Wednesday's NHL trade deadline has yet to arrive, but plenty of action has happened already, and rumor has it that several other critical developments could occur that would alter the league landscape.
With all the buzz and speculation going on in recent weeks, it's worth sorting through all of the chatter and distinguishing some of the most important storylines involving prospective deals. Several All-Star veterans aren't secure with their current teams, while others may be staying put.
Nevertheless, some serious star power is rumored to be on the trading block as the deadline approaches. Let's take a look at the latest from around the league as well as some analysis of the ramifications of each rumor.
Ryan Kesler a Hot Commodity Who Will Come at Great Cost
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the latest to enter the apparent Kesler sweepstakes, according to TSN's Darren Dreger:
Like many teams, Leafs called Canucks with interest in Kesler. Understandably, Van is still looking for mammoth return.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 3, 2014
Dealing with their homeland rivals is something Vancouver may not want to do, but with the interest Kesler is generating, sending him to the highest bidder may be better for Vancouver's playoff hopes than keeping him around. The list of interested parties seems to be growing by the day.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pittsburgh Penguins still view Kesler as their top target to acquire before Wednesday's deadline, but he also notes that the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks are vying for Kesler's services:
He remains their top target...As of Monday afternoon, nothing has changed on the situation– except that the Penguins feel division rival Philadelphia, in addition to defending champion Chicago, is emerging as a top challenger to acquire Kesler.
...The Penguins feel that Kesler, if he does want out of Vancouver, prefers their situation as an immediate and longer-term Cup contender in an Eastern Time Zone city. Also, they believe he connected well with head coach Dan Bylsma – and especially assistant Tony Granato and GM Ray Shero – while playing for Team USA during the Olympics.
Penguins radio personality Mark Madden weighed in on the physical presence Kesler would bring to Pittsburgh if that's where he landed:
You say jerk, I say catalyst. That's what Ryan Kesler is. &that's exactly what the Penguins' room needs.— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) March 3, 2014
At 6'2" and 202 pounds, Kesler is indeed an intimidating presence at the center position and can help a team gain leverage on the front line. With 21 goals and 18 assists thus far this season, he is a capable scorer and would thrive with an excellent supporting cast around him.
As with any trade, though, the trick would be figuring out where Kesler fits in. At least publicly, he's stated his support for the Canucks and his love for his teammates, who sport a promising nucleus but have not quite put it together. There is still time left for Vancouver to make it to the postseason, so it makes sense that Kesler is commanding a king's ransom in return.
Minnesota Wild in Strong Pursuit of Goaltender Help
The Buffalo Sabres' fire sale may be continuing despite the fact that they acquired a solid goalie in Jaroslav Halak from St. Louis in the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to the Blues.
Murray is now trying to trade Halak to the Wild. He’s 28, in the last year of his contract and was 24-9-4 with the Blues with a 2.23 goals-against average. But some inside the Wild worry he was a product of the Blues’ stingy system and there’s a reason St. Louis felt Miller, not Halak, was the final piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle.
The concerns Russo says the Wild have make some sense, and it's difficult to know what Halak will do beyond this season, as he's in a contract year. Changing teams yet again within the same season could galvanize his play even further, or it could be a detrimental, confidence-breaking situation.
Also rumored to be on the Wild's radar are New Jersey Devils legend Martin Brodeur and Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes. But Brodeur seems to be the better fit in terms of a player who could help Minnesota right away.
Given his current timeshare situation with Cory Schneider, the 41-year-old Brodeur is looking to get away from the team with which he's spent his entire, amazing career. Brodeur said he didn't think the Devils' decision to start him on Tuesday meant he wouldn't be traded, per Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger:
I don’t think so. It’s a hockey decision. At the end of the day, regardless of if I’m going to go somewhere or stay here, that’s the business part of the game...That’s something I can’t control. I’d love to control it more, trust me, because I’d like to play more. I’m happy I’m getting this start and I’ll try to do the best I can to win the hockey game and put our team in the best situation we can (be in).
Count Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca as one who doesn't want to see Brodeur go to the Wild:
Also keep hearing Martin Brodeur and Minnesota. Hoping it doesn't happen. Only other jersey I'd like to remember Marty in is Team Canada.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) March 3, 2014
Since Brodeur has a no-trade clause he must lift to approve a deal, he has a lot of say in his future. In any event, it's interesting that the Wild are pursuing goaltenders so hard, as they ranked seventh in goals allowed per game entering Monday evening.
However, they seem intent on upgrading the position. The Wild have a substantial lead for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, so adding a seasoned veteran between the pipes—even as a second option—seems like a wise move.
Contract Negotiations Could Lead to Rangers Trading Ryan Callahan
It's hard to imagine captain Callahan anywhere outside of the Big Apple, but as the superstar and the Rangers regime continue to be far apart in contract talks, the possibility of him being traded increases.
Sources confirm that Ryan Callahan has softened somewhat of late in his contract demands, but as of Monday morning he's still not close to a deal with the Rangers. Recently, the Rangers captain dropped his term request from seven years, which had been a major sticking point, to six years, sources confirmed. But the money he's asking, somewhere just south of $6.5 million, a source said, remains too much money for the Rangers, who I believe would do a six-year, $6 million per year contract. Doesn't seem as though they're that far apart at this point. But if that remaining gap doesn't close further over the next couple of days, the Rangers seem intent to trade him.
This does nothing to dismiss the hunch by NHL.com's Dan Rosen. Based on information he gathered days prior to this development, he believes Callahan will indeed be moved:
I do think Ryan Callahan will be traded, and I do think it's a mistake for the Rangers to trade him.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) February 28, 2014
Who is likeliest to be traded?
There just aren't a lot of dollars separating Callahan and the New York front office from where they both want to be on a long-term contract. Callahan is a vital leader and one the Rangers can ill afford to lose.
Subtracting someone like Callahan in the heat of an intense, competitive playoff race in the Eastern Conference would be detrimental to the Rangers' hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup. That last happened approximately 20 years ago, so it's been a while since the storied organization has brought home a championship.
Doing so with the current roster is feasible but not without Callahan. Although the 28-year-old could be a strong trade piece and net vast returns for the Rangers, losing his intangibles as captain would be too costly for GM Glen Sather at this juncture in the 2013-14 campaign.