Players in need of a new home

As the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline approaches, many players’ names will be bandied about in rumors. But for a variety of reasons, some NHLers need a change of scenery more than others. (You’ll note the absence of Jarome Iginla from this list, a fact that will puzzle some. But Iginla is comfortable in Calgary and the team clearly is comfortable with him. I’ve said many times I believe he should be traded, but these other 10 are in a more uncomfortable predicament than the Flames captain.) Here are the 10 NHLers most in need of a new playing home:

10. Mike Komisarek, Toronto

Komisarek’s stay in Toronto has been tumultuous to say the least, with the veteran defenseman often a healthy scratch when he wasn’t recuperating from a broken arm. He is under contract for two more years at $4.5 million per season, but if he can get away from the Toronto fishbowl, the 30-year-old still could salvage what was an above-average NHL career.

9. Paul Stastny, Colorado

He is on pace for a fifth-straight season of at least 20 goals and is Colorado’s second-leading point-getter, but Stastny also makes more money ($6.6 million a year) than anyone on the Avs roster and the sense is his development has stalled. He’s still only 26 and with just two years left on his contract after this season, he might benefit from playing elsewhere – and if they moved him, Colorado would benefit from the healthy trade return Stastny would bring.

8. Chris Stewart, St. Louis

A former member of the Avs who went to the Blues in the Erik Johnson/Kevin Shattenkirk blockbuster deal last year, Stewart is averaging third-liner minutes (16:13) and is a restricted free agent this summer. Just 24 years old, he is on pace for a 16-goal season – down from 28 last year – and almost certainly will entice a rival GM into thinking he can turn his game around in a new city.

7. Marek Zidlicky, Minnesota

The veteran defenseman made public his dissatisfaction with being a repeated healthy scratch last week and would welcome a trade. His age (35) and contractual status (one more year at $4 million) aren’t the most attractive, but on a team clearly bound for the playoffs (and not fighting tooth-and-nail for them as the Wild are) he could relax and rediscover the offensive game that has abandoned him this season.

6. Alex Semin, Washington

The Caps still are in a tough fight to make the post-season and Semin, although marginally better of late, still is on track for just 48 points in 77 games, which would be his worst offensive year since 2007-08, when he had 42 points in 63 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, he’s cost himself a lot of money, but could look to sign a short-term contract that will allow him to re-establish his reputation as a premier sniper.

5. Jeff Carter, Columbus

Never the biggest ray of sunshine to begin with, Carter has looked like anybody other than someone who intended to play out the remainder of his contract (one that has a whopping 10 years still to go) in Columbus. With only 12 goals and 19 points in 32 games – and with a cap hit of more than $5.2 million a season – it won’t be easy to find him a new home. But if he were in a more competitive situation, Carter’s scoring prowess would likely improve.

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4. Derek Roy, Buffalo

Barring a miracle, the Sabres will miss the playoffs this year and some suspect owner Terry Pegula will want some type of significant change. Of the many underachievers – your ears should be burning, Ville Leino – Roy would bring the most significant return. Although he’s on pace for his worst offensive year since his rookie season and has Buffalo’s third-worst plus/minus rating (minus-12) among its forwards, the 28-year-old makes a relatively affordable $4 million and has just one more year left on his contract. Eight years in that market may be enough.

3. Ales Hemsky, Edmonton

Simply put, Hemsky looks like he’s set to fly out of Oil Country at the first chance. He’s being outscored by Ben Eager, is on pace for 36 points this season, and is a UFA this summer. That’s exactly the kind of player teams will covet at the trade deadline. If he isn’t playing elsewhere in March, many will be shocked.

2. Scott Gomez, Montreal

Gomez has muddled through the worst year of his professional career in terms of both his health and his production and now is at a very strange place for a pro athlete. On the one hand, he’s almost certainly untradeable this season; but on the other, it’s hard to imagine a way he’ll be back in Montreal next season. If there’s an amnesty clause built into the next collective bargaining agreement, the 32-year-old will be bought out almost immediately. If not, Canadiens management, already dealing with a horrible public image this season, will face pressure to bury his contract in the American League. So he’s not yet gone, but not really here. No wonder he can’t score – and no wonder he needs another employment address.

1. Rick Nash, Columbus

Let’s be clear – Nash’s devotion to the Jackets franchise is to be applauded. But there comes a point in every athlete’s life where he begins not to be judged by the post-season games he’s played, but by the lack thereof. At age 27, and with just four playoff games played, Nash is at that point. If he stays in Columbus, his talent has the potential to make the team decent enough to avoid the top three picks it needs to build for the future. If he leaves, he’ll bring a mountain of assets in return and speed the franchise’s rebound. It’s short-term pain for the team and for Nash, who genuinely loves the city, but it’s in the long-term best interests of both to part ways.


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