Did anybody have Johnson or Stewart on their to-go list? Not a chance, but here’s three that were, and long before deadline day:
Everyone had Toronto Maple Leafs blue-liner Tomas Kaberle on their list. Gone to the Boston Bruins.
Everybody had Blues captain Eric Brewer on their list because he was a rental D-man and playing very well. Off to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
We all had Kris Versteeg on a top 10 list because he was making too much money in Toronto and Leafs general manager Brian Burke knew he couldn’t play on their top line. DancingofftotheseriousStanleyCup contender Philadelphia Flyers.
Even the lesser names like Blake Wheeler, who’s on my list, are already gone. He’s now an Atlanta Thrasher. How do you think those insiders on TSN and Sportsnet who have a whole trade deadline broadcast day to fill on Feb. 28 are feeling? Tough to talk for an hour about an even lesser light such as Brad Winchester.
So, here’s my top 10 list a week before the deadline. Just don’t save this story and stick it on your fridge. The names could change overnight.
1. Brad Richards, Dallas Stars (centre). He’s the best player on the board, a top 10 NHL scorer, but he’s nursing concussion-like symptoms after a harmless-looking Sami Pahlsson hit. He’s an unrestricted free agent July 1. Do the Stars give up a season and deal him and risk losing him?
2. Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers (right-winger). On a hot streak, with nine points in his last five games. He’d look great with the Los Angeles Kings or the Columbus Blue Jackets. He would cost the Oilers a first-round pick, at least a third and a very good prospect — unless centre Brayden Schenn was in the picture and that’s doubtful. Defenceman Colten Teubert is probably in play, however.
3. Bryan McCabe, Florida Panthers (defenceman). He has a no-trade clause, but the Panthers captain, whose contract is up on July 1, might waive it if he was going to a team like the New York Rangers who need power-play help. Would the Rangers move Michael del Zotto or college first-round centre Chris Kreider to Florida?
4. Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators (defenceman). He has told general manager Bryan Murray he’d rather be part of a rebuild, never having played for another team since being their No. 1 draft pick in 1996. He has a no-trade clause, but if the Montreal Canadiens come calling, why would he turn that down?
5. Dustin Penner, Edmonton (left-winger). The Oilers are small at forward and he’s their only real big man, but his contract is up after next year. The Canadiens, who only have Max Pacioretty and Benoit Pouliot with any front-line size, and the Leafs, with Penner’s old Ducks GM Burke, are sniffing around.
6. Nikolai Zherdev, Philadelphia Flyers (right-winger). He’s the ultimate freelancer, but he can’t play as a regular with the Flyers because they’re so deep at forward. He does have 15 goals in limited ice time. He’s a rental player, but couldn’t the Pittsburgh Penguins take a chance on him?
7. Jan Hejda, Columbus Blue Jackets (defenceman). He’s the second best shutdown guy on the board after Phillips. The Chicago Blackhawks should take a run at him because he can kill penalties. They have salary-cap issues.
8. Marty Reasoner, Florida (centre). He would be a perfect faceoff man and penalty-killer for a Cup contender.
9. Jason Arnott, New Jersey Devils (centre). The Devils are on a tear these days, but Arnott can walk on July 1. His contract is high and even at a rental it would cost a team about $1.3 million US.
10. Tomas Vokoun, Florida (goalie). He makes a lot of money and picking him up now would cost about $1.5 million, but he’s a No. 1 goalie and a rental.
Here are 13 wild cards who could be dealt:
1. Zach Bogosian, Atlanta Thrashers (defenceman). If Johnson can get traded, anything’s possible, even with Bogosian, who went No. 3 behind Steve Stamkos and Drew Doughty in the 2008 draft. Bogosian has tons of talent and is big at 215 pounds.
2. Ladislav Smid, Edmonton (defenceman). Many teams are calling because he only makes $1.3 million and he could be a solid third-pairing guy for a Cup contender. The Oilers would have to get a younger D-man in return, however.
3. Steve Montador, Buffalo Sabres (defenceman). He’s tough and definitely a penalty killer. Perfect for the Blackhawks.
4. Dan Carcillo, Philadelphia (left-winger). He’s not talented enough or a good enough role player for the Flyers. He’s a good disturber for a team that needs sandpaper. 5. Wayne Simmonds, Los Angeles Kings (right-winger). It’s a long-shot to get him out of L.A., but the Oilers are probably asking about him because he’s versatile third-line player with an edge.
6. Michael Ryder, Boston Bruins (right-winger). He’s a pretty onedimensional player, but he can score and he’s a $1-million rental.
7. Brent Sopel, Atlanta (defenceman). His contract is up in Atlanta, so why wouldn’t the Blackhawks try to get him back after moving him for salary-cap concerns last summer?
8. Tim Connolly, Buffalo (centre). Good No. 2 centre for a team like the Capitals? However, he can’t stay healthy and often plays only when the spiri t moves him. High skill level and he’s a rental.
9. Stephen Weiss, Florida (centre). He would be an excellent No. 2 centre on a good team, but he has two years left on his contract at $4 million and $4.1 million.
10. Alex Kovalev, Ottawa (rightwinger). Strictly a rental. His game picked up in the last two weeks because he’s hoping for a trade to a contender. How about Pittsburgh?
11. Jim Vandermeer, Edmonton (defenceman). He turned his game around, so he would be a good No. 6 or 7 guy on a playoff-bound team. Would the Hawks take him back?
12. Mike Grier, Buffalo (rightwinger). He provides great leadership, but the one-time Oiler is slowing down at age 36.
13. Rostislav Klesla, Columbus (defenceman). He’s likely worn
out his welcome, and is a third-pairing rental. But he’s injured a lot.
The problem this season is that there are only a few teams (Edmonton, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida) who are out of playoff contention, with several on the fence.
“Any time you’ve got a market with lots more buyers than sellers, you’re dealing with a lot of price inflation,” said Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. “It’s a very expensive marketplace to get into.”
The market has been set, really. Second-line players are getting firstround picks (Mike Fisher and Versteeg). Kaberle fetched a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a very good prospect in Joe Colborne.
“Take a look at the price teams are paying, already, for guys? Some are pretty high,” said Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, who got Wheeler and blueliner Mark Stuart for Rich Peverley, a versatile forward, because the Bruins had to dump salary.
The Oilers haven’t made any moves on Hemsky or Penner — yet. But the Kings just sent good young winger Andrei Loktionov to the minors.
“I don’t have the list of other guys available right in front of me, but the longer you wait, the price for a really good player will go up,” said Dudley.”
In the Eastern Conference, teams are chasing the Flyers, which is why the Lightning went after Brewer after Philadelphia got Versteeg.
Boston got Kaberle for their power play and to get the puck up the ice. The Caps have been quiet and the Pens, with injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, may stay on the sidelines. In the West, the Vancouver Canucks, even with their injuries, and the Detroit Red Wings probably won’t deal. “If you’re one of the elite teams and I’d say there are four, five or six that have a legitimate chance to win a Stanley Cup, then you’re looking for something to push you over the top,” said Dudley. “If you’re a seller and aren’t in the playoff hunt, you can exact a pretty high price for a player.”