Yesterday, we posted our best guesses about which players you're most likely to see traded at this year's trading deadline, which is now less than a week away. In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that neither Chris Kunitz nor Ryan Whitney were on it, but that didn't stop them from being traded for each other today.
Today, we'll take a look at the guys who might be on the move. These are guys that, whether they have no-trade clauses, large contracts and underachieving seasons, or because their team is still the fight for a playoff spot, have some complications to be sorted out before they can be traded. The only really safe bet is that some of these guys will be moved; exactly which ones or where they're going, well, quite frankly, your guess is as good as ours. There are some big names here, some of whom have been in trade rumours for months, but because of the salary cap and their current team's asking prices may not end up going anywhere. The Whitney for Kunitz deal proves, once again, that while speculating on who's going to be dealt is fun, getting it right doesn't happen that often. Once again, some thoughts and analysis follow the list below.
The "Your Guess is as Good as Ours" Guys: Jay Bouwmeester (Florida), Tomas Kaberle/Pavel Kubina (Toronto), Tim Connolly/Max Afinogenov/Ales Kotalik (Buffalo), Bill Guerin (Islanders), Milan Hejduk (Colorado), Brett Clark/Ruslan Salei/Scott Hannan (Colorado), Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis), Brendan Morrison (Anaheim), Samuel Pahlsson (Anaheim), Kari Lehtonen/Johan Hedberg (Atlanta), Antoine Vermette (Ottawa), Christoph Schubert (Ottawa), Alexei Ponikarovsky (Toronto), Matt Stajan (Toronto), Ian White (Toronto), Scott Upshall (Philadelphia), Matthew Lombardi (Calgary), Mattias Ohlund (Vancouver), Marian Gaborik (Minnesota), Sean Avery (Dallas), Olli Jokinen (Phoenix), Derek Morris (Phoenix).
- Jay Bouwmeester is the most intriguing case at this deadline. At the beginning of the season it was all but certain he'd be traded by next week, but most people making that prediction did it on the assumption that the Panthers would be out of the playoff race by now. With Florida in 7th place, one point out of 6th, do the Panthers take the chance that they can still make the playoffs without Bouwmeester, who's having a great season and is clearly their best defenseman? Or do they keep him, even though he's all but shouted from the rooftops that he will see what free agency brings him the summer, meaning they'd be losing perhaps their best asset for nothing? This is why being a general manager is hard.
- Both Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina have no-trade clauses and refused to waive them at last season's deadline when asked. Speculation is that Kaberle will do so for a particular list of teams this season, but Kubina won't. The asking price for Kaberle, however, will be steep; Leafs GM Brian Burke said recently he expects it would take a good young player, a top prospect, and a first round draft pick for another team to get him to move Kaberle. Whether anyone will come up with that kind of offer for a guy with 4 goals who's -12 is anyone's guess. However, both Kaberle and Kubina have clauses in their contracts that say they can be dealt this summer if the Leafs don't make the playoffs; if neither moves at the deadline, expect one to be traded then.
- As for some of Toronto's other players, well, the expectation was that when Burke took over he'd spectacularly blow up his roster and rebuild the Leafs from the ground up. That hasn't happened yet. The truth is that the Leafs just don't have that many players a playoff bound team would want, and while I'm sure Brian Burke wouldn't mind moving players like Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, and Ian White, the three most likely to go by next week, as well as overpriced veteran guys like Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn and even goalie Vesa Toskala, it remains to be seen if anyone will even bother to call him about them. It's a similar situation in Ottawa, but the players GM Bryan Murray is most likely to want to move, like Antoine Vermette and Christoph Schubert, and possibly Chris Kelly and Jason Smith, aren't going to command much attention.
- Buffalo has a trio of forwards with no contracts for next season, as well as defensemen Jaroslav Spacek and Teppo Numminen, but with the Sabres currently in the final playoff spot in the East they might not be trading anybody. The only reason they might move players out is the ankle sprain top goaltender Ryan Miller suffered last weekend; you have to think that with that injury, and with Buffalo holding onto the 8th spot by the skin of their teeth, the Sabres won't make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened. Whether or not there's much of a market for the oft-injured Tim Connolly, the streaky Ales Kotalik, or the badly underachieving Maxim Afinogenov, the three Sabre forwards heading into free agency, is debatable anyway.
- Bill Guerin, Milan Hejduk, Mattias Ohlund and Derek Morris would all be great additions to a playoff-bound team, but all four have no-trade clauses and might not agree to a trade. Morris is reportedly trying to negotiate a new contract with Phoenix, but he makes nearly $4 million, will be 31 this summer and is -12 this season, all factors unlikely to result in a new contract from the rebuilding Coyotes. Ohlund plays in Vancouver, where it looks like the Canucks will make the playoffs, but it also looks like he'll move on this summer. There was some speculation linking Hejduk to Pittsburgh, but that's less likely with Kunitz becoming a Penguin, and Hejduk may not be that interested in leaving the only NHL team he's ever played on. And Guerin...well, if Guerin were that interested in playing for a contending team he wouldn't have signed with the Islanders in the first place. Keith Tkachuk, Brendan Morrison, and Samuel Pahlsson are veteran forwards who, like Guerin, will be free agents this summer but don't have no-trade clauses and might be on the move next week (edit: Tkachuk apparently actually does have a no trade. Also, Pahlsson has mono, so is probably not going anywhere).
- It does seem certain that even if Colorado can't move Hejduk that they'd like to cut salary. The Avalanche are nowhere near the playoffs and might finish last in the West. Some are reporting the team would like to move Ryan Smyth; we'll talk more about that tomorrow. Colorado would probably like to move at least one of high-priced veteran defensemen Scott Hannan, Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark, but all three have at least one year remaining on their contracts past this one, and another team coming to the Avs offering decent trade value for one of them may or may not happen.
- Olli Jokinen's name has been making the rounds lately, and while I don't really think he'll be traded, I rather hope he does get traded. Why? Because Jokinen is now 30 years old, has played nearly 800 NHL games since 1998, and has never played a playoff game. Please, somebody, give the guy a break. He's a good player. Sure, he makes a lot of money this season and next (over $5 million) and Phoenix will be asking a lot for him, but come on! Show a little empathy!
- What's going on with Sean Avery? His troubles and suspension this season have been well-documented, and the expectation when he was assigned to the minor leagues by Dallas was that the Rangers would make a move for him. Although new Rangers coach John Tortorella was critical of Avery and his antics while working for TSN between coaching jobs, the Globe and Mail is reporting that coaching Sean Avery was a condition of Tortorella's employment. Adding yet another level of complexity to all this is that Avery isn't automatically going to New York; Dallas put him on waivers in order to send him to the minors, and have to put him on re-entry waivers before the trade deadline if he's going to play in the NHL this season. But re-entry waivers also means any team below the Rangers in the standings will have a chance to claim Avery before New York does. Does anyone else have the interest in committing to the three years Avery has left on his contract? Whew. It's complicated.
- Here are some other players in a similar situation to Avery, that is to say, players who have passed through waivers at some point during the season for various reasons (usually poor play coupled with a large contract) who have NHL-level talents who may be called up before the trade deadline for any team to claim, just like how the Rangers claimed Mark Bell from the Leafs the other day: Martin Gerber (Ottawa), Manny Legace (St. Louis), Kyle McLaren (San Jose), Peter Schaefer (Boston), Anders Eriksson (Calgary), Michel Ouellet (Vancouver), Jeff Cowan (Vancouver), Curtis Sanford (Vancouver), Danny Sabourin (Edmonton). The nice thing about these guys is that, unlike Avery, none of them (except Schaefer) are signed past this season, so if they don't work out, teams can just cut them loose in July.
- Finally, why list Marian Gaborik? Gaborik is a free agent this summer and it was thought that he would be a hot commodity to be traded by the deadline, but that was before he hurt himself (again). He's played just six games all season and might still be out as much as another month. However, with the offensively-gifted Gaborik said to be looking forward to the chance to sign somewhere besides Minny, where defense is the focus, and Minnesota unlikely to commit big money to a player who's hurt so often, this could very easily be Minnesota's last chance to get anything at all for Gaborik before he walks. And while any team trading for Gaborik would be gambling that he won't a) re-injure himself before the end of the season and miss the entire playoffs, and b) re-sign somewhere else this summer, despite being traded to a team other than Minnesota, it's still a gamble that could pay off very handsomely for a team willing to make a deal for one of the most explosive offensive players in the game.
Tomorrow, we'll bring you the list of guys who've been in trade rumours, but aren't too likely to be going anywhere.