Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun look at the top players left on the market and debate where those players will land before Monday's NHL trade deadline:
Burnside: Well, my friend, hope you've thawed out from your trip to Calgary. Even with the number of deals already consummated ahead of the Feb. 28 trade deadline, things are starting to get interesting, no?
Dallas lost again Tuesday night, a 1-0 decision against New Jersey (will the Devils ever lose again?). The Stars are now officially outside the playoff bubble, with one win in their past 10 games. Is there any doubt GM Joe Nieuwendyk will try to move highly coveted center Brad Richards? The issue is Richards is out with a concussion. I know you had contact with the former playoff MVP and he's feeling better, but what will his market value be given the injury? It's bad news for Nieuwendyk, who will have to find a willing partner and then convince Richards to accept a deal.
A tough situation, but with so few impact offensive players available as traditional rentals, you have to figure someone will take a run at a player who, when healthy, can make a dramatic impact on a team's playoffs chances.
LeBrun: I also chatted yesterday with Nieuwendyk. Although he had to be careful in what he could share, the Stars GM once again reiterated he wants to sign Richards and keep him in Dallas, but also has to look at all his "options.''
Nieuwendyk reiterated the point Wednesday on the NHL Live! show: "I've discussed it with some teams. All options are in play here. It's certainly not my first choice; I've maintained all along that we'd like to keep Brad as a Dallas Star for a long period of time. There's a lot of uncertainty with our side as far as ownership that are a concern for them. But all options are open. It's certainly going to have to be a good type of deal in order to pry him away from us because we are sitting tied for eighth right now and have a lot of home games coming up in March."
As GM, there is no question he has to see what's out there for Richards. The team is fading fast and the forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Stars must get value in return.
It's complicated by Richards' injury, but he told me yesterday via text he was feeling better. Still, he also has a no-movement clause. Will he agree to waive it? Tough to tell. But if and when trade talks with Richards get heated, you can bet the Los Angeles Kings will be among the teams chatting with the Stars. Toronto and the New York Rangers will also look hard at Richards via free agency this summer. Would either team look to land him before Monday's trade deadline? Perhaps, but only if Richards would be willing to sign an extension now, is my guess.
The clock is ticking and the Kings have yet to make their long-anticipated move. I'm told they actually tried to pry James Neal away from Dallas earlier this season, but the price of Jack Johnson was way too steep.
As I reported a few weeks ago, Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers is another player on the Kings' wish list. Another is Florida's David Booth. The problem in all of the Kings' trade talks is I believe teams are asking for prized prospect Brayden Schenn in return from L.A. He is a player the Kings really don't want to move, certainly not for Hemsky or Booth. Schenn is the Kings' future star center. My guess is the Kings are willing to move him only if Richards comes in a sign-and-trade with the Kings.
Burnside: Yes, it's hard to imagine Kings GM Dean Lombardi will part with Schenn for players with significant injury baggage like Booth and Hemsky. It will be interesting to see what kind of market there will be for Booth or Hemsky, since they both have time left on their existing deals.
Hemsky will make $5 million next year ($4.1 million cap hit), while Booth has four more years at an annual cap hit of $4.25 million. We've seen GMs ante up first-round picks for players they know they'll have at least through next season, but there's too much risk to commit top draft picks or a top asset like Schenn for these two players given their injury history.
So, if you can't pry Richards out of Dallas, what about Paul Stastny, whose name has come up in rumors? I spoke to a source familiar with the situation in Denver who said he wouldn't be surprised to see Stastny being shopped. Stastny is signed through 2013-14 at a whopper $6.6 million cap hit, but if you are a contending team that thinks a change of pace will see Stastny become an 80-90 point guy, maybe you try to make a move.
Interesting that Stastny scored the winner against St. Louis on Tuesday night and his dad, Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, blasted the team's big trade from this past weekend. A lot going on in the Mile High City even if the team is cooked for the playoffs.
LeBrun: Some media reports have linked the Kings to Stastny, but a source told me that, as of Tuesday night, there had not been any conversations between the two clubs regarding Stastny. Of course, all that can change with one phone call, but I'm not sure Stastny is a fit in L.A. They're already paying center Anze Kopitar a lot of money. If they're going to pay another center big bucks, I think they would rather it be Richards than Stastny. But that's just me.
The Avs may not be done either way. Defenseman John-Michael Liles is another name out there. He's got another year on his deal next season at $4.55 million ($4.2 million cap hit) and Toronto is among the teams that has kicked the tires on him. But the top defenseman likely left on the market, at least for rentals, is Florida's Bryan McCabe. He'll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and could really boost a power play. The New York Rangers are interested, but they don't want to pay a big price. The Panthers are working the phones as they prepare to unload some players, but don't expect center Stephen Weiss to move. Unless it's an offer they can't refuse, I'm told the Panthers don't plan to move him.
Burnside: The situation with McCabe, one of the infamous Muskoka Five from his Toronto days, will be interesting. If he won't agree to a trade, I wonder if
teams will be calling GM Rick Dudley in Atlanta. With the addition of Mark Stuart on Friday, it's hard to imagine Dudley wouldn't be adverse to moving Ron Hainsey. He has a limited no-trade clause and is expensive with two years left at a $4.5 million annual cap hit, but he can do a lot of things pretty well. Hard to imagine the Thrashers dealing with a team just ahead of them in the standings, but stranger things have happened. Love these days before the deadline!
LeBrun: Another defenseman the Thrashers may trade if they fall further back is Johnny Oduya. He's got another year on his deal at $4 million in salary, but the cap hit is $3.5 million. The Thrashers like Oduya but, as you pointed out, are overloaded on the back end now. Speaking of blueliners, Joni Pitkanen is a terrific puck-mover and power-play threat. He'll be UFA July 1. I'm told the Carolina Hurricanes are not shopping him as they attempt to make the playoffs. Having said that, it doesn't stop other teams from calling, and that's just what is happening.
I don't think the Hurricanes are going to move him unless they are absolutely blown away. Speaking of the Canes, who are eighth in the East, look for them to try to add a veteran piece or two before the deadline with the money they saved in trading away Ian White to San Jose. Let's talk more trades tomorrow!