The 2013 NHL trade deadline is Wednesday and the rumor mill is already buzzing with star players and playoff contenders looking to make moves with an eye toward the playoffs.
A number of factors will help determine how many trades are made over the next few days, and two of them are the $64.3 million salary cap for the 2013-14 season (about $6 million less than this year) and the heightened value of first round picks due to the strength of the 2013 draft class.
Let's look at the latest rumors and speculation leading up to the trade deadline.
Will the Sharks trade Ryane Clowe?
How boring could this year's deadline be? Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks, who has scored zero goals in 28 games with a minus-11 rating this season, is getting the most attention right now.
A short while later, Renaud Lavoie of RDS reported on where the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens stand in the Clowe sweepstakes.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Flyers are interested in acquiring Clowe. The question is: will they give up the valuable assets necessary to complete a deal?
First of all, a deal involving Couturier and Clowe would be disastrous for the Flyers. The 20-year-old center has the potential to be a top-tier defensive forward. If Couturier reaches his full potential, he will be a player like Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal, who is capable of shutting down elite forwards. However, it is unlikely that the Flyers forward will ever be a 20-plus goal scorer like Staal.
Couturier has not lived up to expectations in 2013 after a fantastic rookie season, but the sophomore campaign is often the most difficult for NHL players. Your second year is when the expectations are high and teams have a full season's worth of scouting reports to defend you in all three zones.
Giving up Couturier to acquire a veteran such as Clowe, who has been battling a shoulder injury this season, would be a terrible move for the current and future success of the Flyers.
It's easy to understand why Philadelphia may be interested in Clowe. Veteran forward Max Talbot will not play again in 2013 after suffering a leg injury (via Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer), which creates the need for another bottom-six forward on the Flyers roster.
Even after a strong weekend that resulted in the Flyers being back in the playoff race, acquiring Clowe and giving up young players/prospects and/or draft picks would not be a good move for Philly.
As for the other teams that LeBrun mentioned in his above tweet regarding Clowe, the Wild are a good destination for him. The acquisition of veteran forward Mike Rupp from the New York Rangers earlier in the year has given the Wild more toughness, leadership and bottom-six depth, but it wouldn't hurt to add some more of these qualities to the roster by trading for Clowe.
The Sharks and Wild have done deals involving star players before, so it wouldn't be surprising if these two steams made a trade before Wednesday.
The Vancouver Canucks are another team that needs a player like Clowe, but since the Sharks and Canucks will be in the same division next year when realignment begins, it doesn't seem likely that these teams will make a trade.
Will There be a Fire Sale in Buffalo?
The Sabres traded upcoming UFA defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues over the weekend (via TSN's Bob McKenzie), and with several players on expiring deals or having just one more year left on their contracts, we could see a flurry of moves from Buffalo in the near future.
The Sabres are three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but since the team won't make a Stanley Cup run if they reach the postseason, planning for the future should be the top priority in Buffalo this week.
It wouldn't be surprising if Regehr is traded because he is eligible to become a UFA this summer and could be coveted by many teams on the free agent market as a top-four defenseman with defensive skill and playoff experience. He certainly has value to playoff contenders who need to bolster their blue line depth by Wednesday.
Notable Sabres with one more year left on their deals include Steve Ott, captain Jason Pominville, and star goaltender Ryan Miller. Trading Miller in the summer makes more sense because the amount of teams that could be looking to upgrade at the goaltender position will likely be higher in the summer than it is now.
Ott could be moved before the deadline because of his toughness, grit, penalty killing and ability to provide offense to a contending team's third line. The price to acquire both him and Pominville is probably high, so it would be a surprise if either player was with a new team by the end of the week.
Buffalo is one team to watch before the deadline because they have a lot of good players who could be available if the team decides to become an active seller.
Who Will Follow Jarome Iginla out of Calgary?
After years of rumors and speculation, Jarome Iginla was finally traded from the Calgary Flames last week when the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired the 35-year-old winger.
The captain's exit could lead to a number of trades made by the Flames to acquire prospects and draft picks for the team's rebuild.
Here is a list of Flames players who could be dealt over the next few days.
1) Curtis Glencross, LW
Glencross has two more years left on his contract with a team-friendly $2.55 million salary cap hit. He scored 24 goals in the 2011-12 season and then finished last year with a career-high 26 goals.
According to CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty, the Bruins are one team that has been linked with the Flames winger.
The 30-year-old veteran has 21 points (13 goals, eight assists) in 28 games this season. Glencross could play in a top-six role, but he's better suited as a third line forward who could provide valuable bottom-six scoring. He would be a great fit on the Bruins' third line.
2) Jay Bouwmeester, D
The 29-year-old veteran is a puck-moving defenseman that provides scoring from the blue line on a consistent basis. He has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 33 games for the Flames in 2013.
Bouwmeester is one of the best top-four defenseman who could be available at the deadline, and he would be a great addition to a playoff contender that is struggling to score goals consistently, such as the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings. As Calgary's most valuable trade asset with a year left on his contract, don't expect Bouwmeester to be traded unless someone meets the Flames' asking price, or at least comes close.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, there are a couple teams pursuing the Flames defenseman:
3) Miikka Kiprusoff, G
The Flames star could be the answer to a playoff contender's goaltending problems, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are one team that has been linked to trade speculation involving Kiprusoff. Dreger reported on this situation Monday morning:
Columbus Blue Jackets in an Unfamiliar Trade Deadline Situation
To the surprise of many, the Columbus Blue Jackets are holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Thanks to the fine performance of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Vezina Trophy this season as the most improved goaltender in the league, the Blue Jackets have a good opportunity to make the NHL playoffs for the second time in franchise history.
As Dreger noted, the Blue Jackets have three first round picks for the 2013 NHL Draft (which is projected to be a strong one), two of which are from previous trades.
Columbus ranks 29th in the league in goals scored and its power-play has the fourth-worst success rate (13.3 percent). These are two areas that the Blue Jackets should try to improve before the deadline.
Since the Blue Jackets' chances of getting the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft are now slim, they might as well make a trade to improve their chances of getting into the playoffs and increase fan interest in the team.
Is Jamie McBain Available?
Teams looking to add some defensive depth for the playoffs may be interested in Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Jamie McBain.
After tallying a career-high 30 points in 2010-11, McBain scored 27 points last year and has six points (one goal, five assists) in 28 games this season. His decrease in offensive production is a concern, but his plus-minus rating has improved from minus-7 last year to nine this season.
McBain has one more year left on his contract with a small $1.8 million cap hit. When his deal expires, he will become restricted free agent.
Are the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks Discussing a Trade?
The Chicago Blackhawks are sitting atop the Western Conference standings, while the New York Islanders are currently tied with the rival New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Could these teams make a deal to address their weaknesses?
The Blackhawks could use another defenseman and/or a center for the 2013 playoffs. Islanders defenseman Mark Streit is a very good offensive defenseman and an upcoming UFA. He would be a great fit in Chicago, but as New York's captain, the asking price will probably be high.
Chicago does have a few talented forward prospects to offer the Islanders in a potential trade involving Streit, such as Brandon Pirri, Kevin Hayes, Jeremy Morin and Maxim Shalunov.
However, if the Islanders defeat the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the team may decide to be buyers at the deadline and make a push for the playoffs. New York has not made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season.
Will Ryan Whitney Leave Edmonton?
Ryan Whitney could be a veteran defenseman for playoff contenders to target before the deadline, but there is also a chance that he stays for the entire 2013 season (via Dreger) and possibly tests free agency in the summer.
Last week, there was speculation involving Whitney and his hometown Boston Bruins (via McKenzie), but that chatter has decreased over the last few days.
Whitney has not played well at either end of the ice this season (just 10 points and a few healthy scratches), but he would provide any Stanley Cup contender with valuable playoff experience and offensive skill.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston. All salary information courtesy of CapGeek.