Western buyers drive NHL trade market

Go West.

With two weeks until the trade deadline, teams in the tight Western Conference are looking for any edge to get ahead.

There are obvious sellers in the East — Ottawa, Toronto, New York Islanders, New Jersey and maybe Florida — that would rather not deal with a conference rival. The West, meanwhile, is so tight that only Edmonton is out of it.

“There’s going to be a migration west,” said one Western Conference executive.

That puts some teams in the already powerful West — teams with money and salary cap space — at a distinct advantage while putting the squeeze on others.

The Anaheim Ducks, having added Francois Beauchemin, and the Nashville Predators, with Mike Fisher, are the early leaders in the trade sweepstakes while the pressure is on the stand-pats. The L.A. Kings, who missed out on Fisher and any number of other centres, are the next-most likely to consider trading a bit of the future for the here and now. The Kings have salary cap space, money to spend and a stable of prospects, including winger Brayden Schenn, who would be on any GM’s must-have list.

The Dallas Stars have been one of the surprise, feel-good stories of the season, but could face a difficult decision. As of Sunday, they were seeded third in the West with 68 points, but hardly comfortable: Ninth-place Calgary was only four points behind; 11th-place Chicago six back.

The margin for error at the trade deadline is razor thin.

“It’s, how much can you add? Can you add without removing too much?” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “Most teams are taking a look where they’re at, their performance.”

The Stars are without an owner and adding salary would be a tough sell. So that has to be measured against the financial windfall of a playoff run.

“I would say the phones are active, we’re listening to everything, what teams are talking about,” said Nieuwendyk. “If something makes sense we’ll get in on it, but it has to makes sense on a few fronts for us as well.”

Teams in the West must figure the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Vancouver. The Canucks look unbeatable but have a history of failure in the playoffs. The Red Wings have no cap room, so would have to look at moving salary in any trade.


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