Also-rans ready to shed salaries

The National Hockey League will be returning to action Monday with
its annual trade deadline set for 3 p.m. ET on March 3.

Currently only six teams could be considered
“sellers” – clubs out of the playoff chase and
looking to get a jump on rebuilding for next season – for the
deadline.

In the Eastern Conference the Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto
Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Florida Panthers seem poised to
dump salary while in the West the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus

Blue Jackets will likely try to shop some players.

The Hurricanes nearly had a deal in place which
would’ve shipped veteran forward Ray Whitney to the Los
Angeles Kings. It’s believed the Kings might still be
interested but could have some competition as Whitney has also been
linked with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They’re also believed to be shopping veteran defenseman
Aaron Ward, with the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins considered
potential destinations.

The Maple Leafs began their overhaul prior to the Olympic
break shipping three players to Calgary for defenseman Dion Phaneuf
and forward Fredrik Sjostrom and two others to Anaheim for
goaltender J.S. Giguere.

General manager Brian Burke isn’t done as he’s
believed to be shopping forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky and Lee
Stempniak. The Penguins are rumored to have interest in
Ponikarovsky.

With the return of goaltender Rick DiPietro it’s
believed the Islanders could part with either Martin Biron or
Dwayne Roloson. While the latter might fetch the better return,
Isles management would probably prefer to hang onto him for another
season while DiPietro rounds back into form.

It’s also rumored they’re getting interest in
defenseman Andy Sutton, who’s an unrestricted free agent at
season’s end.

This season has been a long nightmare for the Oilers, who
were out of the playoff race by Christmas and as a result have been
a fixture in this season’s trade rumor mill.

Defensemen Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky and Steve
Staios, and forwards Shawn Horcoff, Andrew Cogliano, Ethan Moreau
and Robert Nilsson are rumored available but it’s Souray
who’s been the most frequently mentioned in Oilers rumors.

He’s given the club a list of six teams – the
Kings, Ducks and Stars in the West, the Flyers, Rangers and
Capitals in the East  – he’d waive his
“no-trade” clause for but his $5.4 million salary makes
him difficult to move.

After making the playoffs last season for the first time in
franchise history this one has been a significant disappointment
for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets are eight points out of a playoff berth. And
having recently fired Ken Hitchcock as head coach, it’s
believed GM Scott Howson intends to move out a couple of pending
unrestricted free agents by March 3.

Forwards Raffi Torres and Fredrik Modin along with defenseman
Milan Jurcina are believed on the market, although Torres
hasn’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the
Jackets this summer even if he’s traded.

The Panthers are worth watching closely as their ownership
expressed unhappiness with the club’s performance in an open
letter to their fans just before the Olympic break.

GM Randy Sexton suggested no player was untouchable. Having
already made one move before the Olympic break – Dominic
Moore to Montreal for a draft pick – it’s widely
believed Sexton isn’t done.

Over the past two weeks goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been the
focus of Panthers trade rumors and while he and his agent claim
Sexton hasn’t asked him to waive his movement clause that
hasn’t stopped speculation he could be playing elsewhere next
week.

One rumor making the rounds has Vokoun headed to the Chicago
Blackhawks in a multi-player deal for goalie Cristobal Huet,
although such a move makes little sense from the Panthers
viewpoint.

Defensemen Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg are
unrestricted free agents this summer and believed likely trade
candidates.