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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Week From the Trade Deadline, Who's Most Likely to Move?

The week before the trade deadline has always been a fun time to be an NHL fan, but with the advent of so many hockey trade rumour web sites and television "insiders" who are always trying to get the latest scoop, deadline day is a bigger deal than ever.

Every year I scoff at the TV commercials from Sportsnet and TSN, I think "not this year" and pledge not to get up early and watch the coverage from the start, which this year begins on both the major Canadian cable sports networks at 8 AM ET, or that I won't be checking hockey web sites every five minutes to see if a new trade has happened. And every year, I fail in this pledge.

With rumours about what players might move seemingly everywhere, with some big names making the rounds, over the next few days we'll be posting our list of some of the names that have cropped up in rumours most often. We'll start today with the most likely to be traded category, and will follow with the maybe/maybe not and staying put categories later this week. These players have been sorted using a complex system of guesswork, common sense, and logic. But don't put money on who's being traded based on what's written below. Or if you do...don't blame us if you lose your shirt.

The "Most Likely to be Packing" Guys: Erik Cole (Edmonton), Colby Armstrong (Atlanta), Jordan Leopold (Colorado), Chris Neil (Ottawa), Nikolai Antropov (Toronto), Niclas Havelid (Atlanta), Sean O'Donnell (LA), Kyle Calder (LA), Ian Laperriere (Colorado), Dan Hinote (St. Louis), Radek Bonk (Nashville), Greg de Vries (Nashville), Ville Koistinen (Nashville), Gary Roberts (Tampa Bay), Mark Recchi (Tampa Bay), Filip Kuba (Ottawa), Dominic Moore (Toronto).

There's not a lot of big name guys here, and for good reason: these are the kind of players that move most often during deadline day. Yes, Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell and Brad Richards were traded at last season's deadline, but that was just three of the 25 trades that were done that day. For the most part, these guys have smaller contracts easy to fit under a buyer's salary cap that are expiring this summer, are playing on teams unlikely to make the playoffs and very unlikely to bring them back next season, and can fulfill the needs a lot of contending teams have at the trade deadline have, namely some depth at forward or defense and a few goals here and there, but they aren't top line players. Some specific thoughts:

  • If there's a player deserving of a "most likely to be traded" tag, it's probably Nik Antropov. Called out publicly by Toronto GM Brian Burke recently for his play, Antropov isn't going to be re-signed for next season by the Leafs, isn't needed this season by a Leafs team that doesn't have a shot at making the playoffs, and could look good on the second line of any number of teams.

  • Brought in in the summer specifically to play left wing on Edmonton's top line, Erik Cole couldn't make the transition from the right side, where he'd played his whole career, and despite a few good games recently, just hasn't fit in with the Oilers. His $4 million salary might scare off a few teams, but someone should find room, and Edmonton will want to get something for him while they still can. The only way Cole doesn't get dealt is if no one comes to the Oilers with a good enough offer for him.

  • Despite being over 40, Roberts and Recchi can still offer some veteran savvy to a team in a playoff spot. Recchi has even proved this season he can still play, especially on the power play.

  • Fun fact: when Sean O'Donnell was dealt from Anaheim to LA in the summer, the Ducks thought it was so likely the Kings would trade him before the deadline they worked the trade so that the draft pick they get will be higher if the Kings move him.

  • Chris Neil, Dominic Moore and Ian Laperriere are all reported to be negotiating with their current teams on contract extensions, but are also reportedly not close to signing. If no contract is made in the next few days, all thre will likely be dealt, as their teams will be trying to rebuild with younger guys next season. All three of them, along with Dan Hinote, Kyle Calder and Radek Bonk fit into the category of players who can play a third or fourth line role and play it well, especially on a good team.

  • Filip Kuba has a no-trade clause in his contract, but he waived it this summer so that Tampa Bay could trade him to Ottawa. With no contract for next season and any offer of such from the rebuilding Senators unlikely, Ottawa will want to move Kuba, but he'll have the final say.
If all goes as planned, we'll bring you our list of "maybe, maybe not" to be traded guys Thursday, with the "staying put" player list on Friday.

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