As the standings are working their way into place, we have to look at the players on teams who are dropping. These teams will be sellers as the trade deadline approaches and there is no better time to dump one of your expensive veterans.
Teams rising in the standings are trying to put their stamp on a championship season and a veteran could be the key to getting over the hump.
These are the players that could make a huge impact on a new team before the trade deadline.
Joni Pitkanen, D, Carolina Hurricanes
I don’t know whether it was all of the expectations that come with being selected in the draft as high as he was (fourth overall) or if the NHL is just too much work, but Joni Pitkanen has never panned out to be what he was supposed to be.
He found his niche in Carolina but his contract is expiring at the end of this season and the Hurricanes may be looking to unload him.
Keep your eyes open for a trade sending Pitkanen north of the border.
Steve Sullivan, F, Nashville Predators
Steve Sullivan has been a solid forward when he has been healthy and could still be a force in the right situation.
He is buried on a bad team in Nashville and as they struggle and slip out of playoff contention, we may see a change in venue.
Sullivan is a former Blackhawk and Chicago would be an interesting fit if they were to make a move for him. He could be a great addition offensively for a Blackhawk team that needs all the depth it can get.
Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
A perennial visitor to the trade rumor mill, he is always on the move but never has.
The lifetime Leaf has been solid this year and has remained solid on the blue line for over 11 years.
This year may be the year he really does ship out because he will become an unrestricted free agent and the Leafs want to get some kind of compensation.
Kaberle has a no trade clause but he would waive that for a good team.
Tomas Vokoun, G, Florida Panthers
He is one of the best goaltenders in the league every year, and every year the team he plays for hardly scores. Vokoun has one of the best save percentages over his career and is one of the most consistent goalies of the past ten years.
Vokoun’s contract is up at the end of the year and it would be a good decision for him to explore his other options.
If that is the case, the Panthers would be wise to ask Vokoun for a list of suitors and to waive his no movement clause. If he finds a nice location, he can get a healthy extension and avoid the whole free agency fiasco.
Patrick Marleau, F, San Jose Sharks
This may be a surprise to some but this would be a smart move for the Sharks.
Marleau is playing well but while his stock is high, I would move him for a top notch defender.
He is benefiting from the offensive talent and with him gone the Sharks would have to look to someone like Joe Pavelski to pick up the scoring.
If the Sharks can get another top tier defender to improve their defensive depth, they would be able to sustain a deeper playoff run.
They would have to work around his no movement clause but he has shown enough loyalty to waive that in case they both agree to a move.
Jason Spezza, F, Ottawa Senators
This might be another big time Ottawa star that will force his way out of town if the team doesn’t turn it around fast.
As Heatley before him, Spezza might ask to walk and for Ottawa, it might be best. Spezza has been hurt a lot and is due seven million a year.
Not only will they save the money, they could get back some real viable prospects and even an NHL ready star.
If Spezza wants out, let him go and improve the depth of your team if you’re the Senators front office.
Martin Havlat, F, Minnesota Wild
Martin Havlat signed a long term contract with the Wild and it hasn’t turned out how either party wanted it to.
Havlat has been misused and has battled with management. He is a good player that has to have the right surrounding party to make him his best.
The Wild are very defensive minded and Havlat’s a good two way forward but his offensive talents are being wasted.
If the Wild could get good prospects or a solid NHL ready defender, they might be willing to part with Havlat and his $5 million salary.
Brad Richards, F, Dallas Stars
His contract is up this year and if the Stars don’t want to resign him, they need to ask him to waive his no trade clause.
Richards is playing great and it would be foolish for the stars to not lock him up. He may be getting older but he is playing the best hockey in years and would be a huge target for buying teams.
He would slide into a team like the Rangers for some young prospects and make them instantly one of the better teams in the east.
Jarome Iginla, F, Calgary Flames
Iginla is always talked about when it comes to the trade deadline but every year he is just to important to the Flames to move.
This year seems different.
Iginla is 33 and he is getting older every day! The Flames need to get younger and fast.
Jarome Iginla is a great leader but you could get some serious prospects from a top caliber team looking for that missing piece.
Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators
Shea Weber will be an restricted free agent this offseason and now might be the best time for Nashville to move him for the most in return.
Let me say, it would be foolish for Nashville to do so but if they’re trying to keep salary down, Weber won’t help.
Weber will be getting a significant pay raise and if the Predators don’t want to pay, they could get some amazing prospects in return.