Kovalev, Ellis highlight busy day of trades

This year’s trade deadline continues to shape up into one of the most active in recent history. With four days still remaining until the actual trade deadline, several big name players were on the move today with even more teams getting into the hunt for top-tier talent as they look to stay competitive with their rivals and give themselves the best chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens put themselves into the mix by acquiring defenseman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes from the Atlanta Thrashers. The move to get Sopel is a necessary one as Montreal’s blue line has been plagued by injuries all season and the recent reports that defenseman Jaroslav Spacek could be done for the season make the addition of Sopel, a solid penalty killer and shot-blocker, even more important. The Canadiens are 9th in the league in goals against per game and they want to keep it that way.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks were also active this afternoon  in the goalie department as the Lightning sent goaltender Dan Ellis (pictured) to Anaheim in exchange for goaltender Curtis McElhinney. This is an interesting trade, especially from the Lightning’s point of view. Ellis, who will be under contract until the end of next season, was brought in this past summer to be a starting goaltender for Tampa but eventually lost the job to Dwayne Roloson, who the Lightning acquired through a trade with the Islanders. Either the Lightning are looking to ride Roloson through the playoffs with McElhinney as the backup, or general manager Steve Yzerman is setting up to make a push at another goalie before the trade deadline hits. Could Yzerman make a pass at cross-state rival Tomas Vokoun?

The Tampa/Anaheim trade is a good one for the Ducks, however, and gives the team another solid option in goal with starting netminder Jonas Hiller still feeling the effects of what the team is calling vertigo symptoms.

Perhaps one of the biggest deals of the day, however, involved the Pittsburgh Penguins as they look for options to help solidify their struggling offense. With superstar Evgeni Malkin done for the season and captain Sidney Crosby still sidelined with concussion symptoms, the team made a move to bring in more offensive depth by acquiring Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. Kovalev, who played with Pittsburgh from 1998 until 2003, should benefit from the change in scenery. Earlier this season Kovalev made public statements about his unhappiness in Ottawa and his general role on the team.

Forward Cory Stillman will also find himself in familiar territory as he was acquired by the Carolina Hurricane in exchange for forward Ryan Carter and a fifth-round draft pick at this year’s draft. Stillman had to waive his no-trade clause in order to be moved to Carolina where he played for three seasons between 2005 and 2008.

The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t make a trade today, but they made a significant move by waiving forward Nikolay Zherdev. Zherdev could offer some value elsewhere if claimed but has largely been an underachieving disappointment for the Flyers this season by contributing only 15 goals and four assists – a far cry from his career-best output of 26 goals and 61 points just a few seasons ago in Columbus. Again, this could just be a set-up move as the Flyers look to create room for a bigger addition in the days to come.

Although several big-name players have already been moved over the past few weeks, many more could find themselves in a new uniform before all is said and done. Each day brings more rumors with names like John-Michael Liles and Paul Stastny now popping up in Colorado and the will-they-or-won’t-they storyline concerning Brad Richards and the Dallas Stars still a hot topic in the media. And the blockbuster events last weekend proved that seemingly no player is untouchable at the trade deadline. Look for many more teams to get in on the action and make significant moves over the next few days before the trade freeze hits the NHL at 3 p.m. on Monday.

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