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NHL Trade Rumors: Favorites to Land Top Trade-Deadline Targets

Rob KirkCorrespondent IIOctober 30, 2012

NHL Trade Rumors: Favorites to Land Top Trade-Deadline Targets

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    This summer saw some pretty big names in the NHL shifting locations. Whether it was a free-agent signing or a trade, several teams immediately addressed roster needs heading into the 2012-13 season.

    For every team that happened to make the free-agent signing, 29 other teams missed out. While the free-agent class was relatively thin, there was still talent out there, and some teams just flat struck out.

    With few NHL draft picks expected to make an immediate impact and most of the prime selections off of the free-agent market, general managers will need to pay close attention to the "trade winds."

    Some teams have players that are observed as "untouchable," but in the end everyone has a price. If and when the season gets underway, the goal will still be the same: win the Stanley Cup.

    The improbable run of the Los Angeles Kings has given a parity-driven league the belief that anyone can be a contender. A shortened season makes that possibility even greater, and with jobs on the line, expect some big names to move as teams clamor to pluck that final piece in their run for glory.

Detroit Red Wings

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    After missing out on Ryan Suter, the Red Wings failed to replace the Nicklas Lidstrom-shaped void left on the blueline. Brad Stuart's move to San Jose means that the Red Wings will be leaning heavily on a defensive group that has underwhelmed.

    After the top pairing of Nik Kronwall and Ian White, Detroit is serviceable at best.

    Free-agent signing Carlo Colaiacovo heads a group that includes Johnathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl. Of that group, Smith is the only one that I would consider a legitimate top-four defenseman. The rest of the group lacks consistent play, and the optimism around Smith is purely speculation.

    Detroit has a surplus of offense, and if the defense becomes a real liability, they could move some players to try for some back line help. Val Filppula is in a contract year and may not be within the Red Wings budget. Johan Franzen might also garner some interest if his name was floated out on the market. He has led the Red Wings in goal scoring the past two seasons and could be moved to keep the younger Filppula in the fold.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins tossed their hat into the free agent fray for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but ended up getting jilted like everyone else. The trade of Jordan Staal to Carolina and Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix was a payroll-clearing effort to lure in the big names, regardless of what Ray Shero wants us to think.

    The Penguins are a top-heavy team talent wise, with a considerable gap between the top players and the rest of the roster. They are loaded with prospects and potential, but if the Penguins struggle, they could liquidate some potential for veteran help to bridge the gap between the top-two lines and bottom two.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending saga continues, with the front office standing firm in their belief that the goalie of the future is currently on the roster. With rumors swirling involving almost every available netminder, general manager Brian Burke gave his current stable of goaltenders a vote of confidence by doing absolutely nothing.

    If the Leafs continue to let in goals the way they did last season, there might be a new plan for the goalkeeping collection. With his job presumably hanging in the balance with a playoff berth, the Leafs' boss will have to make a move to stay employed.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Since taking over the general manager position for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman looked to bring some good fortune from his Hockeytown days in Detroit. So far, he is one-for-two in playoff berths. Last season was a disaster for Tampa, as their goaltending situation let them down more often than not.

    The focus this offseason was to stack the blueline with veterans Matt Carle and Sami Salo and build for the future by using their first round draft pick on Slater Koekkoek.

    Acquired in a trade is the goalie for Tampa's future, Anders Lindback. While spending his first two seasons as Pekka Rinne's understudy, the hulking Swede will have a chance to be the man in Tampa's nets.

    The focus in Tampa was to shore up the defense, but the Lightning hope to continue their high-scoring ways. Tampa finished ninth in scoring in the NHL behind their young superstar Steven Stamkos. If Tampa struggles to get their act together, Yzerman will be aggressive to get help for his young star.

St. Louis Blues

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    Ken Hitchcock seems to have found the right mix of veterans and young players to go with his two-headed goalie monster of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. The fact is though, the Blues got buzz-sawed by Los Angeles in their second-round matchup.

    The Blues chemistry seems to be good, but their scoring dried up in the postseason. With another year under their belt, St. Louis could leave the team alone to see how much better the young players get. Another year of chemistry could push a talented roster over the top.

    However, if there are any veteran scorers available, St. Louis could make a swipe for them as they look to move deeper into the playoffs.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers missed out on snagging Ryan Suter through free agency, then took an even bigger gamble by throwing down a massive offer sheet to his former partner Shea Weber. When Nashville matched the huge contract, the Flyers were left begging on the defensive end.

    Chris Pronger isn't coming back, Andrej Meszaros is out with an Achilles injury and Andreas Lilja is recovering from hip surgery. This gives the Flyers only seven defensemen on the roster and absolutely no depth.

    The Flyers are pretty cap-strapped, with nearly $5 million being taken up by Pronger's deal. They might have to bite the bullet and ship out a youngster to get some quality in return on defense, especially if they struggle.

New York Rangers

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    On paper, the New York Rangers look poised to march through everyone and get a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. The trade for Rick Nash could pay huge dividends on Broadway as the power forward finally gets to play on a (consistently) winning team. Toss in Marian Gaborik, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, and playoff rookie sensation Chris Kreider, and the Blueshirts look loaded.

    The defense in front of reigning Vezina Trophy-winner Henrik Lundqvist will be even better with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh emerging as one of the top defensive pairings in the league.

    The Rangers' scoring fell flat in the playoffs, particularly against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference finals. They hit the four-goal mark only once, and that was in their first playoff game against Ottawa.

    Much like St. Louis in the Western Conference, the Rangers could be just fine without making any moves, but Glen Sather could pull the trigger on a deal to give them some scoring punch for the postseason.

Vancouver Canucks

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    There's no doubt that the early playoff exit left a bad taste in the mouth of Canuck fans. After a Stanley Cup Final appearance the year before and a President's Cup in the regular season, Vancouver looked to be the team to beat in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, they were the first of the three division winners to fall to the Los Angeles Kings amidst a goaltending controversy.

    With Cory Schneider apparently set to take over the starting role from Roberto Luongo, the Canucks are mortgaging their future on a relatively untested entity. Vancouver also got a little younger on defense by signing Jason Garrison and letting Sami Salo sign in Tampa.

    Overall, though, this could realistically be a final run for the core of the franchise. The Sedin twins just turned 32 and have one year remaining on their also identical contracts. The cap-strapped Canucks will have eight unrestricted free agents next summer and could make a splash at the deadline to try for another Stanley Cup run before their window closes.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    A lot has been expected of the Chicago Blackhawks since they lifted the Stanley Cup in 2010. Granted, they dissolved a large chunk of the roster to make it more salary cap-friendly, but the core remains intact.

    Chicago's roster looks like they have enough talent to contend for a division and even a conference title.

    Their biggest area of opportunity looks like it could be in goal. Corey Crawford was serviceable last season, but his inconsistent play was obvious with a significant statistical hiccup. With all of Chicago's offense (tied for 5th in the NHL), the Hawk's goalie play just needs to be average to win.

    In the tighter checking intensity of the playoffs, Crawford will need to find his form from two years ago. If he can't get his act together in the regular season, Chicago could make a move for one of the goalies that didn't move this summer.

Boston Bruins

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    When the Bruins fell to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, it meant that both Stanley Cup finalists from the previous year were first-round casualties. The high-powered Bruins could only muster 15 goals in seven games against Washington-rookie Braden Holtby, losing three of four home games.

    The Bruin's top three goal scorers, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic tallied 83 goals during the regular season, but could only muster a collective three against the seventh-seeded Capitals.

    The Bruins look like they could be just fine moving forward, though. Gone is Tim Thomas on a self-induced exile from hockey, with capable backup Tuukka Rask taking over in goal.

    Boston could be in the market for some scoring help around the trade deadline. Milan Lucic's puzzling playoff disappearance probably cost the Bruins in the first round. After 26 goals during the regular season, Boston's top power forward was held off the goal-scoring sheet for seven games.

    Also to be determined is if Tuukka Rask is the answer in goal. He filled in extremely well when Tim Thomas missed the 2009-10 season, but his resume is still pretty limited.

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