With a little over 18 hours until the NHL trade deadline expires, there are a lot of names being bandied around as possible trade bait.
If you listened to all the idiotic comments from all the Sidney Crosby haters after Team Canada won the Olympic gold medal, you’d think he was on his way out of Pittsburgh. After all, he’s a “whiner,” “has no heart,” “is not a leader,” “not a clutch player,” “hasn’t accomplished anything,” “can’t accomplish anything without Malkin,” “didn’t show up at the Olympics,” and, in one reader's opinion, “is gay”...
Am I the only one who thinks these so-called “analysts” ought to check themselves into a psyche ward? Don’t worry, Penguin fans, Crosby isn’t going anywhere; neither are his gold medals or Stanley Cup ring...his equipment is an entirely other story!
Carolina Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky (who did not dress versus the Carolina Hurricanes tonight), Columbus Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres, St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Pavol Kubina, Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Florida defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, and many others are said to be in play.
Various teams including the Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers all being interested in one or more of these players.
To be honest, with so many teams still in the playoff hunt, I cannot foresee any major deals going down between now and 3:00 Wednesday afternoon. That said, I have been wrong before.
With many of the top teams at or near the salary cap, the odds of them making a deal that will impact their rosters significantly is very slim. More likely, we will see teams trying their best to make a dollar for dollar deal, which is always tough at the best of times, not to mention right at the deadline.
Of the names being floated around, three players stick out in my mind—Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alex Ponikarovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres, and Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis—in my opinion, all three of these players have the ability to change the playoff picture for the team that acquires them.
Ponikarovsky is a highly skilled forward who has the reputation for working hard in spurts, but never living up to his full expectations. Much like former Maple Leaf Nik Antropov, Ponikarovsky has the reputation of taking nights off and coming up small on occasion.
At 6’4” and 229 pounds, Ponikarovsky is one of the biggest players available at the deadline, an attribute that many NHL GM’s are looking for heading into the playoffs. Originally taken in the fourth round (87th overall) by the Maple Leafs in the 1998 NHL entry draft, Ponikarovsky will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
If he is traded, look for Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke to bring back a mid-range prospect and a second-round draft pick in return. One deal that might make sense for Burke would be to consider a swap with the Phoenix Coyotes with the struggling Peter Mueller coming to Toronto in exchange for Ponikarovsky, but there have been no reports of said deal being in the works.
Best bet for Ponikarovsky: traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Raffi Torres has been involved in several rumors, with the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Montreal Canadiens said to be interested.
Torres is a physical player who is not afraid to muck it up in front of his opponents' net. He has the ability to play on just about any line and in most situations. Through 59 games with Columbus, Torres has registered 18 goals and 29 points.
No doubt in my mind, Torres will be highly sought-after and will likely command a decent return, such as a second-round draft pick and/or a decent prospect.
Best bet for Torres: traded to the Washington Capitals.
Defenseman Dan Hamhuis came out of nowhere in trade talks and has just recently been put on the radar.
Hamhuis stands 6’1” and weighs in at 210 pounds. He is a solid defenseman who is more than capable of taking on some of the NHL’s better fighters.Through 57 games with the Nashville Predators, Hamhuis had registered four goals and 16 points, adding 40 penalty minutes along the way.
An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Hamhuis will likely be heavily sought-after with numerous teams being interested in his services.
Best bet for Hamhuis: traded to the Philadelphia Flyers (who will not likely be able to upgrade in between the pipes).
Obviously there will be more than three players on the move, many of whom will not have appeared in the trade rumors thus far.
Rather than speculate on all the players that will be on the move, I will just say this—don’t be surprised to see the Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, and the Colorado Avalanche make as big a splash as they possibly can. All seven of these teams are in tight races, all seven have a legitimate chance at making a long run in the playoffs.
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Until next time,