With the NHL trade deadline just a handful of days away, teams continue to hold on to their biggest assets in hopes of landing the best deals possible when push comes to shove at the deadline.
Several smaller deals have taken place over the past several days with the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning doing most of the work, but the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings have also gotten into the mix. But the biggest deals are yet to come.
Tampa Bay has been the most active, dealing defenseman Pavel Kubina to the Flyers, forward Dominic Moore to San Jose and forward Steve Downie to Colorado in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey, who they immediately flipped to the Detroit Red Wings for a first round draft pick and a minor league defenseman. Tampa Bay now has two first round draft picks and three second round draft picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft this summer. Tampa now has a lot of options with those picks if they want to use them or trade them for roster players either now or at the draft.
The Columbus Blue Jackets could end up making the biggest deals at the deadline with high-caliber goal scorers like Rick Nash and Jeff Carter available, but the team also has players like Kristian Huselius and Derek Brassard who could find themselves on the move. Huselius has been injured for most of the season but could still be a good depth addition for many teams while Brassard has mostly been a disappointment for Columbus, who could just look to unload his contract for picks or prospects.
With the emergence of Rick Nash rumors, Jeff Carter has taken a back seat in the rumor mill, although it’s likely he will still be moved by the deadline. The Toronto Maple Leafs could look to add Carter to their lineup, but the Los Angeles Kings are also rumored to be in the hunt for another goal scorer and have plenty of assets to offer, including goalie Jonathan Bernier and defenseman Jack Johnson.
The Flyers appeared to be a front-runner for Nash, but their acquisitions of Grossman and Kubina on the blue line, coupled with the high asking price of Nash, could put them out of the running. The New York Rangers have long been linked to Nash, but the San Jose Sharks appear to be the current front runner in trade talks. According to Darren Dreger of TSN, Columbus reportedly asked for Logan Couture as part of a package, which was immediately rejected by Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Regardless, Columbus will likely want a roster player like Couture or Joe Pavelski in return, or maybe even Ryane Clowe to a lesser extent depending on what else is included in the package.
Once a highly sought after trade target, things have become a little foggier with Tuomo Ruutu in Carolina after a recent injury. The Hurricanes reportedly offered him a contract extension earlier this week with no word yet if it was accepted or rejected. If contract talks go sour, Carolina could still end up dealing him before the deadline.
Ales Hemsky still appears to be on the radar of several teams. Nearly any team looking to add scoring depth has been linked to Hemsky in recent weeks, including Detroit, Nashville and Los Angeles. However, the Oilers may wait until the last minute before dealing Hemsky to see what happens with Nash. If Nash gets dealt, teams may get desperate and open up their wallets a bit more to overpay for a player like Hemsky.
The Anaheim Ducks once apeared ready to make significant changes to their lineup, but a second-half resurgence has put those thoughts aside. That doesn’t mean that teams won’t inquire about players like Bobby Ryan or Ryan Getzlaf, but the asking price could now be higher with the Ducks six points out of a playoff spot. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovski could also be dealt at the deadline as well.
And, like every trade deadline, the best trades are the ones nobody sees coming. With the playoff race being so tight, many teams are looking to make that final push to get the right pieces in place for a long playoff run. Players previously thought untouchable become available for the right price and teams do what they can to improve themselves either for this season or the next. Will Nashville actually trade Ryan Suter or Shea Weber? Could Teemu Selanne waive his no-trade clause for a chance at the cup? With less than a week until the trade deadline, look for the big dominoes to begin falling soon.
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