The NHL’s trade deadline this season is set for Feb. 27, leaving a little more than six weeks for (a) GMs with visions of a Stanley Cup dancing in their heads to improve their lineup; and (b) the league’s bottom-dwellers to improve their future fortunes through young players, prospects and draft picks. Which names will you hear mentioned between now and then? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Brian Rolston, LW, Islanders
The 17-year veteran has dealt with a concussion this season and his expiring contract carries a big price tag of more than $5 million, but most of that money will have been paid out by the deadline – and Rolston also has valuable Cup-winning experience that could be a benefit to a contender.
9. Vinny Prospal, LW, Blue Jackets
Should GM Scott Howson choose to make star winger Rick Nash available, he would rocket to the top of this list. Until then, teams looking to deal with Columbus likely will want Prospal, their leading scorer (30 points), whose $2.5-million cap hit is very affordable and who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
8. (tie) Tim Gleason, D, Hurricanes; and Francois Beauchemin, D, Ducks
Veteran defensemen on expiring contracts will be at a premium for Cup contenders and these two blueliners fit that description perfectly. Amazingly, Gleason is a plus-1 on a terrible Canes team, while Beauchemin has averaged a whopping 25:46 for Anaheim and is just minus-3 (by comparison, Cam Fowler is a minus-16 averaging 24:18 a game).
7. Tuomo Ruutu, RW, Hurricanes
Carolina’s leading goal-scorer is a UFA after this season – and with the budget-conscious Canes having committed more than $33 million to 15 players next year, it’s unlikely they can outbid other suitors. Ruutu’s rugged play and relatively young age (28) will make him highly appealing to potential trade partners.
6. Evgeni Nabokov, G, Islanders
A wonky groin has kept him out of the Isles’ lineup for stretches, but Nabokov still has played more games than any other goalie on Long Island this season and has decent numbers (2.66 goals-against average, .910 save percentage) for the awful Isles. The 36-year-old would give any playoff team veteran goalie depth and is a UFA this summer, making him the type of low-risk, high-reward gamble GMs take this time of year.
5. Sam Gagner, C, Oilers
The 22-year-old Gagner appears to have exhausted the Oilers’ patience, now averaging 16:01 a game and on pace for another 40-odd-point season. He’s a pending restricted free agent and if Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini can trade him to improve the Oilers’ hole-filled defense corps, he’d do it in a half-heartbeat.
4. Josh Harding, G, Wild
After missing all of last season due to injuries, Harding has rebounded in a big way (2.15 GAA, .932 SP) this year. A pending UFA, the 27-year-old could be a team’s go-to goalie for the rest of this season and long after.
3. (tie) Bobby Ryan, LW, and Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks
Anaheim GM Bob Murray has made it perfectly clear his team’s disappointing season is likely to spell changes. Although he’s said only veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu are untouchable, you can probably add Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry to that list as well. That leaves the two Ryans (sort of) as the Ducks’ most attractive trade bait. If one of Getzlaf or Ryan moves, the other likely won’t. But the package the Ducks will get for just one star forward will speed their competitive rebound.
2. (tie) Shea Weber, D, and Ryan Suter, D, Predators
We’ve known all season the cash-strapped Predators would have to choose between their two best blueliners, both of whom will be free agents (Weber restricted, Suter unrestricted) this coming off-season. There’s an outside shot Nashville GM David Poile will be able to sign one of the two to a long-term contract, but hockey people still expect the Preds to have no choice but to send one star packing. And there will be no shortage of teams lining up to throw a boatload of talent their way in return.
1. Jarome Iginla, RW, Flames
Calgary management can issue emphatic denials their captain will be moved all they want, but as long as the Flames are hovering on the periphery of the playoff race, Iginla’s name will be front-and-center when teams are looking for that elusive “final piece” of the championship puzzle. Iginla has one year left on his contract after this season at $7 million, but he’s got enough left in the tank to justify the risk.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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