The NHL's holiday roster freeze heightens speculation over which struggling teams will make deals once it lifts at midnight Dec. 27. Here's a list of seven teams that are expected to be active in the trade market early in the New Year.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
All eyes have been on the Jackets since late October in anticipation of some sort of move to shake up their floundering roster. Center Derick Brassard, a frequent healthy scratch since mid-November, has received more playing time since Dec. 8, perhaps to showcase him to interested teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are two teams rumored to have interest in Brassard.
Buffalo’s struggles since mid-November generated calls from frustrated fans and pundits for ownership to do something – anything – to get the Sabres back on track. Team president Ted Black is preaching patience, but that could wear thin for owner Terry Pegula if the Sabres’ losing ways continue into the New Year.
Their hot start is now a thing of the past and speculation persists the Oilers will make a move for a puck-moving defenseman, with right winger Ales Hemsky considered the likely trade candidate. As of Dec. 21, they'd won only twice in their previous 10 games and if this persists, GM Steve Tambellini will have to move quickly to right the sinking ship.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
With aging goaltender Dwayne Roloson struggling, the Lightning have given more starts to backup Mathieu Garon since early December. As of Dec. 22, they’d won only three games in their past 10 and while Garon may hold the fort in the short term, it's believed GM Steve Yzerman will continue to shop around for a better option between the pipes.
GM Jim Rutherford recently dumped Tomas Kaberle's expensive contract to Montreal, but he's still in the market for a top-six forward and could use one of his pending UFA defensemen (Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen or the recently acquired Jaroslav Spacek) as trade bait.
Replacing Randy Carlyle as coach with Bruce Boudreau has done nothing to improve the Ducks. The poor play of goaltender Jonas Hiller this season has given rise to speculation they have interest in Buffalo's Ryan Miller should the Sabres put him on the market. Right winger Bobby Ryan was the hot topic of trade chatter prior to Carlyle's firing, so it wouldn't be surprising if his name reappears in the rumor mill in early January.
The firing of Jacques Martin as coach and the acquisition earlier this month of expensive blueliner Tomas Kaberle has some Habs followers believing GM Pierre Gauthier has panicked in an attempt to try anything to save his job. If the Canadiens fail to halt their current skid in the next couple of weeks, Gauthier will go shopping for more help.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.