NHL Trade Deadline Day: Who’s Buying/Selling? Northeast/Souteast Divisions
Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
Let’s face it folks, the Olympics have been a huge distraction for all of us NHL fans, a great distraction, but a distraction nonetheless. Once Sunday nights gold medal game is decided it will mark the point in which all NHL general managers will go back to work with the main focus being the trade deadline.
Going forward, every NHL GM needs to establish wether they are buyers or sellers. For some, identifying their direction will be a tough one, the NHL standings are extremely cluttered, making it tough for many GM’s to decide if they should be making a run at the playoffs or if they should unload.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference and which teams will be buyers, sellers or remain undecided.
Eastern Conference: Northeast Division
Boston Bruins: Undecided—
The Bruins currently sit in seventh overall in the Eastern Conference standings. Given the Bruins dominant performance last season, seventh is not good enough and it says here Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli will be active if he can trade away some cap heavy players.
The task of moving said player will be a tough one. Teams tend to be very frugal at this time of year, so Chiarelli’s hands may very well be tied.
Thought to be one of the better Gm’s in all of hockey, it is very clear that Chiarelli regrets the long term deal he inked goaltender Tim Thomas to, a contract he’d dearly love to dump on another team…easier said than done, I know.
While hockey critics from coast-to-coast have dumped on Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke for giving up what is perceived as as kings ransom for former Bruins sniper Phil Kessel, the loss of one of the Bruins most prolific scorers has handicapped this Bruins team, resulting in an offense that is ranked 30th overall.
Curing what ails the Bruins is rather elementary—bring in some players that can score, how Chiarelli manages to do this is anyone guess? Outside of trading Thomas, the Bruins have a couple of players that may interest trading partners, including defenseman Dennis Wideman and forwards Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder.
Any moves Chiarelli makes will be tough, but that’s, as they say, why they pay him the big bucks!
Buffalo Sabres: Buyers—
Sabres GM Darcy Regier is in his 11th season with the club. Known for drafting good players, Regier has often had to be a seller at the deadline due to financial restraints from ownership.
Trading away the likes of Brian Campbell, Chris Drury and daniel Briere (co-incidentally three of the most overpaid NHL players right now) has proven to be a wise move for Regier and has given him the resources to stockpile his team with young talent.
Ryan Miller remains this teams greatest asset, as the saying goes, as goes Miller, so goes the Sabres. Given Miller’s strong play the Sabres are in the position to make a splash at the deadline.
Many NHL observers love what the Sabres bring to the table on a nightly basis, but critics still feel they will need more offense in order to make a push in the playoffs.
With so many big contracts thought to be available at this years deadline Regier has the opportunity to give up a little of his future in order to get a player that would pay immediate dividends.
Look for Regier to be active at the deadline with an emphasis on bringing in a sniper and some veteran players that can coddle his youngsters in the playoffs.
Montreal Canadiens: Sellers/Buyers
The Montreal Canadiens are a bit of a quagmire—you cannot solely label them as sellers and you can’t dismiss them as buyers either.
Currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference the Canadiens have been the poster boys for mediocre hockey this season.
Montreal sits 25th overall in scoring, 15th in goals against, a surprising second overall on the power play and seventh on the penalty. If only Montreal could play the whole game on special teams, they’d be just fine!
Clearly, where Montreal struggles is when the game is being played five-on-five. With that in mind, the Canadiens will look to either make no moves and let some players walk in the off season or they will change several players in an effort to strengthen their overall lineup.
Either way, it appears as if the Canadiens will be making change, when it happens is the only question left to be answered.
It appears as if goaltender Carey Price is emerging as the odd man out between the pipes. Early speculation had the Canadiens moving goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the Philadelphia Flyers in return for Jeff Carter—a trade that never materialized.
Given Halak’s strong play this season and subsequent dominant performance at the Olympics, it is safe to say Halak has a future in Montreal and will not be going anywhere.
Thomas Plekanec leads the Canadiens in scoring, but is a free agent this off season. If the Canadiens get a sniff that they will not be able to re-sign the talented forward they must look for a trade, regardless of the backlash they will likely incur form their fans, who are always tough on their GM.
Ottawa Senators: Buyers—
By all accounts this team is just starting to gel. With that in mind, don’t expect the Senators to make any big moves—they already made them when they traded away franchise player Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, look for the Senators to shore up their defense, perhaps a depth move such as adding the likes of Atlanta Thrashers Florida Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold to the mix.
Up front the Senators seem to have found their way, but I suspect they would love to add a little grit to the lineup (as always). Columbus Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres would be a nice fit, as would Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. Two very different players, but two players that could be valuable in the playoffs.
Not to be ignored is the Sens move to acquire veteran centre Matt Cullen from the carolina Hurricanes, a player that will bring a veteran presence and a little scoring prowess to boot.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Sellers—
Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has already made two of the biggest trades this season when he landed goaltender J.S. Giguere form the Anaheim Ducks and Defenseman Dion Phaneuf and others from the Calgary Flames.
By all accounts it looks as if Burke has only just begun as it is clear he intends on being very active at the deadline, both in terms of selling assets—such as Alexei Ponikarovsky, Garnet Exelby, Lee Stempniak and possibly Tomas Kaberle—and in terms of adding some more talent up front, if at all possible.
Burke will be on the hunt for a top line centre, something he badly needs to compliment star sniper Phil Kessel. Burke is willing to take on salary in exchange for receiving a good player in return. With that in mind, look for the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins to keep Burkes number on speed dial with the intention of trying to get Burke to bite on players that would free up cap space in order for these two teams to add some valuable pieces to their Stanley Cup run.
If Burke is able to convince Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause (something Burke has stated countless times he will not ask Kaberle to do) then we can all expect a number of teams to show a tremendous amount of interest in Kabby.
But for now, Burke will be looking to add draft picks in return for the likes of Ponikarovsky, Stempniak, etc., something the Leafs are light on coming into the 2010 NHL entry draft.
Eastern Conference: Southeast Division
Atlanta Thrashers: Sellers—
Heading into the Olympic break Thrashers GM Don Waddell pulled the trigger on the much anticipated Ilya Kovalchuk deal, bringing back what many perceived to be a very average return to Atlanta (defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first round draft choice in 2010.
Personally, I think Waddell did well in the trade, bringing in two legitimate NHL players, a tremendous prospect in Cormier and hope for the future with the first round draft choice in 2010. Was it everything Atlanta fans wanted it to be? Probably not, but, given the fact Waddell was under the gun, he did alright.
The other move Waddell made was trading oft-injured goaltender Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas Stars in return for defenseman Ivan Vishnevsky and a fourth round draft pick in the 2010 draft.
Going forward, it would appear as if Waddell will continue to make moves with the intent of bolstering his roster for the long term on the mind. Waddell must now decided on the futures of forwards Nik Antropov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Maxim Afinogenov and, quite possibly his most prized possession for playoff teams—Colby Armstrong.
Armstrong could bring back a decent return, as could Antropov, while Waddell would expect less for the likes of Afinogenov and Kozlov. The good news is, the Thrashers have a good base of youth from which to build with, Waddell would be wise to add to it, and likely shall.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sellers—
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford has already started to dismantle his roster, trading veteran forward Matt Cullen to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a second round draft choice.
Ray Whitney continues to be the subject of numerous trade rumors with the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and many other NHL teams believed to be in the mix for the veteran forward.
Holding up matters is Whitney’s apparent insistence on signing a new two year deal with the team that acquires him, handcuffing Rutherford’s efforts up to this point.
Other players Rutherford may consider moving include, Rod Brind’Amour (good luck trading him) and Chad Larose—a player that many teams may be interested in for the playoff run.
Florida Panthers: Sellers—
The Panthers are a mess. As such, look for them to be very active at the deadline, peddling several players with the intent of building for the future…again!
Names like defenseman Jordan Leopold, forward Cory Stillman and even goaltender Tomas Vokoun are expected to be front and centre where the Florida panthers and trade talks are concerned.
As much as the Panthers would like to make big changes, it appears as if they will be quiet, unless they can get ownership to fork over some dough to make an impact deal.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Sellers—
One of these days a deal for highly priced centre Vincent Lecavalier is going to get done, whether or not it happens at this years trade deadline is anyone’s guess.
The Lightning appear to be headed for another bottom ten finish this season—perhaps even a bottom five finish if they play their cards “right”
Youngsters Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie and Victor Hedman give the Lightning a good base form which to build from, while veterans Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Malone could serve as a nice compliment to this underachieving roster.
Alex Tanguay will likely be moved, but don’t expect a lot in return for the struggling forward. Other potential players to be traded include goaltender Mike Smith, who may very well be expendable now that Antero Niittymaki has emerged as a strong goaltender.
Whatever the case may be, the Lightning are best to stay the course, rebuilding through the draft and, in due time, ridding themselves of their larger contracts in order to facilitate signing the likes of Stamkos and Hedman long-term.
Washington Capitals: Buyers—
Like many of the top-tier teams, the Washington Capitals will not have a ton of cap room to facilitate any big moves, but they can and likely will “tweak” their roster.
Look for the Capitals to try to add some grit for the playoffs. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres would be a nice fit on the Caps fourth line, while a move for a depth defenseman would not be out of the question.
Let’s face it, the Capitals are a very special team, one that is poised to go a long way in this years playoffs, so don’t expect Capitals GM George McPhee to re-invent the wheel here, he has a good thing going here, no need to screw up the chemistry he already has.
There has been a lot of questions about Washington’s goaltending—as long as Semyon Varlamov is healthy they will be golden, otherwise, the Caps would be wise to look into acquiring some depth, say Nashville Predators soon to be free agent goaltender Dan Ellis, who will likely be available now that Pekka Rinne has signed a long-term deal with the Preds.
Whatever the case may be, Washington can stay with what they got or make a move, either way, they should be amongst the teams to beat in this years playoffs.