NHL teams ready to wheel and deal

The groundwork has been laid for some good old wheeling and dealing.

As the NHL’s 30 GMs gathered at a Toronto airport hotel Tuesday to discuss changes to the NHL all-star game and various rules, trade talks were also on the menu.

They’re starting to separate the men from the boys in the NHL as the 20-game mark approaches. The teams off to slow starts are trying to find a way out of the mess, others are accepting their fates and many are trying to deal with cap issues.

“The level of talk has heated up quite a bit,” said a league executive. “I get the sense some teams are getting antsy.”

The most active is Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. After a terrific start, Toronto is in a free-fall. Burke would like to bring in forward help.

Ideally, the Leafs would like to get a power forward in the age 26-27 range. But those types of players are few and far between. The teams that have those guys don’t want to move them.

“Burke will be the most active. He always is,” said another executive. “He has to be. If the coach (Ron Wilson) is indeed safe, then there’s going to have to be some personnel moves. It can’t keep going on like this for them.”


Florida GM Dale Tallon could be busy at the Feb. 28 trade deadline. If the Panthers don’t stay in the race for a playoff spot, the belief is he’ll move G Tomas Vokoun and LW Chris Higgins, who will both be UFAs at the end of the season. The Panthers have no intention of signing Vokoun, 34, who is making $6.3 million this season. If Vokoun does get moved, the Sharks could be a landing spot. They’re hoping Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi can get the job done for now. The Panthers are also trying to move LW Rostislav Olesz. He has a cap hit of $3.125 million and three years left on his deal … Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been sniffing around looking for help on the blueline. Ideally, the Bolts would like to get somebody who can help put them over the top … The Penguins are looking for a Top 6 forward since none of the guys they’re paying $500,000-$600,000 have been able to step up. The suggestion has been made that they bring back UFA Bill Guerin, but that doesn’t seem like a possibility. Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero may have to hang on until C Jordan Staal returns from injury, then C Evgeni Malkin can move to the wing. A guy the Pens really miss: D Sergei Gonchar.