NHL Trade Rumors: 10 Teams That Will Be Better off Improving Through Trades

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2012

NHL Trade Rumors: 10 Teams That Will Be Better off Improving Through Trades

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    Last year, the New York Rangers made the big splash in free agency when they signed Brad Richards.

    But the Los Angeles Kings made more noise when they traded for Mike Richards.

    The former Flyer was one of the team's best players, as they cruised through the playoffs and won the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

    Trade rumors are circulating now after the season's two big free-agent plums, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, signed contracts with the Minnesota Wild (per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, who had been pursuing those free agents, now have to alter their plans.

    Those plans may now include pursuing trades that will make their teams stronger for for a run at glory in 2012-13.

Rick Nash to New York Rangers

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    Stop if you've heard this one before. The Rangers are looking to acquire Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets because they want to add some legitimate goal-scoring talent to a team that does everything else well but put the puck in the net.

    Rangers general manager Glen Sather wanted to get this done prior to the trade deadline, but Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson's asking price was too high.

    After the NHL draft and the start of free agency, the price is still high, but the two sides still have a relationship going. Howson doesn't want to be taken advantage of and is asking about players like Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. Sather does not want to gut the team by giving up young and talented players.

    While the two sides would appear to be at loggerheads, they continue to talk.

Pittsburgh Needs a Goal Scorer

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins were not successful in their pursuit of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The pairing of Parise with superstar Sidney Crosby would have made Pittsburgh's already formidable lineup that much more explosive.

    The Penguins are interested in bulking up their scoring and they would like to add a goal scorer like Rick Nash or Anaheim's Bobby Ryan. Scott Howson's negotiations with the New York Rangers indicates he is asking for a lot and that may preclude a deal for Nash. And while Anaheim general manager Bob Murray is not likely to give Ryan away, he may be a bit more reasonable than Howson.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari says that a completed trade would be a difficult proposition, but that situations evolve and can turn around with a phone call. Since Shero knows he has a good team that can get even better by adding a legitimate goal scorer, look for him to pick up the phone and make that call to Murray.

Blackhawks Willing to Trade Niklas Hjalmarsson

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    The Blackhawks tried to get involved in the pursuit of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but they were not there from the start, and that did not help them get serious consideration.

    General manager Stan Bowman knows he has some extra work to do. He is interested in adding some offense and he is willing to trade defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, according to Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Kuc.

    If Bowman wants to go after big names like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan, he is likely going to have to up the offer. But a big, stay-at-home defenseman like Hjalmarsson is more than enough to get the conversation started.

    The Blackhawks have also struggled with ordinary goaltending, and Bowman may want to trade for a consistent goalie as well.

Detroit Red Wings Try to Pick Up the Pieces

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    The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the NHL's dominant teams for the last 15 years, but there may be hard times headed to Joe Louis Arena.

    Start off with the fact that Nicklas Lidstrom has decided to call it a career (per NHL.com) and won't be coming back for one more year in a Detroit uniform.

    Add in that the Red Wings were unsuccessful in their pursuit of the top free agents. General manager Ken Holland has money to spend, but not much talent to spend it on.

    However, Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News writes that the Red Wings are ready to try to upgrade the team through trades. While Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan are obvious targets, Kulfan also writes that the Red Wings may be in pursuit of Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle. Bouwmeester is a solid defensive defenseman who is not a real offensive factor.

    Yandle, however, has a more well-rounded game. He scored 11 goals and had 32 assists last year, and he is also solid defensively

Will Weber Ask Preds for a Trade?

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    All-Star defenseman Shea Weber knew there was a possibility that Ryan Suter was going to sign a big-money contract and leave Nashville. However, when that possibility became reality, Weber was stunned, according to his agent Kevin Epp.

    Epp conveyed Weber's emotional response to ESPN's Craig Custance, and the events were reported by Pierre LeBrun of ESPN. Epp said Weber is still trying to "process" the news.

    He could decide to pursue a long-term contract with the Preds if he believes they still have enough talent to be a contender. However, he could think about it, decide they just don't have enough skilled players to get it done and ask for a trade.

    Weber has always been upfront about his desire to stay in Nashville, and he actually told the Red Light District Hockey Blog that he "loves" Nashville. However, the loss of Suter means he has much to think about.

Roberto Luongo to Toronto...or Florida?

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    Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is trying to move goalie Roberto Luongo. While that has been on Gillis' agenda since the end of the season, he confirmed it again in a July 4 radio interview on Toronto station TEAM 1040-AM.

    The Sporting News reports that Gillis said in that interview that Luongo was not against a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gillis has been talking to the Florida Panthers, but he also said he is talking to the Maple Leafs. When asked whether Luongo would reject a trade to Toronto, Gillis said Luongo would do what's in the best interest of the team.

    Luongo previously played in Florida and a trade to the Panthers may be his preference, according to Luke Fox of Sportsnet.ca.

Flyers Not Planning to Give Up Young Talent

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    The Flyers have been hit with a couple of sharp punches in free agency, losing veteran forward Jaromir Jagr to the Dallas Stars and defenseman Matt Carle to the Tampa Bay Lightning (per NHL.com). The loss of Carle was a bit of a surprise since both the player and the team had expressed interest in continuing their working relationship.

    While Philadelphia has signed free-agent forward Ruslan Fedotenko and defenseman Bruno Gervais (per Philly.com), it was thought that general manager Paul Holmgren would pursue big names like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan in trades. Ryan, a Cherry Hill, N.J. native, would seem like a natural fit for the Flyers.

    However, Holmgren said on July 5 that trading for Ryan or Nash was unlikely because both of those teams wanted too much. According to Sam Carchidi of the Philly.com, the Flyers are not interested in dealing young centers Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn. Holmgren said he did not want to give up anything "important" just to make the trade.

Mixed Messages from 'Canes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have pulled out of the Rick Nash sweepstakes. While general manager Jim Rutherford would not comment for the record on why the Hurricanes were no longer pursuing the high-scoring forward, Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News Observer said that the Columbus Blue Jackets' insistence that young forward Jeff Skinner would be included in a trade took the Hurricanes out of the picture.

    Still, Rutherford says the Hurricanes want to play with the big boys. He said the Hurricanes could afford to make a deal similar to the one that the Los Angeles Kings made at the trade deadline when they acquired Jeff Carter from the Blue Jackets, even though Carter had a $5.3 million salary cap hit. 

    "We can be involved in those kind of trades in the future," Rutherford told the News Observer.

Canadiens Not Planning Gomez Buyout

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    After scoring two goals last year and seven goals the year before, it's pretty safe to assume that Canadiens forward Scott Gomez cannot put the puck in the net. However, new Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin says he does not have plans to buy out Gomez's contract. Bergevin made his remarks to NHL.com's (French-language site) Arpon Basu.

    According to NHLnumbers.com, Gomez is scheduled to be paid $10 million over the next two seasons. A buyout would increase Gomez's salary cap number for 2012-13 and make it more difficult for Bergevin to sign free agents or make trades.

Tim Thomas Can Help Those Trying to Reach Salary Floor

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    Tim Thomas is not planning to play hockey this year.

    However, Thomas takes up $5 million in salary cap space for the Bruins. If they aren't going to be able to use his services, the idea that they can't spend the money that they would have paid him in salary doesn't seem fair, but there's little that Peter Chiarelli can do about it.

    However, he may be able to recapture that salary cap room by trading the rights to Thomas. Why would any team want to be charged $5 million in salary cap space? Because several teams may need to get to the salary cap floor of $53 million. According to Fluto Shinzawa of Boston.com, those teams include the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes.