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Tough decisions to be made on Pronger, Bouwmeester

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TSN.ca Staff
3/3/2009 12:26:42 AM
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As the trade deadline approaches, two of the most fascinating scenarios involve two players who may not be traded by Wednesday.

Anaheim Ducks defencemen Chris Pronger and Florida Panthers blueliner Jay Bouwmeester are in unique situations because their teams are battling for playoff spots with an eye toward next season. It makes for a difficult predicament for their respective general managers.

"Teams do not have a clear indication from Ducks GM Bob Murray as far as the direction he wants to go with Chris Pronger," said TSN Insider Darren Dreger. "There is much speculation that Murray will hold on to Pronger and make a playoff push and then reconsider trading him at the draft table."

"There are a couple of things to consider," Dreger added. "First, Pronger has one year remaining on a contract that pays him over $6 million per season. That's a huge chunk of cap space and not a lot of teams are in a position to absorb that type of deal. Also, the Ducks don't want a big cap hit coming back."

With those parameters set, which team is in the best position to give up solid prospects to acquire Pronger while also possessing the necessary cap space to accommodate his salary?

The St. Louis Blues appear to be the best fit right now," Dreger said. "But are the Blues going to sell the farm to bring Chris Pronger and his family back to St. Louis? No they're not but they're in a great position cap-wise and they have the young assets to attract that type of deal."

What the Blues do not have right now is a playoff spot so does it make sense for this franchise to make a move for Pronger? Currently, they are battling with the Ducks for a spot among the top eight in the Western Conference.

''St. Louis wants to send a message to their fans," said TSN Insider Bob McKenzie. ''Instead of trading Keith Tkachuk at the deadline, they may want to hold on to him and add Chris Pronger."

But heading into action on Tuesday, the Ducks are sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot so why would they want to rid themselves of an elite defenceman?

''The reason the Ducks would be trading Pronger is because they want to free up cap space for next year so they can sign some of the players they need to sign," added McKenzie. "If Niedermayer is coming back on defence, they can go with Niedermayer and Ryan Whitney, trade Pronger and bring in young players and assets and use Pronger's $6.25 million to start signing Sami Pahlsson or Travis Moen or whomever they don't trade at the deadline."

The problem for teams making a push for a Stanley Cup this year is the asking price and the cap space.

"For teams like Boston, San Jose, Philadelphia or any others that want to make a move, the acquisition price is not going to be cheap," said McKenzie. "And do these teams have the cap room to absorb a $6.25 million salary?"

What would a team like Boston have to give up to acquire a player of Pronger's stature?

"For the Bruins, that has to be Patrice Bergeron and probably Phil Kessel," said NHL on TSN analyst Ray Ferraro. "So are you still a contender if you trade a couple of your top-end forwards? That's a decision Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli has to make because you have Pronger this year and next year which limits what you can do. They have some restricted free agents in Boston too, so cap space going forward really matters."

The Florida Panthers currently hold down the sixth seed in Eastern Conference but Bouwmeester becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and it appears he will not be back in South Florida.

If the Panthers trade him, it would send a bad message in a market where the fans want to see some success on the ice. But if he walks away for nothing after the season, it would set the franchise back in terms of building a winner.

TSN's TradeCentre 09 coverage begins Wednesday at 8am et/5am pt, with the Trade Deadline at 3pm et/Noon pt.

Pronger and Bouwmeester (Photo: John Russell/Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: John Russell/Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
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