There have been a plethora of both optimistic and pessimistic editorials on the Carolina Hurricanes' rollercoaster season lately, but regardless of the outlook for the franchise, there's little doubt that the remaining months of the '11-'12 season will likely be spent cleaning out the roster.
The prime candidates to be traded out of Carolina likely include the team's four remaining free agents-to-be—forward Tuomo Ruutu and defensemen Jaroslav Spacek, Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen. With upcoming UFA Alexei Ponikarovsky traded to New Jersey just this past Friday, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford seems just as willing as expected to part with his 2012 contract expirees.
The four-some, all but one of whom are over age 30 (only Ruutu isn't), all share the same qualities of stellar defensive play and physicality. Ruutu and Gleason, who were respectively second and 17th in the NHL in hits last season, are the team veterans, while the other two have just 81 games of Hurricanes experience between them.
As Jim Rutherford looks to move some of his more flexible assets this winter, these four will surely top the list. Where could they be headed? Here's a preliminary glance at a few reasonable suitors for each.
There is no shortage of Tuomo Ruutu trade rumors at the moment, as various sources have considered him a viable candidate for Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Detroit and Minnesota.
Bleacher Report's Jake Ware took a good look at how Ruutu would fit in with the Capitals last month. Mike Manayunk examined a possible Flyers deal, and Katie Day examined the Red Wings' interest. Said the Ottawa Sun about the latter of those theories:
Don’t be surprised if the Wings add a veteran forward before the February deadline. They’ve got the cap space to make a deal and GM Ken Holland has always made shrewd moves. They’d just like more depth up front and don’t be surprised if they make a pitch for Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu.
Ruutu, age 28, could be a good fit in a number of playoff-contending cities, where his aggressive style and goal-scoring touch, including 15 scores already this season and two 20-goal campaigns in the past, would be quite welcome.
Although Carolina is just Ruutu's second team over his eight-year career, that lack of travel could be changing for the Finnish winger soon.
Back on December 9th, the Hurricanes were ecstatic to have simply gotten Tomas Kaberle and his outrageous $4.5 million salary off the books. At that point, no one even cared about the worth of their return item: Jaroslav Spacek.
But now they do. Spacek has continued his injury issues in Raleigh, and has been nothing more than a roster-filler in terms of production even when healthy—one goal, three assists and an even plus/minus rating in 15 appearances.
Even though Jim Rutherford may be happy to keep him through the end of the year, Spacek has enough experience at age 37 that the 'Canes might be able to get a little bit in return. News & Observer reporter Chip Alexander noted several times last month that "Rutherford...has often mentioned dealing a defenseman for a forward," and Spacek may be enough to draw a decent prospect forward in exchange.
At first glance, the Maple Leafs and Sabres stand out as teams who could be intrigued. The two clubs are the second and fourth youngest, respectively, in average age and rank 26th and 27th, also respectively, in defense. While no clear-cut candidates for Spacek have been revealed so far, we expect more trade chatter to open up around him soon.
Although blue-collar blueliners Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason—who we'll discuss on the next slide—are fairly identical in statistics and style, Allen and his 569 games of experience may be more attractive to some teams.
Despite scoring a measly 28 goals and 111 points over his long career—his top goal-scoring campaign had just seven goals ('05-'06 with Vancouver)—the 31-year-old enforcer has drawn some interest on the trade market.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal said that "the Blackhawks need a No. 5 defenceman who could move into their top four if injuries cropped up," later mentioning Allen's name. Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News also mentioned Bryan Allen as a possible acquisition for the Red Wings, possibly setting the stage for an off-ice negotiating showdown between two bitter rivals in Chicago and Detroit.
I’m told that the Flyers front office is quite worried about his recent health problems and Holmgren is currently working the phones to add a defenseman to their blue line. It’s believed the Flyers could try to pry...Bryan Allen...away from the...Hurricanes. The Flyers would try to use draft picks to acquire [him].
MyNHLTradeRumors.com added that Philadelphia holds a plethora of upcoming draft selections, with "the Kings 2nd round pick, either a 2012 or 2013 2nd round pick from the Panthers, and a 2013 3rd round pick from the Wild" in addition to all of their own picks.
For a complete breakdown of all of the rumors and speculations surrounding Tim Gleason, read our article from last week detailing five potential suitors for the Michigan-born defenseman.
Tim Gleason possesses all of the skills that defensively-needy playoff contenders are looking for.
He has grit, toughness, and strength—the 28-year-old has been among the Hurricanes' top two hitters for three years running. He has determination, work ethic and leadership ability—currently in his second season as a Carolina assistant captain. And he has fighting, penalty-killing and lead-holding skills—with a team-leading 2:42 of average shorthanded time-one-ice per game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, with the NHL's worst defense (allowing 3.40 goals per game), and the Ottawa Senators, who have recorded the fourth-best record in the East despite the 26th-ranked defense, are obviously squads in need of back-end support.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche, with $30.3 million in cap space and arguably the least-experienced defense of any bubble team, and Calgary Flames, fresh off a blockbuster trade with Montreal, seem to be good potential suitors, too.
Nonetheless, the Philadelphia Flyers are currently dominating all Tim Gleason rumors. As the blog Frequent Flyers reports, Philly could be drooling to land him:
Gleason, 28, is interesting for a few reasons. He has played 162 games under the watchful eye of Peter Laviolette in Carolina. He is a steady (and over the last 2 seasons, durable) defender who is not flashy but brings a lunchpail to the rink every night. And Gleason is affordable. He is playing out the last year of a 4-year, $11 million deal, which carries a pro-rated salary cap hit of $2.75 million for the rest of the season.
He plays big minutes (averages 20:31 this season) and is even on a bad Hurricanes team who has given up 28 goals more than they have scored. With the Flyers, Gleason would be the perfect No. 5.
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 400,000 total reads.