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.