NHL Trade Deadline: Top UFAs

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By Joce, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

There are few dates in a NHL season which brings more action and anticipation than the trade deadline. Teams thinking that they have a shot at winning it all are tempted to load-up for a run at the Stanley Cup. Teams out of a playoffs’ run unload salary and load up on young prospects and/or draft picks. And everyone else in between is trying to gauge and balance the pros and cons to become a seller or a buyer.

UFA2013

PENTICTON, BC. — This shortened season won’t be any different as the April 3rd deadline approaches, as many teams are starting to feel like they have a legitimate shot as winning it all, while others will want to ensure to have at least one round of playoffs after losing out on half of this season’s revenues.

In the Eastern Conference, three teams are emerging from the group. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins were expected to be battling for top honors but the Montreal Canadiens, who finished last in the East and 28th overall in the entire NHL just a year ago, are coming out of nowhere to give them a run for their money.

The Chicago Blackhawks broke all sorts of records with an unbelievable start to the season, but the surprising Anaheim Ducks are hot on their tail with one of the best records in the league at this point, making it a two horse race in the West.

Many names have been circulating in the rumour mills around the league already, a situation which will only get worse before it gets better as we approach the deadline. Tie on your touques and hats folks, we’re in for a rough ride! The new CBA allowing for teams to keep some salary in trades will, hopefully, allow for some more movement than we’ve seen in the past but it remains to be seen if that will happen at the trade deadline as opposed to during the summer months. Also, due to the shortened season, more teams might feel like they’re too close to become sellers and they might want to hang on to their assets, at the risk of losing some for nothing at season’s end.

For this exercise, let’s leave the Gaborik rumours aside and let’s have a look at the most prominent Unrestricted Free Agents to be, as those seem to be the most likely to change teams at the trade deadline. Keeping in mind that some of them will be re-signed, others will stay with their team and those offered on the market will come at different rates, here are lists of players who might (or not) play elsewhere comes April 4th.

UFAforwards

At forward, there are a lot of quality players scheduled to become UFAs. The Hurricanes are in a battle to finish first in their division and they have said publically that they would like to re-sign Alex Semin. Does he feel the same however and if they can’t get a firm commitment from him by the deadline, will the Canes gamble by keeping him? Not so long ago, it would have been farfetched to imagine Jarome Iginla in another uniform but it appears as though the Flames are at least willing to listen to offers. Many teams are rumoured to be interested. The Corey Perry situation in Anaheim is interesting. He has said that the fact that friend and team captain Ryan Getzlaf has re-signed is a plus for the Ducks, no one knows for sure what he will decide. But the team is having an outstanding season and it would be doubtful to see them trade one of their best players. A mix of role players, guys who could add depth, size, offense, help a PP, on the faceoffs and/or contribute some grit are on that list. Watch for the San Jose Sharks, a team struggling to line-up a series of wins and who have several UFAs to be, to become active prior to the deadline.

UFAdefensemen

The Detroit Red Wings, during their Stanley Cup winning seasons, made a habit of adding a veteran defenseman at the trade deadline. The fact is that while offense puts bums in the seats during the regular season, defense wins championships and this year’s crop of UFAs is rich on quality defensemen, no matter the type a team is looking for. Don’t expect Sergei Gonchar to go anywhere as long as the Senators are hanging in there, especially not after the loss of Erik Karlsson. It would also be somewhat surprising to see the Winnipeg Jets trade Ron Hainsey, a guy coach Noel uses almost 24 minutes a game as they are battling for top stop in their division. Regehr and Leopold in Buffalo could get some serious interest as would Whitney and Smid in Edmonton. Douglas Murray could very well find a taker and it will be interesting to see if the Red Wings part ways with disgruntled offensive defenseman Ian White.

UFAgoalies

It’s a slim pickings for quality pending UFA goaltenders this year and while I did put Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom on this list, don’t expect to see him being traded as the Wild is in the thick of things as they jostle for a playoff spot. There might however be a couple of very interesting options for teams looking for a starting goaltender. As everybody knows, the Vancouver Canucks have two quality guys at that position and the team is struggling to line-up consecutive wins as of late. Since only one of them can play at a time, they might be tempted to get some help up front, especially that Ryan Kesler has been hurt for most of the season. A surprising report out of Buffalo a couple of weeks ago shocked the hockey world as it is rumoured that Ryan Miller could be available. Can you imagine the two goalies who faced each other for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Gold Medal Game, Miller and Luongo, be traded the same year? Crazy, I know. In both cases however, they could likely fetch much more during the off-season.

Whether you’re a fan of a contending team, that your team is fighting for playoffs positions or wanting to unload salary, the next few weeks promise to be filled with rumours and trades. As a Habs’ fan, I’m really looking forward to what Marc Bergevin has in mind. He was hoping for a playoff spot at the start of the season but seeing his team playing this well, he might just be tempted to provide them with the added help needed for a long playoffs’ run. Don’t expect him to sell the farm though, as his vision goes well beyond this season. If Jarred Tinordi keeps on playing the way he did in his first game, he could very well finish the season in Montreal so I would suspect that one more bigger and tougher presence up front would be Bergevin’s number one target. Perhaps a struggling Ryane Clowe is what the doctor orders for this Habs’ team… time will tell.

En français: Date limite 2013: Liste des Top UFAs

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.