NHL Trade Rumors: Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild and Buyers at the Deadline

Eric HoldenContributor IFebruary 2, 2011

NHL Trade Rumors: Toronto Maple Leafs, Minnesota Wild and Buyers at the Deadline

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    February is by far the most tumultuous and exciting month in the NHL.

    As the Feb. 28 trade deadline inches closer, teams must decide if they want to be buyers or sellers.

    Playoff-bound teams will be busy scouring for rental players on the cheap that can help in the stretch run.

    Conversely, franchises that already fell out of the postseason picture will be retooling their rosters and ridding themselves of expiring contracts.

    Obviously, whether or not a team is buying or selling is related to their chances of making the playoffs.

    For instance, the St. Louis Blues were sure to be buyers until a recent 2-7-1 skid dropped them out of the postseason race. Injuries to two of their top three forwards and a three-game losing streak sealed the deal on a lost season that was once promising.

    On the flip-side, a team like the Calgary Flames has been hot of late, riding a five-game win streak that has them on the heels of the eighth-seeded Minnesota Wild. They clawed and scratched their way back into the postseason hunt and should be buyers before the deadline.

    There are plenty of NHL squads saddled with veterans carrying expensive contracts, which will make for an interesting month of players on the move.

    The trade market hot stove is sure to heat up over the next few weeks, and here is a look at six teams that will be buyers before the deadline.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    It is no secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been looking to make a deal with the Dallas Stars to acquire Brad Richards.

    Some of the names mentioned in trade talks were defenseman Francois Beauchemin and center Tyler Bozak.

    Fans and media outlets openly wondered if that package would be enough to land Richards.

    Many feel that a deal would have to include Tomas Kaberle and a prospect or two to get the deal done.

    Toronto is one of the few teams with cap space that can afford to soak up an expensive veteran like Richards.

    Richards will be looking for a seven-year deal worth approximately $7 million per season.

New York Islanders

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    Despite a 16-27-7 record, New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has been active in recent weeks.

    He traded away James Wisniewsky and Dwayne Roloson and signed Matt Moulson to a three-year contract.

    With Marc Streit returning in April and the team playing much better with Jack Capuano at the helm, it appears that Snow is focused on building a contender for next season and beyond.

    The New York Islanders might surprise many by adding a seasoned veteran at the trade deadline if they can find the right fit.

    The contract of Evgeni Nabokov can be used as a trade chip, and they have a surplus of prospects in Bridgeport.

Minnesota Wild

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    The Minnesota Wild has won two games in a row and is 29-19-5 through 53 games this season.

    The team is one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the eight seed in the Western Conference.

    The Wild is a playoff-caliber team in every area, but could use a crafty goal-scoring veteran to boost its chances down the stretch.

    It has scored only 131 goals as a team through 53 games, second-lowest in the Northwest Conference.

    The team is erratic, but with the Western Conference so tight, one small hot streak could move it up in the rankings very quickly.

    Florida Panthers winger Stephen Weiss might be a nice fit on the Wild.

Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings are another team rumored to be in the market for a rental player down the stretch.

    Los Angeles could use a veteran presence on defense like Francois Beauchemin.

    The Kings could also benefit from giving a struggling center like the Buffalo Sabres' Tim Connolly a much-needed change of scenery.

    Los Angeles is in last place in the Pacific division, but just one point away from the eighth seed in the playoffs due to the tightness of the Western Conference.

    One or two moves by the trade deadline could put it over the edge to earn a playoff berth.

New York Rangers

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    The New York Rangers are 29-20-4 and should lock up the five or six seed in the Eastern Conference when all is said and done.

    They would like to add Brad Richards to the mix, but the cost might be too high.

    Dallas might bluff at sending the veteran center elsewhere, as it is within striking distance of first place in the West.

    If the Rangers make a move, they will likely deal Michael Del Zotto or Ryan Callahan. 

    The team will try to not include Brandon Dubinsky in a deal if they can help it.

    Brad Richards won a Stanley Cup under John Tortorella when the pair were a part of the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Richards has expressed interest in once again being coached by Tortorella due to their previous success.

Montreal Canadiens

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    The Montreal Canadiens are 28-18-5 and have 61 points, good enough for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

    The Habs might look to make a deal to pick up Tim Connolly or Stephen Weiss, two offensive threats who could benefit from a change in scenery.

    Scott Gomez could be moved along with draft picks in order to retool the roster.

    With plenty of cap space and a need for a solid weapon on offense, the Canadiens are sure to be movers and shakers in the trade market.