With a little more space between teams, the Eastern Conference can more readily be divided into buyers and sellers a month before the deadline, so at this juncture it appears that there will be more action involving the sellers at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
At the top end of the conference, the Bruins lead the pack, but the Capitals, Devils, Canadiens and Flyers are among those who will be gearing up for more than just making the postseason.
Here is a breakdown of upcoming free agents, prospects and other players that may be among those discussed in trade talks leading up to the March 4 trade deadline.
A couple of notes about the following chart:
Restricted Free Agents (RFA) have contracts that expire this summer, barring a contract extension in the meantime, but their current team retains the right to match a contract offer so long as they make the requisite qualifying offer. While restricted free agents haven't moved a lot, but it's worth noting when decision time is coming on a young player's contract.
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) have contracts that will expire this summer and, without a contract extension, they will be free to sign with whatever team they choose on July 1. These are the players that often move in "rental"-type deals, ideally providing a short-term fix with minimal commitment required.
Top prospects are the top five players in each organization that aren't currently with the NHL club. Other top prospects that are now with the NHL team may be listed among other players of interest. Contending teams may be more likely to dangle a top prospect or two as they try to find that final piece for their playoff mix, while it's safe to assume that young and rebuilding teams aren't going to move top prospects unless they get a significant long-term piece in return.
Other players of interest will include prospects who have spent some time in the NHL this season as well as players under contract for future seasons that may have some level of attractiveness on the trade market.
IMPORTANT: Just because a player is listed as being of interest, it doesn't mean he will be traded or should be traded. Some may just be of interest for teams looking to hit a home run when trying to swing a deal or they are players that may be considered to be underachieving for the money they are due over the rest of their contract.
Generally, then, here's a rough guide for which players each Eastern Conference team might have at their disposal in order to make a trade leading up to the deadline.
(Prospect ages as of Feb. 1, 2009)
(Prospect stats through Feb. 3, 2009)
(no-trade info. from www.nhlscap.com)
RFA: Colby Armstrong, Jim Slater, Erik Christensen, Chris Thorburn, Joey Crabb, Boris Valabik, Nathan Oystrick, Kari Lehtonen.
UFA: Marty Reasoner, Eric Perrin, Mathieu Schneider, Niclas Havelid.
Ondrej Pavelec, G, Chicago (AHL), 20
7-7-1, 2.31 GAA, .919 SVPCT in 15 GP
Riley Holzapfel, C, Chicago (AHL), 20
7-13-20, plus-12, 20 PIM in 48 GP
Spencer Machacek, RW, Chicago (AHL), 20
10-11-21, plus-13, 19 PIM in 46 GP
Andrei Zubarev, D, Mytishi Atlant (KHL), 21
0-3-3, plus-5, 61 PIM in 28 GP
Angelo Esposito, C, Montreal (QMJHL), 19
21-17-38, plus-6, 25 PIM in 31 GP
Other Players of Interest: Todd White, Johan Hedberg, Brett Sterling.
No-Trade Clauses: Vyacheslav Kozlov.
The Plan: While the Thrashers have some good young players in the fold, they can always add more and moving their veterans who are headed for free agency for picks and prospects is the only way to go.
RFA: Phil Kessel, David Krejci, Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff.
UFA: P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle, Shane Hnidy, Manny Fernandez, Tim Thomas.
Tuukka Rask, G, Providence (AHL), 20
19-15, 2.46 GAA, .918 SVPCT in 34 GP
Joe Colborne, C, Denver (WCHA), 19
6-15-21, 10 PIM in 27 GP
Matt Lashoff, D, Providence (AHL), 22
4-13-17, minus-6, 25 PIM in 22 GP
Carl Soderberg, C, Malmo (Sweden), 23
12-34-46, plus-8, 22 PIM in 38 GP
Brad Marchand, RW, Providence (AHL), 20
10-22-32, plus-5, 38 PIM in 49 GP
Other Players of Interest: Vladimir Sobotka, Martins Karsums.
No-Trade Clauses: Zdeno Chara, Marco Sturm, Marc Savard, P.J. Axelsson (limited).
The Plan: Perhaps somewhat surprising as a Cup contender based on preseason expectations, but there's little need for big changes given what the Bruins have done to this point. Another puck-handling defenceman and some other veteran depth is really all that's necessary.
RFA: Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur, Patrick Kaleta, Andrej Sekera.
UFA: Maxim Afinogenov, Tim Connolly, Ales Kotalik, Andrew Peters, Matt Ellis, Jaroslav Spacek, Teppo Numminen.
Jhonas Enroth, G, Portland (AHL), 20
18-12-2, 2.45 GAA, .921 SVPCT in 35 GP
Nathan Gerbe, C, Portland (AHL), 21
19-15-34, plus-5, 27 PIM in 29 GP
Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna (WHL), 19
5-24-29, plus-17, 91 PIM in 38 GP
Tyler Ennis, C, Medicine Hat (WHL), 19
25-30-55, plus-3, 12 PIM in 43 GP
T.J. Brennan, D, Montreal (QMJHL), 19
5-22-27, plus-3, 38 PIM in 46 GP
Other Players of Interest: Mark Mancari, Marek Zagrapan, Henrik Tallinder, Nathan Paetsch, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Chris Butler.
The Plan: Clinging to playoff position, the Sabres have enough firepower but could use an upgrade on the blueline -- even when they are healthy, but don't expect the Sabres to unload any of their best prospects.
RFA: Tuomo Ruutu, Anton Babchuk.
UFA: Chad LaRose, Ryan Bayda, Wade Brookbank, Dennis Seidenberg, Josef Melichar.
Drayson Bowman, LW, Spokane (WHL), 19
25-27-52, plus-26, 74 PIM in 40 GP
Zach Boychuk, LW, Lethbridge (WHL), 19
15-16-31, plus-18, 10 PIM in 25 GP
Jamie McBain, D, Wisconsin (WCHA), 19
5-25-30, 16 PIM in 28 GP
Zac Dalpe, C, Ohio State (CCHA), 19
12-5-17, 21 PIM in 24 GP
Chris Terry, LW, Plymouth (OHL), 19
26-28-54, plus-9, 51 PIM in 36 GP
Other Players of Interest: Sergei Samsonov, Patrick Eaves, Frantisek Kaberle, Jakub Petruzalek, Patrick Dwyer.
No-Trade Clauses: Scott Walker, Niclas Wallin.
The Plan: Lurking in the playoff race, the Hurricanes have a veteran roster that seems set so, aside from minor changes, it could be difficult to make a significant deal without trading someone already on a long-term contract.
RFA: David Booth, Anthony Stewart, Noah Welch.
UFA: Richard Zednik, Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen, Jay Bouwmeester, Nick Boynton, Karlis Skrastins, Jassen Cullimore, Craig Anderson.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Brynas Gavle (Sweden), 19
2.31 GAA, .921 SVPCT in 33 GP
Keaton Ellerby, D, Rochester (AHL), 20
0-11-11, minus-8 in 42 GP
Colby Robak, D, Brandon (WHL), 18
10-20-30, plus-16, 35 PIM in 47 GP
Michal Repik, RW, Rochester (AHL), 20
8-14-22, minus-14, 36 PIM in 42 GP
Shawn Matthias, C, Rochester (AHL), 20
6-4-10, minus-25, 8 PIM in 33 GP
Other Players of Interest: Rostislav Olesz, Brett McLean, Kenndal McArdle, Matt Rust, Stefan Meyer, Jason Garrison.
No-Trade Clauses: Tomas Vokoun, Bryan McCabe.
The Plan: Surprising contenders under rookie head coach Peter DeBoer, the Panthers will be as intriguing a team as any approaching the deadline because of the Jay Bouwmeester situation. The workhorse defenceman isn't expected to sign long-term in Florida, which leaves the Panthers with a conundrum -- do they move Bouwmeester before the deadline for the best possible package, or do they hold him, push for the playoffs and don't worry about the yield for Bouwmeester?
RFA: Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, Guillaume Latendresse, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D'Agostini.
UFA: Alex Tanguay, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Steve Begin, Tom Kostpoulos, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Mike Komisarek, Patrice Brisebois.
P.K. Subban, D, Belleville (OHL), 19
8-43-51, olus-34, 60 PIM in 40 GP
Ryan McDonagh, D, Wisconsin (WCHA), 19
4-7-11, 39 PIM in 24 GP
Yannick Weber, D, Hamilton (AHL), 20
10-15-25, plus-1, 22 PIM in 40 GP
Ben Maxwell, C, Hamilton (AHL), 20
13-22-35, plus-3, 20 PIM in 41 GP
Kyle Chipchura, C, Hamilton (AHL), 22
11-13-24, plus-15, 24 PIM in 29 GP
Other Players of Interest: Ryan O'Byrne, David Fischer.
No-Trade Clauses: Roman Hamrlik (limited), Saku Koivu, Georges Laraque (limited), Andrei Markov (limited), Alex Tanguay.
The Plan: Losing leading goal-scorer Robert Lang to injury leaves Montreal a little shy up front and while the Habs have plenty of blueline prospects, some more immediate help would be useful for a team that has so many players headed for free agency this summer.
RFA: Travis Zajac, Andy Greene.
UFA: Brian Gionta, John Madden, Bobby Holik, Michael Rupp, Johnny Oduya, Kevin Weekes, Scott Clemmensen.
Nicklas Bergfors, RW, Lowell (AHL), 21
8-19-27, plus-4, 6 PIM in 33 GP
Mattias Tedenby, LW, HV71 Jonkoping (Sweden), 21
3-1-4, minus-2, 2 PIM in 34 GP
Matt Corrente, D, Lowell (AHL), 20
4-8-12, plus-8, 97 PIM in 40 GP
Jeff Frazee, G, Albany (AHL), 21
17-9-2, 2.53 GAA, .926 SVPCT in 30 GP
Patrice Cormier, C, Rimouski (QMJHL), 18
16-17-33, plus-6, 82 PIM in 38 GP
Other Players of Interest: Dainius Zubrus, Mike Mottau, Matt Halischuk, Petr Vrana
No-Trade Clauses: Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner (limited), Jay Pandolfo, Colin White.
The Plan: With Martin Brodeur due to return by the end of the month, the Devils -- who have been shockingly successful in front of minor-league call-up Scott Clemmensen -- are going to be one of the top teams in the East. A move for a veteran defenceman who can run the power play is one area that could be addressed.
RFA: Nate Thompson, Blake Comeau.
UFA: Bill Guerin, Doug Weight, Mike Comrie, Mike Sillinger, Andy Hilbert, Tim Jackman, Thomas Pock, Joey MacDonald.
Trevor Smith, C, Bridgeport (AHL), 23
23-14-37, plus-7, 26 PIM in 43 GP
Rhett Rakhshani, RW, Denver (WCHA), 20
11-14-25, 32 PIM in 26 GP
Aaron Ness, D, Minnesota (WCHA), 18
2-12-14, plus-10 in 24 GP
Robin Figren, LW, Djurgardens (Sweden), 20
2-6-8, minus-9, 22 PIM in 41 GP
Jesse Joensuu, LW, Bridgeport (AHL), 21
13-7-20, plus-10, 29 PIM in 42 GP
Other Players of Interest: Sean Bergenheim, Jeff Tambellini, Andy Sutton, Brendan Witt.
No-Trade Clauses: Bill Guerin.
The Plan: Build, build, build. Veterans like Doug Weight, Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin could all bring a decent return of prospects or picks and the Islanders need to re-stock the franchise and look at a long-term plan building around Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, who obviously need a lot more help.
RFA: Nikolai Zherdev, Petr Prucha, Lauri Korpikoski, Fredrik Sjostrom, Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes, Ryan Callahan, Erik Reitz.
UFA: Blair Betts, Colton Orr, Dmitri Kalinin, Paul Mara, Stephen Valiquette.
Bobby Sanguinetti, D, Hartford (AHL), 20
4-22-26, minus-15, 26 PIM in 46 GP
Michael Del Zotto, D, London (OHL), 18
10-34-44, minus-8, 54 PIM in 45 GP
Evgeny Grachev, C, Brampton (OHL), 18
28-27-55, plus-27, 12 PIM in 42 GP
Dane Byers, LW, Hartford (AHL), 22
4-3-7, minus-2, 18 PIM in 9 GP
Michael Sauer, D, Hartford (AHL), 21
2-7-9, plus-6, 29 PIM in 35 GP
Other Players of Interest: Scott Gomez, Aaron Voros, Artem Anisimov, Wade Redden, Michal Rozsival.
No-Trade Clauses: Chris Drury.
The Plan: Although the Rangers are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Confernce, there is a feeling that changes are definitely needed for a team that has allowed more goals than they've scored. They have some attractive prospects or young players if they choose to deal for more immediate scoring help, both up front and on the point.
RFA: Brendan Bell, Brian Elliott.
UFA: Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond, Filip Kuba, Martin Gerber.
Erik Karlsson, D, Vastra Frolunda (Sweden), 18
2-4-6, minus-1, 10 PIM in 37 GP
Jim O'Brien, C, Seattle (WHL), 20
18-24-42, plus-7, 39 PIM in 44 GP
Patrick Wiercioch, D, Denver (WCHA), 18
9-12-21, 18 PIM in 23 GP
Ilya Zubov, C, Bringhamton (AHL), 21
12-23-35, plus-7, 18 PIM in 32 GP
Kirill Lyamin, D, Moscow Spartak (KHL), 23
2-6-8, minus-3, 76 PIM in 48 GP
Other Players of Interest: Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, Christoph Schubert, Jason Smith, Alex Auld.
No-Trade Clauses: Mike Fisher, Dany Heatley, Chris Phillips.
The Plan: Barring a miraculous turnaround, it's time for the Senators to gear up for next season and that means trying to maximize the value of pending free agents and considering whether it's worth moving some of the guys who have been locked up long-term, even if only for the sake of trying a new mix of players because the current one sure isn't working.
RFA: Scottie Upshall.
UFA: Mike Knuble, Andrew Alberts, Ossi Vaananen, Lasse Kukkonen, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki.
James van Riemsdyk, RW, New Hampshire (HE), 19
9-18-27, 33 PIM in 23 GP
Luca Sbisa, D, Lethbridge (WHL), 19
0-7-7, minus-6, 36 PIM in 39 GP (with Philadelphia, NHL)
Ryan Parent, D, Philadelphia (AHL), 21
0-1-1, even, 18 PIM in 15 GP
Andreas Nodl, RW, Philadelphia (AHL), 21
4-6-10, minus-3, 16 PIM in 20 GP
Patrick Maroon, LW, Philadelphia (AHL), 20
16-16-32, minus-4, 40 PIM in 49 GP
Other Players of Interest: Joffrey Lupul, Randy Jones, Claude Giroux.
No-Trade Clauses: Martin Biron, Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen.
The Plan: A strong team, with an abundance of firepower when they get Daniel Briere back from injury, the Flyers have to decide if they are satisfied with their goaltending and if there isn't a reasonable way to improve between the pipes, then perhaps more help on the blueline would be the way to go.
RFA: Alex Goligoski.
UFA: Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Zigomanis, Chris Minard, Hal Gill, Philippe Boucher, Rob Scuderi.
Carl Sneep, D, Boston College (HE)
1-8-9, 18 PIM in 21 GP
Dustin Jeffrey, C, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), 20
5-16-21, plus-8, 18 PIM in 35 GP
Casey Pierro-Zabotel, LW, Vancouver (WHL), 20
27-62-89, plus-53, 32 PIM in 51 GP
John Curry, G, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), 24
17-7, 2.48 gAA, .917 SVPCT in 25 GP
Ben Lovejoy, D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), 24
7-18-25, plus-30, 62 PIM in 47 GP
Other Players of Interest: Jordan Staal, Luca Caputi, Ryan Whitney, Kristofer Letang.
No-Trade Clauses: Sergei Gonchar.
The Plan: It's hard to accept a non-playoff season on a team with two of the best players on the planet, but that's a possibility given Pittsburgh's struggles this year. Even if head coach Michel Therrien doesn't survive, the Penguins will have to find a scorer or two to complement Crosby and Malkin. If that happens, and Sergei Gonchar returns, the Penguins could be a lively squad heading towards the playoffs.
RFA: Jussi Jokinen, Lukas Krajicek, Steve Eminger, Matt Smaby, Karri Ramo.
UFA: Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Cory Murphy, Matt Pettinger, David Koci, Marek Malik, Jamie Heward, Olaf Kolzig.
Riku Helenius, G, Norfolk (AHL), 20
0-0, 3.00 GAA, .917 SVPCT in 1 GP
Vladimir Mihalik, D, Norfolk (AHL), 22
2-9-11, minus-3, 44 PIM in 39 GP
Ty Wishart, D, Norfolk (AHL), 20
1-3-4, plus-5, 15 PIM in 40 GP
Radek Smolenak, LW, Norfolk (AHL), 22
15-14-29, plus-5, 112 PIM in 39 GP
Dana Tyrell, C, Prince George (WHL), 19
19-21-40, minus-22, 27 PIM in 30 GP
Other Players of Interest: Vincent Lecavalier, Adam Hall, Paul Ranger, Karri Ramo.
No-Trade Clauses: Martin St. Louis, Radim Vrbata (limited).
The Plan: After a summer of wild signings and, more recently, a circus swirling around the neverending Vincent Lecavalier-to-Montreal rumours, the Lightning could use a more simple approach. If they are going to keep Lecavalier, then build around him with young players and don't expect a quick fix and begin with that process this season.
RFA: Mikhail Grabovski, Ryan Hollweg, Andre Deveaux, Jeremy Williams.
UFA: Nik Antropov, Dominic Moore, Brad May, Curtis Joseph.
Dmitri Vorobiev, D, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL), 23
4-14-18, plus-15, 18 PIM in 44 GP
Justin Pogge, G, Toronto (AHL), 22
16-14-4, 2.63 GAA, .898 SVPCT in 34 GP
Christopher DiDomenico, C, Drummondville, 19
15-30-45, plus-15, 40 PIM in 35 GP
Mikhail Stefanovich, C, Quebec (QMJHL), 19
29-20-49, plus-19, 10 PIM in 40 GP
Chad Rau, C, Colorado College (WCHA), 22
11-17-28, 2 PIM in 28 GP
Other Players of Interest: Jason Blake, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Jamal Mayers, Mike Van Ryn, Jonas Frogren, Ian White, Anton Stralman.
No-Trade Clauses: Niklas Hagman, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina (limited).
The Plan: The Leafs are expected to be one of the movers and shakers around the deadline, now that Brian Burke is calling the shots, even though Burke has long maintained that the deadline is the time when general managers make their most mistakes. However, in his position as a seller this time, Burke may be able to benefit from those mistakes as he accumulates young players and prospects to get the rebuilding underway in earnest.
RFA: Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Jeff Schultz, Sean Collins.
UFA: Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Donald Brashear, Tyler Sloan, Brent Johnson.
Karl Alzner, D, Hershey (AHL), 20
2-8-10, plus-16, 6 PIM in 24 GP
John Carlson, D, London (OHL), 19
13-40-53, plus-19, 49 PIM in 43 GP
Simeon Varlamov, G, Hershey (AHL), 20
16-5, 2.43 GAA, .913 SVPCT in 21 GP
Anton Gustafsson, C, Bofors (Sweden), 18
5-4-9, plus-6, 20 PIM in 22 GP
Oskar Osala, LW, Hershey (AHL), 21
19-12-31, plus-21, 24 PIM in 46 GP
Other Players of Interest: Tomas Fleischmann, Chris Bourque, Sami Lepisto.
No-Trade Clauses: Michael Nylander.
The Plan: It's not surprising that the Caps are a team on the rise, but it's perhaps the success has come a tad sooner than expected. In any case, they'll need to decide if they are comfortable with Jose Theodore in goal (and he has been better in 2009) and whether or not there is a move to be made to solidify the defence so that they are legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca