These teams need to make a deal

With the NHL’s holiday trade-freeze period fast approaching

— Dec. 19-27 — several struggling clubs are believed to

be shopping around in hopes of finding a deal, but the salary cap

is making it difficult to make trades at this time of year. Still,

desperation could force some of the following clubs to make deals

in the coming weeks.

New York Rangers — After a hot start to the

season they’re in free-fall in the standings, losing four of

their last five heading into mid-December .They need a quality

backup goalie to spell overworked starter Henrik Lundqvist and

scoring depth at forward. GM Glen Sather reportedly tried to land

promising if currently underachieving Phoenix Coyotes forward Peter

Mueller, but the Coyotes wanted either Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan

Callahan in return, two players Sather doesn’t want to give

up. With only $2 million available cap space and too many players

on big contracts there might not be any significant changes coming

for the Blueshirts.

Philadelphia Flyers — Like the Rangers the

Flyers are mired in a lengthy slump after a hot start, are sliding

in the standings and have limited cap space to make a significant

trade. They recently lost starting goalie Ray Emery for six weeks

to abdominal surgery but appear intent on riding backup Brian

Boucher to carry the load until Emery’s return. The main

problem is a lack of offensive production, a puzzling problem for a

team with offensive stars like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Danny

Briere. It’s been suggested Carter or Scott Hartnell could be

traded but GM Paul Holmgren doesn’t appear keen to part with

either player.

Columbus Blue Jackets — Winners of only two

of their last 10 games by mid-December, the Jackets are sliding out

of playoff contention. That’s not the kind of follow-up to the

first postseason appearance in franchise history they were hoping

for. With blueline stalwart Rostislav Klesla sidelined to

mid-January with a torn groin it’s believed general manager

Scott Howson is interested in landing a quality defenseman and has

depth in wingers to offer up, but finding the right deal is

apparently hard to come by.

Tampa Bay Lightning — GM Brian Lawton

insists he’ll be patient with his roster and hopes the Bolts

can overcome a horrific slide which saw then win only one game in

eight by mid-December, but that hasn’t stopped trade

speculation from dogging the club. It’s been suggested team

captain Vincent Lecavalier could be moved, but he’s a

big-salaried player under a multi-year contract with a no-movement

clause so that’s not going to happen. Head coach Rick Tocchet

recently benched struggling forwards Alex Tanguay and Jeff Halpern

to shake things up, but at some point shakeups might not work,

which could force Lawton to consider the trade route.

Anaheim Ducks — Inconsistent goaltending, a

struggling defense and lack of scoring depth have combined to bury

the Ducks at the bottom of the Western Conference. GM Bob Murray

earlier this month denied his acquisition of checking center Kyle

Chipchura was setting the table for more deals, but that was before

losing veteran scorer Teemu Selanne to a broken finger for several

weeks. Murray probably won’t make any significant moves

before or immediately after the trade freeze but if his club fails

to gain any ground in the playoff race he could be forced to swing

a deal in January.

Montreal Canadiens — The Habs made news in

the rumor mill this past week when GM Bob Gainey apparently tried

to shop backup goalie Jaroslav Halak to the Flyers. While Halak

played coy about reports he asked for a trade, it’s possible

he could be playing elsewhere before season’s end. The

Canadiens could use more offensive depth but they might have to

package another player or a pick/prospect with Halak to land a

scoring forward.

Carolina Hurricanes — Their playoff hopes

are all but gone and GM Jim Rutherford is already trying to dump

salary, reportedly shopping forward Scott Walker and defenseman

Aaron Ward. Teams however will likely have more interest in leading

scorer Ray Whitney, but it’s unlikely he’ll get dealt

any earlier than the March trade deadline. Expect Rutherford to

keep trying to find new homes for Ward and Walker in the coming

weeks. Don’t put any stock into recent rumors claiming the

Hurricanes could move center Eric Staal as Rutherford intends on

rebuilding around him.