The NHL's Christmas trade freeze period (Dec. 19 to 27) is fast approaching and the GMs of several struggling clubs hope the trade market improves before then. With 22 clubs possessing less than $5 million in cap space, it's difficult to find willing trade partners.
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is among those trying to find help for his floundering team. Entering this week, the Isles are 11 points out of a post-season berth, winning only two of their past 10 games. Snow must address their dire need of an experienced starting goalie and blueline depth soon to prevent his club sliding further out of playoff contention.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported two league sources claim Snow was shopping for a goalie. Garrioch suggested Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller as the best target, though he admitted convincing Miller to waive his no-trade clause to join the Isles was a long shot. Garrrioch also considers the Islanders a potential trade destination for Washington Capitals right winger Martin Erat and his $4.5 million annual cap hit.
Snow has the cap space ($16.6 million) to take on a big salary. Having already acquired Thomas Vanek, Snow’s probably not keen to pursue Miller, especially as the Sabres will squeeze him for young assets. As for Erat, he won't resolve the Isles' defensive problems.
Beyond Miller, there aren't many goaltending options for Snow. With Viktor Fasth sidelined a month with a lower-body injury, the Anaheim Ducks won't be shopping Jonas Hiller.
The struggling Toronto Maple Leafs might entertain offers for James Reimer, but they're reportedly seeking blueline depth, which rules out the Isles as a trade partner.
Ottawa Senators backup Robin Lehner has outplayed starter Craig Anderson, but it's doubtful GM Bryan Murray breaks up that tandem. Like the Isles, Murray is seeking blueline help, so there's no match between those two teams.
Snow's best target could be the Carolina Hurricanes, who could shop Justin Peters once Anton Khudobin returns from injury. Peters has yet to establish himself as an NHL goalie, but he played well filling in for Khudobin and starter Cam Ward when both were sidelined last month. The Hurricanes are also believed to be shopping veteran defenseman Tim Gleason.
The Hurricanes are in the market for a puck-moving defenseman, but if the Isles would take on Gleason and Peters, it would free up cap space for the Hurricanes to pursue Toronto's John-Michael Liles.
Speaking of Erat, CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley believes the Capitals should try to land a “hard-edged defenseman” with a left-hand shot who can log big minutes alongside Mike Green.
Gormley listed Dmitry Kulikov (Florida Panthers), Michael Del Zotto (New York Rangers), Andrej Meszaros (Philadelphia Flyers), Nikita Nikitin (Columbus Blue Jackets), Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings), Francis Bouillon (Montreal Canadiens) and Paul Ranger (Toronto Maple Leafs) as trade options.
Bouillon would be the only one considered “hard-edged,” but he's 38 and no longer capable of playing more 20 minutes per game. The Canadiens have no interest in Erat or his contract.
Gormley also noted a report claiming the Vancouver Canucks had “mild interest” in Erat and wondered if packaging the unhappy winger with equally disgruntled blueliner Dmitry Orlov and backup Michal Neuvirth could pry blueliner Dan Hamhuis away from the Canucks.
Though the Canucks are in need of scoring punch, they'll likely pass on Erat as they already have an expensive underachiever in David Booth on their roster. They also already have a backup goalie in Eddie Lack, who they recently re-signed to a two-year, one-way contract.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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