The trade deadline is months away, but some franchises might be inclined to start dealing sooner rather than later. Injuries are making a significant impact on every NHL roster already this year, and the way the schedule is arranged because of the Olympics, a slide early in the season could be devastating in April and May.
Just look at some of the players who will miss significant time already this year:
Nashville : Jason Arnott (two weeks)
Carolina : Erik Cole (four to six weeks)
Chicago : Adam Burish (four months), Ben Eager (TBD - concission)
Montreal : Andrei Markov (three to four months), Ryan O'Byrne (eight weeks)
St. Louis : Alexander Steen (eight weeks)
This isn't even a complete list. There are some players, like Marian Hossa and Phil Kessel, that haven't even laced up their skates yet this season because of pre-existing injuries.
And there are other teams, like Minnesota, that have dealt with nagging injuries to studs like Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora, but have avoided putting them on IR...so far.
The 2009-10 season has many teams loading their October and November schedules with important conference games. Losing points in these games could be the difference between making the playoffs and being a four seed; the sense of urgency must be paramount.
Some of the teams on this list could survive their missing players. Chicago's offense hasn't missed a beat in the absence of Hossa, Burish, and Eager. But their goaltending situation is a train wreck, which might make them players in the trade market.
If a team like Pittsburgh, who lost their best defender in Gonchar for six weeks on Tuesday, feels they need another stud on their blue-line, they might be forced to be active in the trade market early, as well.
Teams that might not feel competitive could become premature sellers if a hungry market develops, figuring that players with expiring contracts that fill a need could become rentals another organization might overpay to acquire.
The ripple effect throughout the NHL could be intriguing as the next few weeks evolve.
As the injuries continue to attack rosters all over the NHL, player movement could become an important factor in the playoff races this year. We'll soon see which organizations feel comfortable with their depth and which feel they need to bolster their lineup to avoid losing costly points during a key player's absence.
This could become a fun season on the trade market for NHL fans everywhere.