be coming into the deadline?

The following will explore some of the potential movers and potential suitors around the NHL with a week to go before the deadline.

As everyone is aware, Columbus Blue Jackets franchise winger Rick Nash is on the market for the first time in his career. The likelihood of a deadline deal for a player like Nash, a deal that would have to be a blockbuster, is limited. There are teams that are interested in Nash and they are largely big market teams such as Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Nash holds all the cards though as he has a no-trade clause and has the ultimate say on where he plays.

The Blue Jackets need goaltending and defense and may undergo another wholesale rebuild after going more than a decade without winning a playoff series. Steve Mason is making it abundantly clear that he is not the answer between the pipes in Columbus and when a team moves a big asset like Nash, it’s important to fill the club’s biggest need. The Canucks have Cory Schneider and the Kings have Jonathan Bernier to offer however, Toronto, Philadelphia and New York cannot offer a potential franchise ‘tender at the moment. In my opinion, not getting a goalie is a crucial mistake but if Nash forces Howson’s hand, Howson must adjust by raising the stakes on the other assets. From Philadelphia, for instance, Columbus will probably need Sergei Bobrovsky, James vanReimsdyk and one of Brayden Schenn/Sean Couturier. That’s a hefty price tag for a Flyers team that just saw a good bit of upheaval last offseason. But with Bobrovsky still a fairly unknown commodity, that may be the price that needs to be paid.

Teams like Pittsburgh, with fewer young prospects to part with, need not apply as they may not have the assets to pull it off and if they did it would shake up the lineup too dramatically to justify it. Offense and the power play have not been problems for the 2011-12 Penguins.

It’s believed that the Kings offer centers around talented young goalie Jonathan Bernier, offensive-defenseman Jack Johnson and prospects and picks that may or may not include Linden Vey, Thomas Hickey or Andrei Loktionov. Dustin Penner has been a frequent healthy scratch as well and might be the salary that goes back the other way if necessary. Dean Lombardi is under a lot of pressure to make things work in Hollywood or he may be out of a job.
The New York Rangers are also involved but the Blue Jackets likely want one of their good young d-men – Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto head the list and the highly-intelligent Swedish blueliner Tim Erixon isn’t far behind. The Rangers may be dangling Chris Kreider who, while a top prospect, may return for yet another year Boston College and sometimes that does not sit well with clubs looking to get top prospects integrated into the organization by this time in their development curve. Sometimes the situation ends amicably (James vanRiemsdyk) and while others end bitterly (Jack Johnson). The Rangers roster is young overall, not unlike Los Angeles, so parting with a top prospect is not the end of the world. However, the Rangers need for Nash isn’t terribly high as they are still having trouble assimilating Brad Richards into the lineup in a place where he can be productive. With defensemen like Anton Stralman, Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger logging regular minutes for long stretches of time, Glen Sather may be best served acquiring a top-flight d-man at the deadline as opposed to Rick Nash who only has one season better than 70 points (79 in 2008-09) in his nine-year NHL career.

The Buffalo Sabres are a team in turmoil currently. Finally dealt a new owner with deep pockets, Darcy Regier has dealt his fans a losing hand. High salary met high expectations and to date the Sabres have failed to deliver. Most of the pending changes will likely occur in the summer (which may not be limited to a GM and/or coaching switch) but they can grease the wheels of transition at the deadline. It is believed Paul Gaustad, the 6-foot-4 checking forward will be available for the right price but so might talented centerman Derek Roy. He has one year left with a $4 million cap hit but has been less than stellar this year with just 32 points in 57 games. Teams looking for a high level second line center (which might be Roy’s ideal role) might offer up a nice package for him. Anaheim and Calgary may kick tires on the 28-year-old to add scoring depth for their potential playoff runs.

Not far behind him, but even more unlikely to be dealt, Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche. Stastny has two more hefty years at $6.6 million per and has been disappointing yet again this season in Colorado. With just 37 points in 57 games, he’s not living up to his salary even with his defensive conscience. He’s an expensive option but he has a lot of potential. He put up three point-per-game seasons (or thereabouts) in his first four NHL campaigns. As Colorado continues to slide in the standings, they may be able to redeem an asset for Jean-Sebastien Giguere from a team that needs a veteran goalie who has gone the distance before. Though it should be noted, it’s not quite as easy to be a deadline seller when your first round pick has already been moved (to Washington, Varlamov trade). The Avs may need to grin and bear it and try to make a push for eighth.

Two Line Passes

  • It is believed that Marek Zidlicky would waive his no-trade clause to leave Minnesota. He has not gotten along with head coach Mike Yeo and there are a few suitors for Zidlicky despite a down year. The New Jersey Devils are expected to lead the charge for him and it won’t cost much.
  • Expect teams that are “over-achieving” versus expectations like Phoenix and Ottawa to stand pat at the deadline as they don’t want to disrupt their young rosters.
  • Expect only minor moves from teams that are in good, not great, position and/or have players on injured reserve that are expected to return between the trade deadline and the playoffs – St. Louis, Pittsburgh and San Jose are expected to make very few moves at the deadline.
  • The Montreal Canadiens would like to extend gritty winger Travis Moen and not trade him. Scoring winger Andrei Kostitsyn could be had for the right price, perhaps he’ll be re-united with his brother in Nashville – a team that could always use offensive depth.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes want to keep Tuomo Ruutu if possible and contract negotiations are underway. How far those talks progress will depend on whether or not the injured Ruutu is moved at the deadline. If he’s moved, expect it to be in the 11th hour. The Canes will likely move one of their older rearguards such as Jaroslav Spacek or Bryan Allen.
  • The Dallas Stars are looking for a changing of the guard in their organization. That means that captain Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott are available but won’t come cheap. Sheldon Souray may also be available, but that’s less likely after the Stars dealt Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia earlier in the week. The Stars have to be careful not to fall under the cap floor and can’t give up on the playoffs entirely, as the playoff revenues are much needed.
  • The New York Islanders might not move Evgeni Nabokov at the deadline after all – they are actually talking about a contract extension. However, it is believed one or both of Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina will be dealt.
  • The Wild re-signed Kyle Brodziak to a three-year extension; while Detroit has placed Ty Conklin on waivers after Joey MacDonald won the backup job for the remainder of the year.

Stay tuned to Faceoff Factor for continued NHL Trade Deadline coverage.