The Chicago Blackhawks are currently the NHL’s best team, becoming the first to reach the 50-point mark.
Despite their impressive performance, Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times reports GM Stan Bowman and his staff are preparing to be busy near the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Bowman told Jahns the reason he hasn’t made any move yet is because the teams he considers long-shots to make the playoffs haven’t given up on their seasons.
He didn’t name those teams, but one need only look at the bottom of the current standings, where Columbus, Anaheim, Carolina and the Islanders are buried, to get an idea which ones he will be watching in the coming weeks.
One potential area of concern for Bowman is his secondary scoring, though that’s been off-set by the performance of stars like right wingers Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, center Jonathan Toews and left winger Patrick Sharp, all of whom are averaging above or near a point per game.
Still, the Blackhawks need a good second-line center. They could move Dave Bolland into that role, but he’s best suited for third line duty. They could also use another experienced depth defenseman.
Unlike last season, Bowman has the available salary cap space (around $5.5 million) to bolster his lineup. Jahns reports the Hawks will part with picks or prospects to do so.
The Blackhawks are already a strong team and if Bowman can address those two needs, it’ll only improve their chances for another Stanley Cup run.
OILERS HEM’D IN
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson claims teams are asking questions about Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky, but the inquiries are about his history of shoulder injuries and the decline in his offensive production.
Matheson believes it’s time to “turn the page” with Hemsky, who needs a “change of scenery,” but he also doubts the 28-year-old could fetch a high-end return for the Oilers.
He does believe there’s a market for Hemsky, claiming the Detroit Red Wings are “in the picture,” and guesses the Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers are in the mix.
Matheson doubts the Kings would want to deal with the Oilers again, given how the Dustin Penner trade turned out for the Kings, plus the contentious Ryan Smyth deal from this summer.
The Oilers’ best opportunity to get a solid return for Hemsky was leading up to last season’s trade deadline. This time around, they might have to settle for a second round pick at best.
Matheson also speculated on the scenario of the Oilers trading Smyth to a contending club. He suggested Smyth would agree to a trade if Edmonton promised to re-sign him as a UFA this summer.
Smyth, however, has a full no-movement clause which could limit potential destinations, plus there’s no guarantee he’ll want to be dealt to a contender. He’s happiest as an Oiler and undoubtedly wants to finish his career in Edmonton.
RUMORS SWIRLING IN CAROLINA
The Carolina Hurricanes ongoing woes increased speculation GM Jim Rutherford could be busy by the trade deadline.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun writes that league sources claim Rutherford will try to move out pending unrestricted free agents like right winger Tuomo Ruutu and defensemen Bryan Allen, Jaroslav Spacek and Tim Gleason.
Rutherford could also attempt to deal players with term remaining on their contracts, such as blueliner Joni Pitkanen.
Of the UFAs, Ruutu and Gleason would have the most value. Ruutu plays a strong physical game and has a good scoring touch, while Gleason is a physical blueliner who averages more than 20 minutes per game.
Forget about captain Eric Staal or goaltender Cam Ward being among the Hurricanes trade bait, as Rutherford has already stated they’re not going anywhere.
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.