Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Check this list: Some of these players will be on the move
By Scott Burnside
General managers ... recharge your BlackBerrys, update your Rolodexes and confirm your speed-dial lists. It's trade-deadline season.
With the All-Star break beyond us, the Feb. 26 trade deadline looms large, and serious wheeling and dealing will begin in earnest as teams try to restock for the future, a charge to the playoffs or a run at the Stanley Cup.
Here's a look at 25 players who could be on the move in the coming weeks, what impact they might have and their contract status after this season.
Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals (unrestricted free agent)
There are a strange set of circumstances unfolding in Washington as the once-dead Caps crawled to within a point of the Southeast Division lead at the break. They did so in spite of pretty ordinary goaltending from the classy veteran Kolzig, who has recorded a save percentage of more than .900 in just three of his past 11 games. Could GM George McPhee find a team looking for veteran backup help a la the Calgary Flames, who recently signed Curtis Joseph? The New York Rangers, perhaps? Or San Jose Sharks?
Mathieu Garon, Edmonton Oilers ($1 million next season)
Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe will have a hard time finding a taker for goalie Dwayne Roloson, who is due $3 million next season, but he might have an easier time moving Garon, who has supplanted Roloson as the starter in Edmonton. Garon has been sensational in the shootout (he's an unbelievable 8-0-0) and has a respectable 2.53 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Would Garon give the Caps enough of an upgrade to get into the postseason? What about as a backup to workhorse Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose, where the Sharks need a long playoff run? If the Rangers make the playoffs, Garon might be a nice safety net for Henrik Lundqvist.
Brian Campbell, Buffalo Sabres (unrestricted free agent)
The plot thickens in Buffalo, or sickens if you're a Sabres fan. Campbell won't talk contract with the Sabres until after the season. The team will be life-and-death to make the playoffs and GM Darcy Regier can hardly afford to let another key piece of his franchise take a powder without getting something in return. And Campbell, an All-Star and strong candidate for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, is the best defenseman who could be available on the market. The New York Rangers need help defensively, as do the Sharks.
Joni Pitkanen, Edmonton Oilers (restricted free agent)
Hall of Fame hockey writer Jim Matheson recently compared Pitkanen to Florida stud Jay Bouwmeester. Pitkanen is a Finn, not a Canadian, and got a bad rap in Philadelphia before being dealt to the Oilers in the offseason. Can the Oil afford him, especially if teams will be looking for a little payback on GM Kevin Lowe with an offer sheet in the offseason? If Lowe thinks rookie Tim Gilbert is the puck-moving defenseman of the future, he might be tempted to move him. Pitkanen won't be cheap, though.
Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings (unrestricted free agent)
The big veteran has a no-trade clause but is believed to be willing to waive it under the right circumstances. He was hoping to be part of a renaissance in Los Angeles, but the Kings are among the NHL's worst teams. So Blake might be happy to give it one more go somewhere else. If Colorado moves defenseman John-Michael Liles, Blake could return to Colorado, where he won a Cup in 2001. The New York Rangers will also be interested in shoring up their blue line.
Wade Redden, Ottawa Senators (unrestricted free agent)
Interesting choices face Ottawa GM Bryan Murray. He'd like to bring in Peter Forsberg if the talented center is healthy, but he also has to keep one eye on the future. Ottawa has pretty good defensive depth, so it's unlikely he'll offer Redden a contract for the $6.5 million he's making this season. Would he deal Redden to, say, Edmonton, for some offensive depth if he can't land Forsberg? There are few quality defensemen who could be on the move, so the asking price will be high.
John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalanche (unrestricted free agent)
Liles has a lot of upside as a puck-moving defenseman, but it appears the Avs won't be looking to re-sign him, so he'll likely be on the move. Liles might be the kind of defenseman who could help a team like Chicago over the long term if they thought they could lock him up.
Dan Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning (unrestricted free agent)
Boyle has missed all but five games this season, but he did return to action just before the break and netted two goals against Ottawa. GM Jay Feaster is already in a salary-cap predicament with his three top forwards (Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards). The question is whether Feaster can afford to lock up Boyle -- a fine, underappreciated defenseman and another likely member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team -- without shedding one of the so-called triplets. The Bolts have little in the way of top prospects ready to play in the NHL and they need to restock the cupboard. The Rangers, Bruins and Sharks might be interested. If the Sens moved Redden, Boyle (an Ottawa native) would be a natural fit.
Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators (restricted free agent)
Suter, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, may have taken a little longer to mature, but he's maturing rapidly and would be an attractive target for a GM thinking of making an offer sheet in the offseason. GM David Poile has said he will sign the team's top four restricted free agents -- Suter, Shea Weber, Jordin Tootoo and Martin Erat -- but if the moribund franchise doesn't hit the revenue-sharing triggers because of soft attendance, it may not have the cash. That would again force Poile into a position in which he might have to move top-level talent.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators (restricted free agent)
See above, although Weber is the far more attractive prospect because of his size and booming shot and will (should) be priority re-signing No. 1 for the Predators.
Brad Stuart, Los Angeles Kings (unrestricted free agent)
Once upon a time, the third overall pick in the 1998 entry draft was considered one of the cornerstones of the San Jose Sharks' blue line. Dealt to Boston in the Joe Thornton deal, Stuart didn't fit in Boston, or later in Calgary, and has languished like many of the Kings in Los Angeles. He is minus-14 and has just four goals. Still, he has tools and could help fill out a playoff roster for the Rangers or even in San Jose, where coach Ron Wilson is familiar with Stuart's abilities.
Marian Hossa, Atlanta Thrashers, RW (unrestricted free agent)
The top player that could be available on the market. GM Don Waddell will make one last-ditch effort to re-sign Hossa this week, but as one top agent told ESPN.com, there's "not a chance" Hossa will sign in Atlanta. One of the top two-way players in the game despite an off year offensively (45 points in 49 games), Hossa should yield an attractive package of top picks, prospects and/or young NHLers. San Jose (possibly for center Patrick Marleau), Vancouver or Colorado could all use offensive help and Hossa could deliver. Hossa does not have a no-trade clause; hard to imagine a team acquiring Hossa without believing they could sign him long term.
Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs, C (unrestricted free agent)
There is still much debate about whether Sundin will waive his no-trade clause to allow the Leafs to restock their shelves. As a center enjoying his most productive season in years (54 points in 51 games at the break), Sundin should bring a premium package. Anaheim could use depth down the middle, while Vancouver, Colorado, Calgary and Philadelphia all have the needs and assets to put a deal together. Look for Jeff Carter to be part of any deal involving the Flyers. Sundin's value will also go up if Forsberg can't return or signs early.
Darcy Tucker, Toronto Maple Leafs, RW (three years left on four-year deal; $3M annual cap hit)
The Leafs will be in sell-off mode in the coming days (why else would they bring in interim GM Cliff Fletcher if not to clear the decks) and there might be some interest in the scrappy forward if a GM thinks he might be able to rekindle the fire that seems to have gone out this season for Tucker. His $9 million over three years will be a tough sell, though. He might fit well with Mike Keenan in Calgary, and Tucker is a Western Canadian boy.
Jason Blake, Toronto Maple Leafs, LW (four years left on five-year deal, $4M annual cap hit)
Speaking of the Leafs' yard sale, Fletcher will no doubt be working the phones to try and find a taker for the fiery winger, who has grossly underachieved this season (just nine goals after a career-best 40 in 2006-07). Would the Islanders, who struggle to attract top free agents, want Blake back?
Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers, RW (unrestricted free agent)
If the five-time scoring champ doesn't collect 84 points and the Rangers don't win at least one playoff round, then Jagr would become an unrestricted free agent. The team is on the playoff bubble, which raises the issue of whether GM Glen Sather would risk moving the talented 36-year-old winger, perhaps for defensive help, or seeing Jagr walk away for free in the offseason.
Mark Recchi, Atlanta Thrashers, RW (unrestricted free agent)
Just when it looked like it was over for the two-time Cup winner, Recchi has revived his career in Atlanta. He has 20 points in 23 games with the Thrashers, playing mostly with Ilya Kovalchuk. Still, does Recchi, who turns 40 this week, fit in long term on a team that needs to stop filling its lineup with castoffs and develop its own players? No. But Recchi might find a home on a playoff-bound team looking for scoring depth.
Bobby Holik, Atlanta Thrashers, C (unrestricted free agent)
Sources tell ESPN.com the New Jersey Devils inquired about Holik before the season, dangling John Madden. Why the Thrashers wouldn't have jumped at such an offer is mind-boggling, but we digress. Holik was once considered one of the top shut-down playoff men in the business and may still have limited value on the open market. The Devils would be a good place to start.
Glen Murray, Boston Bruins, RW (one year left on contract; $4.15 million)
The big forward has missed 14 games and counting with a hip flexor injury and doesn't fit into the Bruins' plans moving forward. He's a big ticket, but for a team with cap room and offensive needs like the Vancouver Canucks, it might be a good fit.
Martin Lapointe, Chicago Blackhawks, RW (unrestricted free agent)
Lapointe has been a great presence in the Chicago dressing room, but he really doesn't fit in the team's rebuilding and it has Kevyn Adams (albeit injured) to fill the role of the character leader/defensive specialist. Still, Lapointe is as tough as they come and could be a nice addition to a Stanley Cup-caliber team. Lapointe's old team, Detroit, might be interested, or Ottawa given it was pushed around by Anaheim in last season's Cup finals.
Sergei Fedorov, Columbus Blue Jackets, C (unrestricted free agent)
One of the more enigmatic players in the league, the former MVP and three-time Cup winner (all with the Red Wings) is on the down side of a Hall of Fame career. But he will still be enticing to a number of clubs looking for offensive depth, including the Ottawa Senators (GM Bryan Murray had Fedorov in Anaheim), or back in Detroit, where he is a known quantity.
Michael Peca, Columbus Blue Jackets, C (unrestricted free agent)
If the Blue Jackets are serious about re-signing veteran defenseman and captain Adam Foote, it might make Peca more expendable as Columbus moves into a summer where it is expected to be active on the free-agent market. Peca was a key part of the Edmonton Oilers' run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals and would be a nice addition to a team like Ottawa or Detroit. Could the Buffalo Sabres use a little leadership right about now? Um, yes.
Ladislav Nagy, Los Angeles Kings, LW (unrestricted free agent)
The enigmatic Slovak will likely be looking at his fourth NHL home since the start of last season, having been in Phoenix, Dallas and now Los Angeles. Nagy has never produced at a level his talent suggests; the trend has continued this season as he has nine goals in 38 games. Ottawa and Colorado are looking for scoring depth, but Nagy won't command the first-round draft pick Phoenix was able to coax out of Dallas a season ago.
J.P. Dumont, Nashville Predators, RW (unrestricted free agent)
Dumont presents another interesting dilemma for Poile. Poile has a passel of restricted free agents to sign before next season and Dumont entered the break with a 14-game points streak as the Preds have climbed back to the edge of the playoff bubble. Poile would like to sign Dumont, who turns 30 in April; but does Dumont want to stick around a team that has a limited future in Nashville? Buffalo would sure love to have Dumont back, as would any team looking for offensive help that won't break the salary-cap or assets bank.
Michael Ryder, Montreal Canadiens, RW (unrestricted free agent)
The Newfoundland native scored 30 goals in each of the first two seasons after the lockout, but is having a miserable campaign in 2007-08 with just eight goals in 44 games. That said, Ryder has come around of late with two goals in the past four games. He might not yield much for the Habs, but there will certainly be interest. Perhaps from Colorado? The Avs are in desperate need of offensive help with Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth on the injury shelf.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.