Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Trade Deadline Decisions

After watching last night's game versus the Los Angeles Kings, I can say that the Calgary Flames made a good hockey move for their franchise. By reacquiring Craig Conroy from the Kings, the Flames have addressed what has been a major issue all season: no top-line centre. In his return to Calgary last night, Conroy scored twice in a 4-1 win over the Kings, and looked quite comfortable on the ice. Calgary still holds top spot in the Northwest Division, and third in the Western Conference, with a game in hand on the Vancouver Canucks.

While it's no secret that Darryl Sutter is not a huge Craig Conroy fan, Sutter listened to his star, Jarome Iginla, and finally completed a trade that had been in the works for some time. They gave up a couple of draft picks and Jamie Lundmark, who has shown that he may never live up to his potential, so the loss may offset the addition. And since Conroy's contract is up at the end of the season, it will give Sutter some room to make a deal to keep Conroy this time. Don't forget that Conroy was the man playing alongside Iginla when the Flames lost in Game Seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I believe that Sutter won't let Conroy walk away this time.

So who else is on the trading block? Who is interested? Who are the buyers? Who are the sellers? I'm going to run this down as easily as I can. Here's a list of teams and players who are available, and who is interested in whom:

- It is reported today on Sportsnet that the Rangers are no longer interested in Peter Forsberg of the Philadelphia Flyers due to health-related concerns. They are now looking at trying to acquire Keith Tkachuk from the St. Louis Blues, Bryan Smolinski from the Chicago Blackhawks, or Josef Vasicek from the Nashville Predators. There is some concern that the asking price for any one of the three players could be blue-chip defenseman Marc Staal, currently playing for the Sudbury Wolves. It remains to be seen what the Rangers counter-offer for any of the three players would be, but Petr Prucha is another name being floated around.

- The Los Angeles Kings have all but conceded this season at this point, and GM Dean Lombardi has made it clear that any aging free-agents-to-be may be shipped out. This includes the likes of Sean Avery, Brent Sopel, and Aaron Miller. Rob Blake's name has been linked to the Edmonton Oilers, but it would take a major offer of players from the Oilers to get Blake. Raffi Torres and Joffrey Lupul are two names involved in that trade on the Oilers' side.

- According to multiple reports, Brad Stuart of the Boston Bruins will be moved before the deadline. Possible destinations include Chicago, Anaheim, Philadelphia, Edmonton, and Ottawa. Of those five teams, only Anaheim and Ottawa seem to be looking for depth defensemen.

- Rumours are swirling about the Edmonton Oilers' interest in reacquiring Eric Brewer from the St. Louis Blues. Jarret Stoll's name has come up in these rumours as the top candidate to be headed to St. Louis.

- Peter Forsberg's name continues to be linked with as many as twelve NHL teams. In the meeting Forsberg had with Paul Holmgren, Philly's GM, it was determined that Peter Forsberg should get healthy and not worry about being traded. If he does get traded, I would hazard a guess and say that he will return to Philadelphia next season. He and Gagne play well together, and Holmgren knows the fans like Forsberg. He's big, he's exciting, he plays with an edge, and he seems to be a good fit when he's in the lineup for the Flyers. John Buccigross of ESPN says he will be traded, and I feel the same way. I do see him returning in 2007-08 to the Flyers, though.

- Shane Doan's name has been dropped as a man who may be headed out of Phoenix if the Coyotes don't make the playoffs. It appears that the Coyotes may be asking either too much as these rumours have fallen off as of late.

- The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly shopping the likes of Bryan Smolinksi and Adrian Aucoin, and have all but made themselves sellers. Unless this team turns a corner fast and starts winning handfuls of games at a time, the Blackhawks will almost certainly unload some veterans.

- The Florida Panthers have nearly made themselves sellers, and it sounds like Bertuzzi might be the big sale. Almost everyone could be considered movable in south Florida, with the exceptions of Olli Jokinen, Jay Bouwmeester, and Nathan Horton. Martin Gelinas is another player rumoured to be on his way out as soon as someone offers something for him.

- Darcy Tucker's name keeps coming up in Toronto trade talk with Edmonton, Ottawa, and Calgary as possible destinations. Paul Maurice has gone on record that Tucker wants to remain in Toronto, but if the right deal comes up, don't be surprised if he gets moved to a team looking for a gritty winger. I'd rule Calgary out at this point, having reacquired Conroy, and Edmonton needs a puck-moving defenseman more than they need a gritty winger.

Now I'm sure there will be other deals involving depth players. I don't see many goaltenders being moved, unless they are back-ups. In any case, it should make for an interesting few weeks leading up to the deadline. As more teams drop off in their hunt for a playoff spot, look for the number of sellers to increase. However, with 20-24 teams currently within 10 points of a playoff spot with approximately 30 games to play, this race will make for an interesting finish!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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