It is still rather early in the 2013-14 NHL campaign, but the trade rumor mill is nevertheless swirling with speculation regarding some of hockey's most storied franchises.
The Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs headline the latest buzz. Both are clinging to playoff spots in their respective conferences and are in search of a spark to vault them into more prominent Stanley Cup contention in the second half of the season.
Also making news are the Florida Panthers, who are among the worst teams and may be seeking to deal one of their most prized young commodities.
Read on to find out what's being whispered about with regard to prospective pro hockey trades, along with analysis of each scenario.
Avalanche to Trade Paul Stastny?
The 27-year-old center is a gritty two-way player who has produced eight goals and nine assists in 27 games this season, making it even more of a dilemma for Colorado to consider trading him.
Which player is likeliest to be traded?
The trade deadline is still a ways off (March 5), so any deal should be put on hold by the front office, especially since Stastny is in a bit of a slump at the moment, having not registered a point in his past seven games.
Stastny is also playing on a team already deep at the position with stars Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, who are aged 22 and 18 respectively and are already asserting themselves as franchise cornerstones.
However, as Dater reported back on Oct. 25, legendary goalie and current Avs head coach Patrick Roy doesn't mind the conundrum:
It's a beautiful problem to have. I'd rather deal with this than having no centers. Honestly, it hasn't been a problem so far. Everybody is having their share of ice time. We're very lucky. You look at all the teams at the top of the standings, they all have three very good centers and four good lines. When you build a team, you want to build it (up) the middle.
While there may not be much more to report on this matter in the coming weeks, there should be plenty of interest in Stastny as the deadline approaches.
If Colorado decides to reach out to Stastny about an extension, perhaps that will diffuse the trade talk. Dater's most recent report notes that such a development hasn't happened, though—and very well may not until the Avs hear from prospective suitors for Stastny's services closer to March 5.
Maple Leafs Seeking Depth at Center Position
A potential connection is brewing here.
Toronto is in need of help at Stastny's position, and Dater cites the Leafs as a potential trading partner given their lack of viable personnel at center.
Going by Roy's philosophy on team-building, it seems wise for Toronto general manager Dave Nonis to fortify his club's attack. According to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, that is precisely what Nonis is doing in pursuit of Dallas Stars veteran Vernon Fiddler:
Several league executives told QMI that Nonis has been trying to find help with Toronto determined to hang on to its wildcard spot in the East. The Leafs had talked to the Dallas Stars about centre Vernon Fiddler earlier this year, but they weren’t able to get a deal worked out. It’s believed Fiddler has asked for a trade more than once but the Stars haven’t been able to find the right fit.
The only problem about Fiddler is that he has just two goals and six assists in 28 games for Dallas, which doesn't help the Leafs on offense too much. They were 16th in the league in scoring entering Thursday's game against St. Louis, but Fiddler would likely help their 27th-ranked penalty killing unit.
Toronto already has Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland on the injured reserve list, as Garrioch points out, and ideally the Leafs could use another scoring threat at center aside from Nazem Kadri (nine goals, 11 assists).
Whatever Nonis does, it must be sooner rather than later if the Leafs are meant to maintain or improve their No. 7 slot in the Eastern Conference.
One positive is that 22-year-old center Peter Holland, acquired in a November trade, put together his first multi-point game in Toronto's 5-2 loss to Boston on Dec. 8.
Mixed Messages Regarding Florida Panthers Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov
The Panthers' No. 14 overall pick in the 2009 draft has been generating chatter as Florida looks to be out of the playoff race already at 10-17-5, despite brilliant form by goaltender Tim Thomas as of late.
In a recent league-wide roundup of news and developments, CBC's Elliotte Friedman addressed GM Dale Tallon's denial that he had a trade slated for Kulikov:
It is believed Tallon's trading partner was the Colorado Avalanche. The two teams did have some serious talks and may do so again. Tallon didn't comment before we went to air and I stand by the info, but it should be known that history proves he's been honest when I've contacted him about things.
Friedman doesn't exactly backtrack here, but it does extinguish at least some certainty that Kulikov will be landing elsewhere this season.
But Dater reported on Dec. 5 that the Avalanche were indeed interested in acquiring the young defender, which makes sense considering the aid Kulikov could provide in the short term and, hopefully, the foreseeable future.
Complicating matters is the fact that Kulikov is due to be a restricted free agent, and his marketability in a trade is harmed by the possibility that he could take an offer to play back in Russia, according to Garrioch.
All these rumors are rather intertwined, and it will be interesting to see whether or not any deals materialize from them.