With just under a month to go before the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline things are starting to heat up. The Blackhawks, long rumored to be searching for a depth d-man, ended up trading prospect blue-liner Brian Connelly to the Flames for some veteran help up the middle in the form of Brendan Morrison. This is a smart move by Hawks' GM Stan Bowman, as the market is expected to be high, and rising. Expect serious buyer's to be making their major moves in the next week or two and avoid the rush.
We're hearing that this year's big Oiler sell-off, Ales Hemsky, could get even more return than last year's Dustin Penner for Colten Teubert ++, so, what do the Canucks need and what are we hearing?
The Perry for Schneider, Raymond and Ballard murmurings are insane. The Ducks still have Jonas Hiller under contract, and not even that pathetic excuse for a blueline needs an injection of Keith Ballard. Raymond is an RFA at year's end. How does that add up to the ransom for last year's Richard Trophy winner? Even crazier are the rumors that the Canucks have interest in Jeff Carter. Puh-lease. We don't need a centre, and even if he made the transition to wing, he's still signed for longer than Luongo, and those are contracts Mike Gillis is a big fan of.
The Canucks could use an upgrade over Mason Raymond on the third line, another option with some jam on the fourth if Byron Bitz isn't available or up to speed, and, maybe even a d-man. This team is built to be a line-matching nightmare, which will be important as they are virtually guaranteed home ice for a round or two with the watered-down North West crown a sure thing. And, if Lou should falter again they'll need Cory Schneider, so, that means that the Canucks need to make roster changes without sacrificing Hodgson, Hansen or Schneider. Adding a Carter or Perry, or any other big-time top six forward would take this team and transform it in to a Brian Burke-style Top Six/Bottom Six team, and I'm not sure that identity change is in the cards for this group. With that in mind here's a list of Seller's and their merchandise.
Carolina: Last in the East at 18-24-9, they are just a good run of games away from competing for a playoff spot, but it's incredibly unlikely. Until recently defenseman Tim Gleason was rumored to be coveted by a long list of teams, but he has been extended for four years today. Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek are UFA's at season's end, and are likely available, but not necessarily an upgrade to any team in the market for depth d-men, and demand is high. Up front, it's likely Tuomo Ruutu, in the last year of a deal that sees him earn 4.4 mil per season, will be moved. Another player to watch is Chad Larose. He's locked up for next year at 1.9 million, and has been through a playoff run or two with the Canes. Anthony Stewart is also tied up through next year, and is a surprise plus-3 with 12 points this season. He could be a welcomed big body on the fourth line. Ditto for Andreas Nodl who has underperformed in Carolina this year, but has the experience of a Cup run with the Flyers two season's back.
Buffalo: A shocking disappointment this season, the Sabres are rumored to be wanting more size. While Zack Kassian is looking NHL ready, it seems apparent the Sabres realize they need to bet bigger and meaner to compete in the tough North East. They've been rumored to covet Ryan Getzlaf, and I don't see anyone of particular interest to them on the Canucks roster, however, Brad Boyes is a UFA at season's end, and this former 40 goal man has a hefty price tag Buffalo would love to unload down the stretch run. He could be a cost effective plan-B for Mike Gillis, and acquired for virtually nothing. Paul Gaustad is a UFA this summer, and would look amazing on the fourth line with Lapierre and Malhotra.
New York Islanders: The Islanders are slowly pulling it together, thanks to the strong play of John Tavares and Matt Moulson. One name that has been bantied about in trade talk is PA Parenteau, who is a UFA at seasons end, and makes a meager 1.25 million. The AHL veteran turned top-six guy could be available and would make the third line very dynamic. The Canucks were rumored to be interested in Josh Bailey last season, but they would more so be looking for an experienced forward with some grit...so, in other words, not Bailey. Frans Nielsen is a UFA come summer, but he's a less expensive version of Janik Hansen, and along with Kyle Okposo, likely part of long term plans on Long Island.
Montreal: The Habs have been rumored to have labelled Hal Gill expendable, and he would be a welcome addition to the third D-pairing, but the asking price for a veteran like Gill might price him out of Vancouver's market. Travis Moen is a pending UFA, and the gritty winger is on pace for a career high total in goals at the NHL, AHL and major junior level.
Toronto: Schenn is in play, for sure. I tend to think he'd already be a Flyer if JVRD hadn't gone and gotten himself concussed. The Leafs are looking for a top-six upgrade, and have an unbelievable stable of young d-men to use to acquire that forward. Knowing Brian Burke, the Leafs likely also covet size and toughness. Mikhail Grabovski, a pending UFA, was rumored to be moved, but his recent successful streak just landed him NHL 1st Star of the Week honours, and the Buds will need him for secondary scoring, so he's likely off the table. However, Nik Kulemin has underachieved, and he might be worth the gamble for Gillis. Even with his lack of performance this season and experience, he has got to be considered an upgrade on Raymond. One with astronomical potential.
New Jersey: The Devils are in the thick of the playoff race, but they are faced with the unenviable task of deciding what to do with disgruntled forward Zack Parise. The Devils unceremoniously gassed his friend and mentor Jamie Langenbrunner, then, brought in another bonified superstar in Ilya Kovalchuk. Parise no longer sees himself in New Jersey, a fact that is well known throughout the league, and he is unrestricted at season's end. They cannot resign him, and even though it could cost them a playoff appearance, they need to get something in return for him. Parise could net an incredible group of players and prospects in the current trade market. The Devils top-scoring defenseman is 18-year-old rookie Adam Larsson. They desperately need a transition game; would they swap bad contracts with the Nux: Ballard for Volchenkov?
Winnipeg: Rumors of a potential move to the top-six d-men in Winnipeg have been carried over from Atlanta. Bogosian got locked up and is emerging as the top pairing d-man he was billed to be. Byfuglien is inked long term, but Johnny Oduya is a pending UFA and would be a cheap depth addition to the Canuck's blueline. It's unlikey that Tobias Enstrom would be available, though, worth a pick, prospect and Mason Raymond if he were available.
Dallas: Nik Grossman has been rumored to be on the block. The pending UFA is a rugged defender with a friendly cap number, and though Dallas is in tenth and very much a playoff threat, this team needs to do all it can with the assets it does have. They could use some scoring, would they take Raymond and a pick for him?
Phoenix: Like the Stars, Phoenix is in the tightly contested race for the all-valuable eighth spot in the West, but veterans Shane Doan and Ray Whitney are unrestricted at seasons end, so, should February see them slip in the standings will they cash one in? Michael Roszival is a pending UFA and might be a good depth D addition. Ditto for aging Adrian Aucoin. The Desert Dogs could afford to lose one of these veteran blueliners and stay in the playoff hunt.
Anaheim: Perry. Getzlaf. Ryan. Forget it! Even if available the Canucks will not shake up the nature of the team that extremely, and Anaheim will be buyers come deadline day as they ride this hotstreak through to the end of the year and in to the playoffs! The Nux were rumored to want George Parros, but that is unlikely. Last year's top-scoring d-man, Lubomir Visnovksy, has underachieved, even by Anaheim's standards this season, with just 17 points in 45 games. Cam Fowler has made Visnovsky expendable, and now might be the best time for the Ducks to cash in on him. With one more year at a friendly cap hit of 3-mil, he could make the second unit powerplay incredibly dangerous.
Edmonton: Ales Hemsky is this year's Dustin Penner...well, hopefully not for anyone who is hoping he's the missing peice in their top-six. It's not Hemsky the Canucks may be calling Steve Tambellini about, rather Andy Sutton. The oft-suspended d-man is a monster; everything Andrew Alberts should be. His toughness would be a great asset down the stretch, and this pending UFA could fetch a very fair price in this market for d-men. Could the Canucks get over the past with Ben Eager and see the obvious benefit of having him as an option for game changing shifts any time he gets a chance?
Columbus: Carter is 100% available, and despite rumors that there are no takers for him he could be moved by deadline day. Scott Howson would be insane to move Rick Nash, and though the power forward is saying the right things in the media when asked the tough questions, he has got to be getting sick of the the Blue Jacket's inneptitude. Husselius, Prospal, Mackenzie and Pahlsson are all pending UFAs.
Here's my top-ten list of likely candidates to join the Canucks at deadline day, based on the team make-up and Mike Gillis' track record.
10. Hal Gill - If the asking price isn't too high, his experience and reach would look great on bottom pair
9. Vinny Prospal - Cup Rings and playmaking ability mean Howson will get a call from MG fosho
8. Andy Sutton - His mean streak and size are a welcome addition to the back-end. Sayanara Alberts
7. Paul Gaustad - Dale Wiese has been a great pick up, but lacks the muscle of Gaustad
6. Brad Boyes - Sniper would fit well with Hansen and Hodgson, worth the gamble.
5. Anton Volchenkov - Jersey is so desperate for a puck mover they might swap bad contracts for Ballard
4. Lubomir Visnovksy - One year remaining at a fair price, and now expendable in the OC
3. Zack Parise - Worth the price as a pure rental; would instantly make Canucks the Cup favourite
2. Tuomo Ruutu - If Parise doesn't pan out Ruutu is a great option
1. Travis Moen - If market is as high as it might be for talent, Moen could be the difference and a great bargain, which we all know Mike Gillis loves.