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Friday, February 11, 2011
Trade talk: Kings interested in Hemsky? Stars' plan for Richards? Wings waiting?

By Pierre LeBrun

Kings interested in Hemsky?

As the trade deadline approaches, the Los Angeles Kings haven't changed their target since the season began: Add a top-six forward before Feb. 28.

There isn't a whole lot on the market right now in terms of top-six forwards, but one name I am told intrigues the Kings is Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers.

The problem is, it's not clear whether Hemsky will be dealt. The Oilers are listening, but they are not desperate to move him. The 27-year-old has one year left on his deal, next season at $5 million with a $4.1 million cap hit.

Hemsky would fit the Kings' need to add offensive creativity up front. If the Oilers decide to keep Hemsky, Los Angeles will have to hope more teams drop out of the playoff race between now and Feb. 28, introducing new names to the market.

Stars and the trade deadline

The slumping Dallas Stars have big weekend games against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and every game from here on out might affect the way GM Joe Nieuwendyk approaches the trade deadline.

A month ago, the Stars were leading the Pacific Division and challenging Vancouver for top spot in the West. But after they dropped six of seven games, the entire Pacific Division is back in contention for first place. As of Friday morning, the Sharks were tied with the Stars, and the last-place Kings were only five points out. What's even more nerve-racking -- the skid has left the Stars only five points clear of the postseason cutoff point in the conference. What a race in the West!

So what now for Dallas? Help on the blue line is the likely target, but with the club still seeking a new owner, adding another piece after pushing the envelope with the Jamie Langenbrunner acquisition won't be easy.

"I'm listening to everything, if something makes sense ... but our biggest challenge is the money and whether we could do it,'' Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com on Friday. "They [bank lenders who control the team] were good enough to let us do Langenbrunner, so we'll see."

The question is, what position will the Stars' GM be in by deadline time? Will he be a buyer, like he is now, or a seller, if the Stars keep losing games and sliding down the standings?

It's a relevant question when it comes to star No. 1 center Brad Richards, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. For most of the season, it was assumed Richards wouldn't be going anywhere with the Stars flying out of the gates and that Nieuwendyk likely would take his chances at re-signing the forward following a potential long playoff run with Richards in the lineup.

But if the Stars are only one or two points clear of the danger zone come Feb. 28, do they not at least seek out what kind of package is out there for Richards, something that potentially could set up the Stars for five years?

Richards has a no-movement clause, but I'm guessing if the right team calls, he might be willing to waive it. Take Boston, for example. The B's now are armed with the Marc Savard cap savings and could offer him a chance at a Cup run.

It all depends on how the Stars do over the next two weeks. Did we mention they have big games this weekend against the Hawks and Jackets?

What about the Red Wings?

My colleague Darren Dreger at TSN had an interesting tidbit in his daily roundup Friday, reporting that the Detroit Red Wings might be active on the trade front in order to shake up a slumping squad.

I reached out to Wings GM Ken Holland on that.

"We haven't played very well defensively the last month, and I'm going to watch the next two weeks to decide if I'm going to try to do something," Holland told ESPN.com. "We're getting players back the next week, so let's see where we are as we get close to the trade deadline."

In other words, maybe a trade, maybe not. If he does pull the trigger, it likely will be on defense.

Fisher fallout

During a media call Thursday evening, Sens GM Bryan Murray said the Mike Fisher sweepstakes involved about four teams at one point, but it really came down to two teams and the runner-up pulled out Wednesday night because it wouldn't pay the price. That runner-up was not the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, the Kings inquired about Fisher, a source confirmed Thursday, but they were out of the picture about 10 days before the trade.

Murray also explained that conditional pick his team got in the deal. It's a third-rounder in 2012 if the Preds win a playoff round this season; it improves to a second-rounder in 2012 if the Preds win two playoff rounds. But what if the Preds don't win a playoff round at all? A pertinent question since, well, the Preds have never won a playoff series. No conditional pick, Murray confirmed. Ah, those tiny details details.

Meanwhile, I asked Murray about the latest with Chris Phillips, set to be UFA July 1 but armed with a no-trade clause. Murray confirmed he recently had a chat with the veteran blueliner and was waiting to hear back from him as to whether he wanted to waive his NTC and explore a trade. Reached via text Friday, Murray said he still "wasn't sure'' how the Phillips situation would play out.

Sharks GM keeping quiet

Sharks GM Doug Wilson is about as coy as they come this time of year. When he makes a big trade, it's usually without anyone having a clue about it beforehand. He keeps his cards close to his vest. So, when I reached him Friday on his cell, he politely declined any comment regarding the trade deadline.

We'll dub him "Lou Lamoriello, West."

And like Lamoriello's Devils team, which the Sharks were playing Friday night in Newark, San Jose has been absolutely on fire of late, riding a 9-0-1 run.

A couple of minor moves last month -- picking up Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager -- have had a nice impact. Meanwhile, several players who struggled in the first half have picked it up, most notably Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski.

I think it has lessened the pressure on Wilson to do anything before the trade deadline. Yes, adding a top-four blueliner would be nice, but there's big-time market competition on that front. I suspect Wilson will continue to monitor the defensemen rental market closely, but he's got another card up his sleeve. Young blueliner Justin Braun has really impressed this season in the AHL, so don't be surprised if he gets a late-season call-up, just like the Sharks did with Logan Couture a year ago.

Braun had a taste of the NHL earlier this season when the Sharks were hammered with injuries, and he didn't disappoint, putting up nine points (1-8) in 15 games with an even rating.

Seabrook not moving

Somehow Brent Seabrook's name got swept up in trade rumors this past week. Well, I guess it's that time of year. Maybe it's because he still hasn't signed a contract extension (he's set to become a restricted free agent July 1). But a Blackhawks source told ESPN.com on Friday that the trade rumors involving Seabrook were a total fabrication and the team is still in the process of trying to re-sign him.