One of those noteworthy trade items should certainly be defenseman Tim Gleason. The soon-to-be 29-year-old is in the middle of the prime years of his career as a respected enforcer and solid shutdown D-man; as his contract expires this summer, he's also an easy one for Carolina to let go.
As a former first-round pick, Gleason played 125 games over two seasons with Los Angeles, accumulating two goals and 26 assists. He was dealt to Carolina for Jack Johnson in the Los Angeles Kings' blockbuster deal of 2006.
In Carolina, Gleason has settled down as a reputable blueliner. Despite scoring just 15 goals (and 97 assists) over 540 career games, the Michigan native and 2010 Olympian has led the 'Canes as a selfless shot-blocker (among the team's top two in that regard for three years running) and strong hitter.
However, despite Gleason's appealing resume, the market for a defenseman of his type may be relatively small; all but five of the 16 teams currently in the playoff picture rank 13th or better in defense. As it's turned out in '11-12, almost every Stanley Cup contender sports impeccable stay-at-home defense in addition to explosive offense.
Clearly, the Hurricanes have a puzzle on their hands. Gleason's reliability and leadership are benefits that the Hurricanes will dearly miss, yet his soaring trade value may prove too tempting to ignore.
If Tim Gleason does hit the trade market, where would he go? We'll attempt to solve that problem here as we outline five particular squads that appear especially well-suited to take him aboard.
When it comes to shutdown defensemen on the move, the league's worst defensive team is always a great place to consider.
That is the undesirable title that the Tampa Bay Lightning hold at the moment, firmly locked in last place with an atrocious 3.40 goals against average. Attempting to follow up a surprising conference finals appearance last May, the Bolts now face an epidemic of unsavory statistics.
On the goaltending front, 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson appears finally past his playing days and 34-year-old Mathieu Garon is simply too inconsistent to be a reputable starter—their respective .881 and .900 save percentages may be the worst combination in the league. Defensively, Tampa has been plagued by a plethora of injuries, including significant ones to Matthias Ohlund (yet to make his season debut), Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina and now Marc-Andre Bergeron.
Elsewhere, the numbers aren't much kinder. The Lightning rank 25th in penalty kill and 20th in hits. Their 50 first-period goals against are the most in the NHL, too, and that mark just gets uglier when the Bolts' 6-13-2 record when allowing the first goal of the game is considered.
Gleason is a solution who could fix, or at least stop the bleeding, in many of those areas. He possesses an aforementioned excellence in hitting and shot-blocking, added to his Carolina-leading 2:47 of average short-handed TOI (time on ice) per game.
With more consistency in the back end, Tampa Bay's explosive forwards could be freed up to push their squad back into the playoff hunt.
Jim Rutherford would love to send Tim Gleason out West, and the Colorado Avalanche are one franchise that fit the role.
With only two points keeping the Avs out of the eighth seed and an ample $30.3 million in cap space in hand, Colorado could gain valuable experience and consistency with a move for Gleason.
The Avalanche's recent youth movement has left them just one defenseman over the age of 30—Jan Hedja. With the overall D ranking a respectable 17th in the NHL nonetheless, Gleason's added presence may push the unit well into the league's upper half.
And there's no better starting block for a playoff push than a dependable defense.
On the other end of trade, the Avalanche have an abundance of young prospects that would delight rebuilding supporters in Carolina. Twenty-two-year-old Brad Malone and 23-year-old Mike Carman from AHL Lake Erie could have Rutherford licking his lips, while 23-year-old NHLers T.J. Galiardi and Peter Mueller would serve as more established acquisitions.
A Tim Gleason-to-Colorado deal would work well for both sides; that's already certain. But will these two timid traders have the guts to get a fair exchange worked out?
The Ottawa Senators' 54 points rank as the fourth-highest total in the Eastern Conference, much to the shock of many early season doubters. Yet it seems as if the offense has become the entire team, as their 26th-ranked defense slowly drags along behind.
Fortunately for them, though, Ottawa has Erik Karlsson to work around. The 21-year-old budding superstar has 43 points, leading all NHL defensemen by 10, and a plus-eight rating—good enough to make him one of the key media attractions of this month's All-Star Game in Ottawa.
If the Sens could find a conservative-minded defenseman to offset Karlsson's aggressive play, they may find themselves with one of the most promising defensive pairings on the continent. Who might that conservative counterpart be? Well, Tim Gleason might just be a capable dark horse to fill the hole.
Ottawa's penalty kill (seventh worst in hockey) and slow starts—a miserable minus-17 first-period goal differential—have both proven major Achilles' heels. With Gleason able to help with both of those struggles, Ottawa might be able to find the consistency needed to maintain their shocking success and perhaps even earn a bit of home-ice advantage, as well.
The Calgary Flames, desperate to avoid their third consecutive finish outside of the playoffs, pulled off a major deal last night, acquiring Michael Cammalleri from Montreal for Rene Bourque in the focal points of a six-item exchange.
Would another trade, this time for Tim Gleason, add another spark of enthusiasm and stability to this distressed squad?
Gleason possesses the skills to assist the Flames as they look to improve their defense, which allows an average of 30.7 shots per game, and physicality, which stands at 22nd when measured by hits alone.
Even more importantly, however, is the strength that he provides as an on-ice leader and off-ice character. Gleason has worn the A in Carolina for a year-and-a-half now, supporting the team with diligent work ethic and unfailing team pride.
He'll stand up to anyone, for anyone, wherever he goes—and that's a trait that might be just what these aging, uncertain Flames need.
Despite what we've said in the previous four slides, the Lightning, Avalanche, Senators and Flames just seem to be well-fitting clubs for Tim Gleason.
But, at least at the moment, they've got nothing on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Rumors and speculations of various Gleason trades to Philly have been swirling for months—almost so long that the trade now feels nearly inevitable. Philly.com's blog "Frequent Flyers" has talked about it. NBC Sports has mentioned it. Bleacher Report's own Mike Manayunk has given his take on the rumors.
In fact, I've even thrown it around in a couple Hurricanes-specific articles:
Gleason could also draw something of a crowd on the trade market. The sizeable enforcer is somewhat inconsistent, but clearly has the capabilities of a physical, shut-down defenseman. The Philadelphia Flyers, now without Chris Pronger for the rest of the season, might consider him a juicy target.
Pronger's placement on LTIR (long-term injured reserve) frees almost $5.0 million in cap space, a gap that could easily cover Gleason's $2.75 million through the rest of the season. If a trade does go down, he'll enter Philadelphia as an expected No. 5 defenseman, but certainly have the opportunity to move up as spring approaches.
There's no better place for Gleason right now than Philadelphia, and, in all likelihood, that's where he'll go. The Flyers certainly have competition, as we've fully discussed, but don't be surprised to see a Gleason-to-Philly trade hit the news wire as early as next week.
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's Featured Columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. In his 40 months so far with the site, he has written over 335 articles and received more than 395,000 total reads.