February 28th will be here sooner than you think, and as it approaches, NHL teams will have one final chance to bolster their roster in an effort to carve their names into history at season's end. As teams jockey for playoff position, we take a look ahead at who's going to be on the move leading up to and including the deadline day.
In need of an offensive defenseman, Columbus has inquired about the availability of Del Zotto, who was recently a healthy scratch for New York. It appears as though the Blue Jackets are offering up former Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin, though it would likely take more to land Del Zotto. If Columbus sweetens the pot with 20-year-old prospect Nikita Filatov, a deal would become possible. Still, the Rangers would be foolish to give up on the 20-year-old defenseman so fast.
What a difference a year can make. Last season Leighton was starting in net for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He hasn’t played since after being buried on the depth chart behind Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher. After posting a 17-9 record to go along with a 2.83 GAA, Leighton would likely welcome a trade to any team willing to give him an opportunity to compete for the starting gig. Washington, Tampa Bay or Ottawa could make sense if they don’t dismiss Leighton’s 2009 playoff prowess as a fluke.
In a catastrophic season for the Devils, Langenbrunner has struggled just as much as anyone, registering just 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) through 24 games. Still, it’s not out of the question that Langenbrunner could find his grove with a contending team. The gritty 35-year-old could be a nice addition on one of the younger Cup-contending teams such as Vancouver or Montreal. Even as the Devils’ captain, Langenbrunner is likely to be moved.
Setoguchi is having a poor offensive season and is believed to have fallen out of favor with the San Jose coaching staff. He’s managed to score three goals in his last two games, but that still brings him to a total of just 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 24 games. San Jose could move the youngster for a top-line defenseman, as the 23-year-old would certainly appeal to several teams. If dealt, Setoguchi could be the buy-low player of the trade season.
Vancouver has something that every team wants: A quality defenseman with a good all-around game. However, Salo is still recovering from Achilles tendon surgery in July, so it remains to be seen just how he’ll hold up. Vancouver may be forced to trade him because of salary cap issues. Salo is targeting a late December to early January return.
The Panthers don’t have the look of a playoff-bound team in 2010, so it may make sense to move their veteran goaltender. Vokoun sports an impressive 2.48 GAA, and he could be the missing piece for playoff bound teams like San Jose or Washington. However, limited playoff experience could be a drawback for contending teams. Look for Vokoun to be moved a bit closer to the deadline.
Quality defensemen are in high demand at most NHL trade deadline days, and Pitkanen will be no exception. He’s probably one of the Top-5 offensive defenseman in the game, and he could provide a spark to any team which lacks productivity from its defensemen. Pitkanen has been a mark of consistency, producing between 27-46 points since his NHL debut in 2003, showcasing rare offensive skills for a defenseman. However, the Hurricanes are only four points out of the playoffs, so they may be hesitant to move Pitkanen. His availability may hinge on how the team performs between now and Feb. 28. Pittsburgh, Dallas or Vancouver could all have interest.
To really understand how much the Devils have struggled this year, consider this: Elias’ -7 rating is his first -rating since 1996. Unless the Devils catch fire fast, it may make sense for them to overhaul the roster and start over and unloading Elias would certainly bring a nice return. Even so, a trade is not guaranteed; the Devils could write off 2010 as a fluke and bring him back to anchor the offense for his 16th season with the club. Nashville or Vancouver, who are both having difficulties scoring, could have varying degrees of interest.
Kovalev’s days in Ottawa are clearly running out. He has to be considered one of the most likely players to be dealt before the Feb. 28 deadline due to his ongoing feud with coach Cory Clouston and overall uninspired play. The Sens have won just three of their last 10 games, so moving Kovalev is becoming more likely by the day. With just 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 35 games, Kovalev is far from the player he once was, but a trade to a contender could rejuvenate the former All-Star. Pittsburgh or New York could each have interest in bringing him back.
With Dallas likely to lose Richards to free agency next season, it could make sense for them to move him before they lose him. Still it’s a tough call for the Stars, who are currently in 2nd place in the Western Conference. Moving Richards, who has 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 2010, would severely damage Dallas’ Stanley Cup aspirations and could hurt the locker room. At 30, Richards is on pace for one of his best seasons. His value will never be higher, but Dallas may want to hang on to him to put their best foot forward in 2010. Dallas would likely try to trade him out of conference, so Philadelphia, Boston or New York may make sense. This is as 50/50 as it gets.