These teams need to make a deal

BY foxsports • December 18, 2009

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.

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