Availible Players at Trade Deadline
With the clock ticking toward the March 9 trade deadline, dozens of names will surface as part of potential trades as teams jockey for playoff positioning. Here’s a look at some of those players and the probability they’ll actually change jerseys:
Doug Weight, St. Louis Blues: If Weight had a point for every time his name has been mentioned as trade bait since the start of training camp, he’d be a shoo-in for the scoring title. And Weight will be wearing a different sweater before March 9. An aging, expensive player who is about to become an unrestricted free agent, Weight doesn’t fit the Blues’ plans to get younger and cheaper. But the personable, talented Weight would look nice in any number of jerseys including Edmonton, Nashville and Buffalo. A warning: St. Louis GM Larry Pleau will be looking for a top scoring or goaltending prospect in return.
Jeff Friesen, Washington Capitals: Friesen has been a huge disappointment in Washington, which acquired the speedy forward at the start of the season. Friesen has played in just 14 games, collecting just three points, and will be out until mid-February with a sports hernia. Still, he could garner some interest from teams looking to bolster secondary scoring for the playoffs. He scored the winner in Game 7 of the 2003 Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa to help the Devils to their third Cup win.
Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues: The U.S. Olympian will be the subject of many rumors, but don’t look for him to leave St. Louis. He’s got another year left on his contract, and although he counts about $5 million against the cap, he is a piece around which the Blues can build. Plus, he wants to stay a Blue, a factor that can’t be overlooked.
Scott Gomez, New Jersey Devils: The former rookie of the year has never found a comfort level in Jersey, whether it was under Pat Burns or Larry Robinson. Given that GM Lou Lamoriello is determined to weed out parts that don’t fit in the Devils’ plan, Gomez is a prime candidate to depart the swamp. The nifty pivot has the skills to be an asset to any team, and both Calgary and Phoenix could use scoring help down the middle.
Owen Nolan (last seen in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey): The rugged power forward doesn’t fit in the “trade debate” category as he doesn’t belong to anyone (at least according to the league and the Leafs, both of whom consider Nolan an unrestricted free agent). As such, Nolan might be the most coveted player on the market, as he won’t require a team to give up assets to acquire him, only money. Teams such as San Jose and Phoenix would love to bring Nolan aboard, provided he’s physically able. If he’s healthy, he has the potential to change the complexion of an entire team’s attack
Brian Leetch, Boston Bruins: With the Bruins as long-shots to make the playoffs, Leetch can expect to be dealt for the second straight NHL trade deadline (he went to Toronto from New York in March of 2004). Although he’s lost a step at age 37 (he’ll turn 38 the week before the trade deadline), Leetch continues to play big minutes in Boston and would add some power-play stability come playoff time. Think the Rangers still have a spare No. 2 hanging around Madison Square Garden somewhere?
Brendan Witt, Washington Capitals: Witt, a dependable stay-at-home defenseman, asked to be traded at the start of the season and it remains to be seen whether Caps GM George McPhee will accommodate him. The Caps are hungry for offensive prospects, but Witt won’t command much beyond draft picks.
Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins: Has there been a bigger free-agent gaffe than the Penguins’ five-year, $25-million gift to Gonchar? No. Is there a GM out there who would risk picking up that kind of baggage? Stranger things have happened. Still, even the most goal-starved, playoff-hopeful team will be reluctant to swing a deal for Gonchar, unless it means unloading salary on the other end. Look for Gonchar to remain a Penguin.
Tom Poti, New York Rangers: The Rangers appear to have a love-hate relationship with the talented native of Worcester, Mass. The former Oiler, who has just two goals in 33 games, will never live up to expectations, but the Rangers are loath to see the puck-moving defenseman blossom in another environment. Still, it’s hard to imagine Poti won’t be at the heart of any deal that would bring the Rangers a desperately needed scorer to help take the offensive burden off Jaromir Jagr.
Andrew Raycroft, Boston Bruins: The defending Calder Trophy winner has had a disastrous year in Beantown. His spotty play has seen him replaced as starter by Hannu Toivonen, and with the Bruins almost certain to miss the playoffs, he could be looking for a new home. With many teams looking for goaltending help or depth (Vancouver, Edmonton, Colorado to name three), it’s possible one would take a chance that a change of scenery might help Raycroft rediscover his game.
Martin Biron, Buffalo Sabres: Talk about a guy whose value is sky-high right now. When goalie of the future Ryan Miller went down with a broken thumb, Biron not only kept the Sabres on track with a 13-game personal winning streak, but he also single-handedly put GM Darcy Regier in the driver’s seat. Regier can now bring in either a top three defenseman or top six forward should he choose to make a move. Biron, in turn, could be the difference-maker in the Western Conference, where goaltending depth is almost nonexistent.
Mika Noronen, Buffalo Sabres: Economics and trade value seem to dictate that the Sabres will likely deal Biron if they deal any of their three netminders. But Noronen would certainly like to move on, and there is the feeling among some scouts that Noronen could be another Miikka Kiprusoff, waiting to shine when given his own starting assignment.
Dwayne Roloson/Manny Fernandez, Minnesota Wild: The Wild goaltending tandem has been, well, a tandem for so long, we instinctively link them together. But that’s about to come to an end as both will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Fernandez, who has played the marginal second fiddle to Roloson in spite of posting better numbers (again marginally), is most likely to move on. The Wild have recently surged into the Western Conference playoff hunt, adding another dynamic to GM Doug Risebrough’s thought process. If they stay close, do the defensive-minded Wild move one of their netminders for some offensive help, or do they keep both for a possible playoff run?
Jocelyn Thibault, Pittsburgh Penguins: Thibault was supposed to be the goaltending anchor that would backstop the high-flying Penguins to the playoffs. Ah, not quite. From day one, Thibault was terrible, and at one point waived by the Penguins. But under new coach Michel Therrien, Thibault has been in the lineup a little bit more frequently (he was stellar in a 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto earlier this week) and one can only assume it’s to showcase him in the hopes someone will want to commit cap space to the balance of his two-year, $3-million deal.
Please note that some of the information presented in this article was retrieved from espn.com