As the March 4 trade deadline draws near, speculation reaches its peak in terms of possible destinations of big-name players.
This season, unlike other seasons, it is quite possible to see a lot more teams buying as opposed to selling off assets for prospects or draft picks.
The playoff race is a tight one, especially in the West where only nine points separate fifth place and fifteenth place overall.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina has publicly stated that he would like to remain with the blue and white, but will not get in the way of Brian Burke if the team does not have him in their future plans.
Unlike Tomas Kaberle, there is a much greater chance that the Maple Leafs move Kubina based on performance, contract, and the fact that the team is ready to hand over a bigger role to rookie sensation Luke Schenn.
The following is a list of teams which could serve as possible destinations for Kubina. The list is pure speculation on my part, as well as the possible returns which Kubina could bring back in a trade.
The Sabres are a team in need of a top pairing, puck-moving defenseman who can handle the top power-play unit as well as handle a minimum of 25 minutes per night. One must remember that the Sabres run off their own budget, so any deal involving Kubina would likely mean a return of Maxim Afinogenov and his $3.3 million dollar contract for this season.
The Sabres, however, do hold many valuable young assets which the Leafs could utilize in their future. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth, a projected top starter in the NHL could now be expendable with Ryan Miller signed on for the next five seasons. The Leafs could also show interest in young winger Clarke MacArthur, who has top six potential within the forward unit.
The Sabres' first round selection could also be in play, a pick which will likely fall around the 20th position.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Blue Jackets have reportedly shown great interest in Kubina's services for quite some time. It is highly unlikely that the Jackets part with rookie sensations Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov, and Derick Brassard; so cross them off your wish list, unfortunately.
The Jackets, however, could definitely part with goaltender Pascal Leclaire, due to the recent play of rookie Steve Mason, who is likely to receive the Calder Trophy this season due to his stellar play.
Other young assets such as forwards Maxim Mayorov and Tommy Sestito could be reasonable targets as returns for Kubina's services.
The Stars' recent turnaround has seen them vault from last in the West right up to sixth place overall. The Stars, like many other teams, are in the market for a top pairing defenseman who has the ability to quarterback the power play.
Brian Burke's likely target would be rookie forward Jamie Benn, though it remains to be seen whether the Stars would be willing to move the young forward. The Stars' first-round selection in 2009 could likely be in play, with the pick landing anywhere from the 14th to 21st position.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Don't look now, but the Kings are in the thick of the playoff race in the western conference. A veteran defenseman to mentor rookies Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson is not outside the realm of possibility.
Look for Brian Burke to target young goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who may be expendable with the recent play of rookie Jonathan Quick. Another target could potentially be Colten Teubert, projected to be a shut-down type defenseman and the type of player Burke loves to bring on his teams.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
With salary coming off the books next season, the Devils could finally have the cap room needed to bring in the top defenseman which the team has been lacking since the departure of Brian Rafalski to Detroit. Look for Burke to target the Devils' first round selection in 2009, as well as rookie forwards Niklas Bergfors or Mattias Tedenby.
As the March 4 trade deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see where Kubina ultimately ends up, if he is moved at all. If Burke does indeed decide to move the veteran defenseman, look for the Columbus Blue Jackets to be the major players.