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TRADECENTRE 09: Which Canadian teams are buyers and sellers?

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TSN.ca Staff
2/5/2009 11:34:11 AM
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Who are the buyers? Who are the sellers?

With one of the most important dates on the NHL calendar just four weeks away, talks have started to heat up across the league.

On Wednesday evening, the NHL on TSN took an in-depth look at the six Canadian teams and gave expert insight and analysis on which teams and general managers will be the busiest leading up to and during NHL Trade Deadline Day.

If the Montreal Canadiens' desire for an impact forward was a simmering pot, it could become a full boil if the team is to maintain its hold on home ice advantage for the start of the playoffs.

For now, head coach Guy Carbonneau was sighting Montreal's resilience in its 8-2 record while captain Saku Koivu was out with an ankle injury. But that was before they lost their top goal-scoring forward Robert Lang, who is also the team's most productive centre.

To replace his experience up the middle, the price might have taken a big leap because general manager Bob Gainey is not just bargaining from a position of weakness but perhaps a position of desperation if the team is unable to weather the storm over the next four weeks.

"Montreal are buyers," TSN's Bob McKenzie says "and the priority can be described as one-dimensional, they're looking for a defeceman who can quaretrback the power play to replace Sheldon Souray or Mark Streit. Guys they haven't been able to replace."

In Toronto, it should come as no surprise that the Leafs will once again be sellers this winter. The club is currently $9 million under the salary cap and president and general manager Brian Burke is looking to create even more space by landing draft picks and prospects.

"The Maple Leafs have a lot of cap room and they've got a lot of money to spend," says McKenzie. "What they're telling other teams in the NHL is; if you have a player under contract and you want him off your books give him to us but, give us a draft pick along with that."

Some of that potential trade bait on the Leafs' current roster are Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle and Nik Antropov. Both Kaberle and Kubina have no-trade clauses, and Kaberle is currently sidelined for the next four weeks with a broken right hand but is expected to be back in time for deadline day.

'Kaberle is a player who wants to play for the Maple Leafs, he has a no-trade clause and Brian Burke does not want to trade him," said McKenzie "but some of the best offers that will come across Burke's desk will be for a puck-moving defenceman who can quarterback a power play. Kaberle fits the bill. He's likely to yield the biggest return and as a result, the Leafs will have to listen and see what the possibilities are.''

As the Ottawa Senators are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, Bryan Murray will be more of a seller at the deadline, while at the same time trying to improve his club for next season.

"The Senators are going to be a selling team," TSN's Darren Dreger said "but how hard are they going to sell and what are they looking for? Murray said he's still looking for that skilled offensive defecneman and he's also looking for a goaltender. "

The general manager has been trying to acquire a top-six forward and puck-moving defeceman since last summer and he will continue to try and fill those voids. Ottawa does have San Jose's first round pick which it can dangle to sweeten a deal.

"Murray says that aside from Daniel Alfredsson, basically everyone is available," Dreger said. "But he may have to do most of the shopping when the free agency signing period begins on July 1st."

Some player's expecting to draw big attention are unrestricted free agents Filip Kuba and Chris Neil.

"Neil is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, but he's in negotiations to stay in Ottawa," Dreger said. "The rumours of Jason Spezza are possible but Murray says its highly unlikely."

In the west, the Calgary Flames are buyers heading into this year's trade deadline and considering their needs, general manager Darryl Sutter will have to be creative. A strong puck-moving defenceman and/or a first or second line centreman are acquisitions that could turn the Flames into bona fide Stanley Cup contenders.

"The Flames have some money and a little bit of cap space but they like their depth, so they're looking for perhaps a little bit more experience on the blueline," Dreger said. "But that isn't a necessity."

Sutter may also consider solidifying his backup goaltender position as he did last season with the acquisition of Curtis Joseph.

If Sutter does do something to try and improve his team, it will likely happen sooner rather than later as he likes to avoid the hoopla and heightened pressure of trade deadline day.

In Edmonton, the Oilers' brain trust will have to do everything in its power to get the team over the hump and back to the playoffs. Before Lubomir Visnovsky dislocated his shoulder, the Oilers had four offensive defenceman but despite that injury, they could still move one of those four blueliners to try and bring in a little more grit and size on the back end.

"The Oilers are very much a buyer, with an asterisk," said Dreger. "If things go south for the Oilers, they may quickly become a selling team and perhaps that's when an Erik Cole comes into play."

Also on the Oilers' wish list is a top-six forward who could play alongside Ales Hemsky, but they'll have to get in line with 29 other teams.

"The Oilers are looking for a top-line winger to help Hemsky out," Dreger said, "but that's not realistic at this time of year so they may have to settle for a face-off man who will help on the penalty kill."

Despite their struggles in 2009, the Vancouver Canucks still have to consider themselves to be a buyer and they'll have well over $4 million of their salary cap space to get that done.

The Canucks' most pressing need is a puck-moving defeceman, somebody who can anchor the power play. The Canucks may also be in need for a top-six forward but much of that will depend on the performance of Mats Sundin and Pavel Demitra between now and the trade deadline.

Some players that may be on the move from Vancouver are defencemen Shane O'Brien, in light of his recent comments about management wanting him to fight more, and Mattias Ohlund. Ohlund is the club's longest serving player but he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and it doesn't look like he'll re-sign with Vancouver.

"The Canucks are buyers right now, although buyer with an asterisk," McKenzie said. "If they happened to fall out of the playoff race, then they would be selling people like defeceman Mattias Ohlund."

TSN's wall-to-wall TRADECENTRE 09 coverage begins Wednesday, March 4 at 8am et/5am pt and includes a team of more than 20 Insiders, analysts, former NHL players, coaches and general managers, reporters and correspondents - providing breaking news and instant analysis of each transaction, including interviews with players, coaches and GMs.

Countdown to TRADECENTRE (Photo: TSN.ca)

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(Photo: TSN.ca)
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