VANCOUVER – As difficult as it might be to get up for Detroit at Colorado after watching the Olympics, the reality is it’s time to move on with the rest of the season.
So let’s turn the page on the greatest Olympic tournament and one of the greatest gold medal games ever and move on to the NHL trade deadline and stretch drive.
The window before the deadline, which opened at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, should keep the adrenaline going. Most of the big names have already gone, but there’s nothing like a bunch of deadline moves to keep the blood flowing.
Last time we checked before the trade freeze, everyone was wondering where Ray Whitney would end up. He will undoubtedly be dealt to a team that needs a character player with talent down the stretch, but he’s not the only man available.
Dan Hamhuis is in the final year of his contract with the Nashville Predators and will be looking for a big raise on the $2 million he’s currently making. The feeling is Hamhuis will be on the market and would fetch a young player and a prospect for the Predators. The Washington Capitals are looking for a defenseman with a low price tag and a decent upside and they have the players and prospects to get the deal done.
And despite pleas to the contrary, Tomas Kaberle is still in play. It doesn’t mean he will be dealt, but you can bet some teams will be kicking the Toronto Maple Leafs’ tires to see what it would take to get a defenseman who can move the puck and is about as low-maintenance as an NHLer can possibly be.
And just because he has a no-trade clause until the June entry draft, don’t believe the prospect of trading Kaberle hasn’t come up, or won’t come up in the next couple of days.
And here’s the reason: If you’re Kaberle, why not go to Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and say, “If you’re going to ultimately trade me anyway this summer, here’s a list of 10 teams I’ll go to right now.” That way, at least Kaberle has some say in the matter instead of having none in the summer.
Also keep an eye out for Alexei Ponikarovsky to move. He’s certainly available from Toronto and would provide a decent secondary scoring presence and some size to a contending team in need of a little more depth.
Meanwhile, Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun, who has one more year at $5.7 million left on his contract, is rumored to be going to Chicago.
Also in play is Atlanta veteran Vyacheslav Kozlov, who has asked for a trade and will be a free agent at season’s end.
As far as the stretch run is concerned, there’s no reason to believe things won’t go right down to the last weekend once again. In the Eastern Conference, the gap between sixth and 11th place is just five points and in the Western Conference, the chasm between seventh and 13th is seven points.
The thing that bears watching the most is whether or not the Detroit Red Wings will make the playoffs this season. As the league reconvenes, the Red Wings are on the outside looking in. But they have been ravaged all season by injuries and they’re finally getting their players back.
It looks as though it’s going to take at least 91 points to make the playoffs in the West this season, which means the Red Wings would have to play at least at a .548 clip if they want to be skating beyond early April. It’s certainly an attainable goal, but they’re going to have to be better on the road, where they still have nine games left.
So now we take you back to your regularly scheduled hockey season. And we haven’t even touched on the race between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Most of the money will be on Ovechkin, but if the Penguins can acquire an upgrade on Crosby’s wing at the trade deadline and he carries his Olympic high into the next six weeks, anything can happen.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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