Trade deadline primer
Rick Nash is still the big fish in this year's trade market.
Several teams have bait on their hooks as they try to get him out of Columbus, but the Blue Jackets have a tight hold on the line and time is running out.
The NHL's trade deadline is 3 p.m. ET on Monday and as of late Sunday night, Nash was still the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. For that matter, Steve Ott was still with the Dallas Stars; Nikolai Khabibulin was still with the Edmonton Oilers; Evgeni Nabokov was still an Islander; Josh Harding was still in Minnesota; and both Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec were still forwards for the Canadiens.
It could all change in what promises to be an attention-grabbing deadline day in the National Hockey League, one that should, for once and for all, answer these pressing questions:
Is Nash going anywhere?
Nash is obviously the most talked about player that could be had. The Rangers and Maple Leafs appeared to be the leading candidates for him, but reports surfaced Sunday evening that the Rangers were balking at the Blue Jackets' high asking price.
Similarly, reports out of Toronto are that the team is unwilling to part with young defenseman Jake Gardiner, who led the Leafs with 26:31 of ice time in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Washington.
The Blue Jackets' captain and leading scorer has spent his entire career in Columbus and is signed through the 2017-18 season at a $7.8 million cap hit. He has a no-movement clause, but has given Columbus a list of teams he'd be willing to accept a trade to. The Rangers and Maple Leafs along with the Sharks, Bruins, Canucks and Kings are believed to be on the list.
Nash's agent, Joe Resnick, told TSN and NHL Network Insider Bob McKenzie that he's hopeful his client is traded prior to Monday's deadline in a deal that is "fair and equitable for the Blue Jackets," but it is still distinctly possible that Nash is a Blue Jacket after 3 p.m. ET on Monday and the team re-opens trade talks after the season, when potential franchise goalies such as Vancouver's Cory Schneider could be available.
Is Plekanec really in play?
The Montreal Gazette sparked the rumors with its report Sunday morning that Plekanec's agent, Rick Curran, has told the Canadiens that his client would be willing to waive his modified no-trade clause. Plekanec, who has played his entire career in Montreal, signed a six-year, $30 million extension in 2010.
Shortly after the Gazette report surfaced, RDS and ESPN.com quoted Curran as saying it was not true. However, Sportsnet had another report saying the team has discussed trading Plekanec.
Kostitsyn certainly appears to be in play as he is slated for unrestricted free agency following the season. The same holds true for Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen, who is injured. Kostitsyn has scored 20 or more goals in three out of his four full seasons in the NHL, but he has only 12 this season.
Will Ott go to the Canucks?
The Stars' Ott has been linked to the Vancouver Canucks, who cleared some cap space this weekend by putting Keith Ballard ($4.2 million cap hit) on long-term injured reserve. According to capgeek.com, the Canucks currently have roughly $4.6 million in cap space available this season. Ott is signed for two more seasons at a cap hit of $2.95 million.
Ott has gained a reputation for a feisty, on-the-edge forward. He has won better than 57 percent of his 738 faceoffs this season and is one of the leaders in the NHL in hits (204) and penalty minutes (117) not to mention the fact that he has 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points.
Who needs a goalie?
The goalie market potentially includes Nabokov, Harding and Khabibulin. Nabokov and Harding are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency this summer while Khabibulin still has one more year at a $3.75 million cap hit remaining on his contract.
Of the three, it would appear Harding is the most likely candidate to be traded.
The Islanders have said they're inclined to hang on to Nabokov and try to re-sign him with the hope he can get them back into the playoff race this season. Khabibulin would likely be an obvious target if he were in the final year of his contract, but he's signed for one more season at $3.75 million so it's possible some teams that need goalie help now are balking at acquiring him.
Among the playoff contenders that still might be interested in securing some help in net are the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs.
Toronto's goaltending concerns have been hot news for some time. It appeared to come to a head Saturday when after another sub-par performance from James Reimer, coach Ron Wilson took some shots at the goaltending.
"We're kind of always waiting now for something bad to happen on the goal-line and we've got to find a way to get over that," Wilson said according to TSN.
Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson have combined for a .875 save percentage over the Leafs' last nine games. Not coincidentally, the Leafs are 1-7-1 in those games.
Chicago GM Stan Bowman has said he is content with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, but the Blackhawks also just gave up four goals to Los Angeles on Saturday, and the Kings are the League's lowest scoring team.
Is Brown in play?
On Thursday, Dustin Brown was in play, according to Bob McKenzie. Then he wasn't, according to CBC's Elliotte Friedman. Brown responded to all the chatter about his availability or lack thereof with a hat trick and four points in a 4-0 win over Chicago on Saturday.
So, is Kings GM Dean Lombardi taking calls on his captain, or is the door closed on that one?
The teams McKenzie listed that were in on Brown were the Bruins, Devils, Sabres, Oilers, Rangers, Flyers, Maple Leafs and Canucks.
What does Buffalo do?
Paul Gaustad and Brad Boyes are set to be unrestricted free agents following the season. If the Sabres plan to part ways with them following the season, it behooves them to strike now and try to get something in return. However, there is the question of whether the Sabres believe they're out of the playoff race.
Buffalo enters Monday 12th in the East with 62 points, six fewer than the eighth-place Jets. The Sabres lost in overtime to the Rangers on Saturday, but that snapped a three-game winning streak. They have points in five straight games, but 13 of their last 20 games are on the road, starting with Monday's game in Anaheim. They're 11-16-1 away from First Niagara Center.
Will Nashville add more?
Predators GM David Poile is going to do all he can to keep both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber in Nashville beyond this season. Suter hinted during All-Star Weekend that it would help the Predators' cause if Poile proved to the blue-line duo that the organization intends to do what it takes to win.
Nashville has already brought in veteran defenseman Hal Gill to bolster its blue line, but there was that interesting report over the weekend in the Nashville City Paper that suggested the Predators were trying to get involved in the Nash sweepstakes.
It is not known if Nashville is on Nash's list of approved teams, but if Poile is getting involved in the Nash talks, it's a sign that he is willing to add to his team that currently sits fifth in the Western Conference with 23 points.
The Predators have the League's top-ranked power play (21.7 percent). They're also 10th in the League with 2.79 goals-for per game and ninth with 2.52 goals-against per game. Their penalty kill is 14th at 82.5 percent.
Are the Flames buyers, sellers or standing pat?
It appears Flames GM Jay Feaster is working on both sides of the fence. He's not necessarily a buyer, but he isn't ready to sell of anything either.
He has repeatedly said that Jarome Iginla is not going anywhere, and neither is Miikka Kiprusoff. Olli Jokinen will not be asked to waive his no-trade clause and hopes to re-sign in Calgary.
The Flames do have some unrestricted free agents, namely Scott Hannan, Cory Sarich and Tom Kostopoulos, that may not have a future in Calgary and could be dealt. However, Calgary is also in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference, so if Feaster was going to deal off roster players odds are he'd be more inclined to get roster players in return.
That said, the Flames have lost three straight, including the last two in a shootout after blowing 2-0 leads. According to the Calgary Herald, Feaster said the team hasn't demonstrated the ability to burst through, but he also believes the answers are in the room and the recent Curtis Glencross off injured reserve could be the necessary infusion of talent to get the Flames over the hump.
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli is always active at this time, and he may have some tinkering to do up front with Nathan Horton sidelined with a concussion. He also has cap space to work with.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock has said he wouldn't mind adding some depth up front, preferably a forward with a big body.
Carolina has already re-signed Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu, two players that would have been sought after on the market, but Bryan Allen is still around and he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
If Sheldon Souray doesn't have a future in Dallas, there's a chance he is on the move. Mike Ribeiro has also been discussed, but he has one year at a $5 million cap hit left on his contract.
The Capitals could have both Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik on the market.
And, just to re-iterate, Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs are a must watch for many different reasons, be it with Nash or a goaltender.