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Buy or sell? Some teams undecided
Following an unusually high amount of trade activity in the NHL during the first half of this month, including several notable swaps last Friday, it's understandable that fans are now wondering how many teams could still be buyers or sellers, and how much talented depth remains with the Feb. 28 trade deadline less than a week away.
The Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche already engaged in salary-dumping or talent-swapping deals, while the Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators,Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers and San Jose Sharks all appeared to address their respective needs with recent deals.
Despite all this activity, several clubs are still believed to be shopping around for help while other teams currently undecided about selling off some pending free-agent talent could be nudged into doing so by the trade deadline if they have fallen further out of the playoff race.
The slumping Washington Capitals are believed in the market for a second-line center as well as perhaps an experienced defenseman. The New York Rangers have been seeking a hard-shooting defenseman to anchor their power play for weeks. Marian Gaborik's concussion could also force the Rangers to seek a top-six scoring winger, though it could be difficult to find the right fit at this time of the season without overpaying.
Over in the Western Conference, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are in danger of falling out of the playoff race altogether and are believed in the market for a penalty-killing defenseman. The Los Angeles Kings have sought a first-line scoring winger since last season. The Columbus Blue Jackets are looking for depth at center and the blue line.
As for potential sellers, this week could determine whether the Buffalo Sabres become buyers or sellers, whether forwards Tim Connolly and Mike Grier, along with defensemen Steve Montador and Craig Rivet could be available.
The Florida Panthers are said to be shopping potential unrestricted free agents such as Tomas Vokoun, Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman. They also might consider moving players on multiyear contracts, such as Stephen Weiss and Dennis Wideman.
The Ottawa Senators have been in sell mode for some time. They have shipped out Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Brian Elliott and Jarkko Ruutu, and they could still be peddling defensemen Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba and Chris Campoli, as well as rugged forward Chris Neil.
Both have one year remaining on their contracts. If they intend to test next summer's free-agent market, it could prompt Oilers management to move one or both at this year's deadline.
Should Columbus fall further out of the race by week's end, it could spur the Blue Jackets to move out veterans such as blue-liners Rostislav Klesla and Jan Hejda, plus such forwards as Kristian Huselius and Ethan Moreau.
But many times, deals are also made between teams involving players few observers expected to be dealt, a point driven home by the trade Friday between Colorado and St. Louis involving Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and 2006 top draft pick Erik Johnson.
The flurry of activity earlier this month likely means this year's trade deadline might not be as hectic as in recent years, but there will been teams seeking help or looking to dump salaries to ensure there are enough deals on Feb. 28 to keep hockey fans interested.