The shortened NHL season has brought many surprises with it over the past couple months, but the wildest day on the NHL calendar promises to be Wednesday's trade deadline. Several deals have already gone down involving high-profile players such as Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. However, many more dominoes figure to fall on deadline day.
Although the trade deadline is chaotic every year, it will be especially so in 2013. The partial season has left a much narrower gap between the elite teams and the mediocre ones, so there are plenty of teams that may be buying when they might have otherwise been sellers in other years. That means a lot of teams will be vying for a few players, which will ultimately drive up prices.
Trade deadlines can be disappointing sometimes due to a lack of movement, but the NHL's deadline is regularly the most active among the four major sports. The fact that a big name like Iginla moved from the Calgary Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins seems like a sign of things to come as well since contending teams are willing to spend.
Here are the hottest rumors and the latest predictions that you can expect to come to fruition on a hectic deadline day.
Trade Deadline Date: Wednesday, April 3
Cutoff Time: 3 p.m. ET
While a handful of trades usually trickle in after the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline on a yearly basis, all deals must be submitted to the league office by that time. That never seems to be much of an issue since trading usually heats up about a week before the deadline, so most teams are quite certain what they want to add or subtract by the time 3 p.m. ET rolls around on April 3.
Canucks in Serious Discussions to Move Roberto Luongo
Ever since the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs last season, trade rumors have run rampant regarding goaltender Roberto Luongo. Most figured he would certainly be traded during the offseason due to the emergence of young backstop Cory Schneider, but general manager Mike Gillis decided to hang on to the veteran netminder.
The 33-year-old Luongo has had a pretty strong season with a 2.44 goals-against average and two shutouts, but Schneider has outplayed him despite a shaky start to the year. With that in mind, and a ridiculous nine years remaining on Luongo's contract, it should come as no surprise that the Canucks are entertaining offers for him.
According to the Toronto Sun, Gillis is in conversations with many teams regarding Luongo, including the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks are actively seeking out a third-line center and Toronto's Tyler Bozak could potentially be an ideal fit. The goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens has been effective for the Leafs this season, but maybe Toronto believes Luongo can solidify its playoff status.
Blackhawks and Islanders Talking Multi-Player Deal
The Chicago Blackhawks may be the best team in the Western Conference, but they have struggled since their 24-game point streak came to an end. The Hawks are now just four points ahead of the steady Anaheim Ducks and trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by a single point in the Presidents' Trophy race. Because of that, Chicago will probably be in a buying mood come deadline day.
According to NHL.com, the Blackhawks and New York Islanders have been engaged in trade talks involving center Frans Nielsen. The Danish center would fill a role on Chicago's third line behind pivots like Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland. The Blackhawks are also in need of a defenseman, though, and Islanders captain Mark Streit could fit the bill. Streit is in the last year of his contract, so he figures to be available to the highest bidder.
The Islanders are actually tied with the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they can't afford to lose Streit for nothing. Re-signing him is possible, but the Isles just gave puck-moving defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky an extension. The Islanders are reportedly interested in prospect defenseman Dylan Olsen and forward Jeremy Morin, so the price of improvement may be steep for the Hawks.
Sharks Looking to Move Ryane Clowe
After starting off the 2012-13 season in blazing fashion, the San Jose Sharks have cooled off in a major way. They currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference with 40 points, but few experts consider them to be a major threat to win the Stanley Cup. The Sharks aren't likely to sell off any main pieces like Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton or Logan Couture, but impending free agent Ryane Clowe is very much on the trading block.
According to Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com, the Sharks have asked Clowe about waiving his no-trade clause. It certainly makes sense as Clowe's contract is set to expire at the end of the season and he is having a miserable campaign to boot.
The power forward has netted at least 17 goals in four straight seasons, but he amazingly has yet to light the lamp this year. With just 11 assists through 28 games, it is blatantly obvious that Clowe needs a change of scenery.
The main suitors for his services are reportedly the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers. All three teams are currently in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they're all chasing the Pittsburgh Penguins as well. Clowe won't be of much help to those teams if he continues to play the way he has thus far, but a move elsewhere could most definitely spark something inside him.
Roberto Luongo Will Be Traded
Hockey fans have been teased for nearly a year regarding Roberto Luongo's status with the Vancouver Canucks only for nothing to come of the situation. In a lot of ways it has become like the boy who cried wolf. Rumors are constantly swirling, but Luongo somehow continues to remain a Canuck.
With the Chicago Blackhawks faltering, however, Vancouver may see a window of opportunity to win the Western Conference if it can step up.
Rather than trading away prospects, the easiest way for the Canucks to fill the hole it has at center may be to deal Luongo. Aside from Henrik Sedin, the Canucks are unbelievably shallow down the middle. Ryan Kesler has missed all but seven games due to multiple injuries, and the ill-advised trade of Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for bruising winger Zack Kassian at last year's deadline leaves the Canucks with no depth.
Keeping Luongo wouldn't do the Canucks any good. Cory Schneider as seized the starting job and he needs to know that the organization has confidence in him. Also, losing Luongo's contract would open up many possibilities for Vancouver moving forward. If the Toronto Maple Leafs are truly willing to part with Tyler Bozak and his 23 points, then it's a deal that Vancouver should and will jump at.
Buffalo Sabres Will Clean House, But Won't Deal Ryan Miller
After a disappointing 2011-12 campaign, most observers expected the Buffalo Sabres to bounce back and make the playoffs, but that clearly isn't going to happen.
The Sabres currently sit in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and haven't really responded to the firing of longtime head coach Lindy Ruff. Interim head coach Ron Rolston has done the best he can in a difficult situation, but it is abundantly clear that sweeping changes need to be made.
The Sabres took a step in the right direction over the weekend as they dealt defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. It was a good haul for an upcoming free agent that the Sabres had no intention of re-signing.
Dealing Leopold may have been a great start, but there should be many more trades to come for the floundering Sabres.
According to Chris Ryndak of NHL.com, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier is willing to listen to offers for any player on the roster. It's obvious that not every player can be traded, but defenseman Robyn Regehr is a virtual lock to go elsewhere by Wednesday.
Also, forward Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford should move if there is interest. The "Big Three" of Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek will all be free agents after next season, but none of them are likely to be traded at the deadline.
Most of the talk has surrounded Miller due to his struggles this season, but the issue is that there aren't many contending teams out there looking for a goalie. Miller may very well be wearing a different sweater by the start of next season, but it would probably be easier for Buffalo to move him during the offseason.
Boston Bruins Will Make a Splashy Move
Last week it looked as though the Boston Bruins made a statement as it was widely reported that they had acquired Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla. It was later announced that the Pittsburgh Penguins had usurped the Bruins, though, as they received Iginla instead. Since Iginla had a no-trade clause, it was ultimately his decision and he chose to go to Pittsburgh rather than Boston.
This left Bruins fans with a bad taste in their mouths, but there is still time for Boston to do something significant.
Who is most likely to be traded by the NHL trade deadline?
In addition to Iginla, the Pens have brought in forward Brenden Morrow and defenseman Douglas Murray, so they are clearly going for the gusto. The Bruins currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, although they are just one point out of second behind the Montreal Canadiens. With goaltender Tuukka Rask playing well, a solid defense corps and plenty of forward depth, the Bruins may very well be the favorites to win the East behind Pittsburgh.
Teams like the Bruins aren't just going to roll over and give up because the Penguins have made big moves. Deadline deals can definitely help teams win the Stanley Cup, but they have failed many times in the past as well.
It probably isn't possible for Boston to bring in a player of Iginla's ilk; however, Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks seems like a great fit. He is similar to the likes of Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, and he would likely find a comfort zone quickly.
Even though the Bruins missed out on Iginla, there are still some fairly big names out there that can help them compete with the Penguins.
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