The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching in this lockout-shortened season, as teams quickly gear up for the playoffs.
Several teams in particular are in the market to either deal high-profile players or make marquee acquisitions to give them an extra boost down the stretch of the regular season. Based on what's currently buzzing on the rumor mill, the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres seem like the most likely candidates.
Here is a breakdown of the latest chatter surrounding that trio of Eastern Conference teams.
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Monday that the Flyers traded Harry Zolnierczyk to the Anaheim Ducks for left winger Jay Rosehill. It was a relatively small-scale move, but more could be on the horizon for GM Paul Holmgren.
Jaromir Jagr may be returning to the Flyers after less than one season away from the team, according to Carchidi:
CONFIRMED: #Flyers are having exploratory talks for Jagr, Clowe and Bouwmeester.— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 1, 2013
Jagr has had a stellar campaign with the Dallas Stars, and the other players that Carchidi mentions include Calgary Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and San Jose Sharks winger Ryane Clowe.
However, the Clowe talk can pretty much be extinguished, according to CSNPhilly.com's Sarah Baicker:
Sean Couturier was Philadelphia's No. 8 overall selection in the 2011 NHL draft, so it's unlikely that they would part with him. The Bouwmeester speculation can definitely end, though, as the St. Louis Blues acquired him on Monday, according to a report by Brian Stubits of CBS Sports.
Despite missing out on Bouwmeester and likely losing hold of Clowe, the fact that the Flyers have been so active indicates they are looking to plug some holes in preparation for a push toward the postseason.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Sun reports that the Maple Leafs have been linked to two defensemen in the Phoenix Coyotes' Keith Yandle and the Florida Panthers' Dmitry Kulikov.
Such a transaction for either of these players would help Toronto provide more fortification in support of one of the league's most explosive offenses.
The Leafs average 3.1 goals per game—fourth in the NHL. Either Kulikov or Yandle could certainly still help the cause, with Yandle providing a bit more offensive punch and superior size.
Additionally, acquiring a veteran goaltender is high on the list of priorities for GM Dave Nonis. According to Aaron Ward of TSN, the Leafs have been granted permission to negotiate with representatives of Calgary Flames galie Miikkha Kiprusoff:
Calgary Flames have granted Toronto Maple Leafs permission to talk to Kiprusoffs representatives #TSN— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) April 1, 2013
Also linked to the Leafs is the Vancouver Canucks' Robert Luongo, who has been essentially supplanted by Cory Schneider. Ward's colleague Darren Dreger broke news of that on Friday:
Sources say Vancouver reached out to Toronto this week to revisit Loungo talks.Flames hoping for a better read on Kipper's future this wknd.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 29, 2013
Farhan Lilji reports that four teams are coveting Luongo, and the Leafs are presumably one of them:
Toronto already has James Reimer playing extremely well, along with another talented netminder in Ben Scrivens. However, if this team wants to make the most of its first potential playoff appearance in eight years, Nonis is wisely considering adding a more experienced player between the pipes.
This hilarious—or obnoxious, depending on your sense of humor—video has been making the rounds to highlight how every player on the Buffalo roster is up for grabs:
Adam Gretz of CBS Sports pointed to the laundry list of players that the Sabres are willing to put on the block, including forward Drew Stafford, a former 30-goal scorer. Defenseman Jordan Leopold also left town over the weekend to head to St. Louis.
Team USA goaltender Ryan Miller has given the Sabres a list of eight teams he would not accept a trade to, according to TrueHockey.com's Andy Strickland:
Ryan Miller gave the #Sabres a list of 8 teams he wont accept a trade to before the season. Buffalo has 22 options if they want to deal him— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) March 28, 2013
TVA Sports' Patrick Caisse also reports that the Sabres are looking to move right winger Jason Pominville. Unless it's a cruel April Fools joke, Pominville also asked for a similar no-trade list as Miller did:
Buffalo Sabres asked Jason Pominville to prepare a list of eight teams where he doesn't want to be traded. #NHLTradeDeadline— Patrick Caisse (@PatrickCaisse) April 1, 2013
Trading two of those stars away—the face of the franchise in Miller or Pominville, the captain—would be a significant development considering the Sabres still have a shot at the playoffs.
Buffalo is just three points out of eighth despite ranking in the bottom two in the league in terms of power-play percentage and penalty killing. That defines how the shortened campaign is leveling the competition for the playoffs, but also shows that teams seem willing to risk adjustment on the fly.