Trade bait: 10 players who could move before Feb. 28
Colorado and Boston have made a few trades since the start of the season, and the Avalanche are the big winners so far (Tomas Fleischmann is on fire for them).
But otherwise, it’s been predictably quiet. The salary cap and parity in the standings are forcing teams to wait until closer to the deadline to make their moves. Keep in mind there’s also a holiday NHL trade freeze from Dec. 19-27 (starts Sunday).
Let’s take a look at 10 players who could possibly move before Feb. 28. Repeat could; this doesn’t mean they will move.
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars
The Stars’ leading scorer has been dynamite so far this season and is an unrestricted free agent July 1. Tough call for Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. His team sat third in the Western Conference as of Thursday morning, although only three points clear of ninth. Where he sits in the days leading up to Feb. 28 will have some bearing on his decision.
Nieuwendyk wants to re-sign Richards and remove that tough trade decision come Feb. 28. The young GM is hoping to sit down with Tony Tavares at some point after he’s named Dallas’ new team president to convince him to keep Richards past this season. Keep in mind Richards has a no-movement clause, so he controls his fate.
Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
It’s about saving money now in Florida, and there’s little chance the rebuilding Panthers will be re-signing the veteran goalie. He has a $5.7 million cap hit this season, which is an easier pill to swallow come Feb. 28 because most of the salary has been paid. Look for GM Dale Tallon to see what’s out there, but keep in mind Vokoun has a no-movement clause. He would be a big-time addition to a playoff-bound team looking for an upgrade in goal.
Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, told ESPN.com last week that his client wasn’t looking to go anywhere this season. Kaberle has a no-trade clause. He’s also UFA on July 1 and clearly doesn’t seem to fit in Toronto’s future plans. Unless Kaberle and Curran have a change of heart (which is possible closer to the deadline), the Leafs may their asset for nothing after the season. Best chance for Toronto is a big-time contender calls just before Feb. 28 and entices Kaberle into a Cup run.
Joffrey Lupul, Anaheim Ducks
Lupul has looked good since his return from a long-term injury. That’s good news for the Ducks, who could possibly try to move him in exchange for help on defense. The Ducks have nice depth up front and can afford to lose a solid forward like Lupul. But he’s not UFA and he has two more seasons left on his deal that pays him $4.25 million per season, so teams may shy away.
Alexei Kovalev, Ottawa Senators
Set to become UFA on July 1, the veteran, mercurial winger will be 38 years old once the trade deadline rolls around. His days in Ottawa won’t extend past this season, that’s almost for sure. GM Bryan Murray insists he’s not shopping Kovalev, despite the player’s public feud with coach Cory Clouston. But if the Sens are out of it come February, Kovalev (earning $5 million) might be moved, although he’s in control with a no-movement clause.
Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabres
Again, this depends greatly on whether the Sabres will have worked themselves back into the playoff bubble come the last week of February. Connolly, earning $4.5 million, is UFA on July 1, and given his inconsistent performance this season (13 points in 23 games) the Sabres likely aren’t interested in bringing him back. He could be a nice addition for a playoff-bound team needing a power-play boost.
Jason Arnott, New Jersey Devils
The 36-year-old center, earning $4.5 million, has a no-movement clause, but given how things are going in Newark these days we can’t imagine that being much of an issue. UFA on July 1, Arnott has Stanley Cup-winning experience and could be a valuable commodity for teams looking for another key ingredient.
Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils
The 35-year-old Devils captain is earning $2.8 million this season and will be UFA on July 1. Does he want to go down with the sinking ship or re-energize with a playoff-bound team? Up to him. The Team USA captain would be a big-time addition in the grit and character department for a playoff-bound team. I love him as a fit on teams such as Los Angeles, Montreal or Vancouver. He could help any playoff team. But would Devils GM Lou Lamoriello move one of his favorite players?
Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks
Two years removed from a career-high 31 goals, the 23-year-old winger has disappointed and frustrated the coaching staff in San Jose. He has two goals in 22 games this season, having also missed time with injury. He’s earning $1.8 million this season and is a restricted free agent come July 1. The Sharks could target a top-four blueliner before the deadline. Could they move Setoguchi to make room for such a move? They don’t have to trade him, since they have all their 2011 draft picks in hand and some terrific prospects in the minors. But we know other teams covet Setoguchi.