The National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline is approaching, and as the date gets closer and closer, rumors become more and more common. Some are just that, rumors that have very little truth to them. But in deadlines of the past, the old saying holds true: Where there is smoke, there is fire. The deadline is a time for playoff teams to turn themselves into Cup contenders, bubble teams to grab someone to push them over the edge, and non-playoff teams to sell to the highest bidder. Marty St. Louis, Ryan Kesler, Cam Ward, and New Jersey Devils legend, Martin Brodeur top the list of potential big name star players that could be moved on March 5.
St. Louis is one of the most important players in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that is in no way an overstatement. He is currently serving as the captain of the team and is called the “heart and soul” of the team by his teammates. Despite being one of the oldest players in the league, he has 60 points in 60 games to help put the Lightning solidly into a playoff spot. So why move him? It all came about after Team Canada announced their Olympic roster. St. Louis was expected to be a lock for the team, considering his stellar play of this year and the fact that the Lightning general manager, Steve Yzerman, was a main force behind selecting Team Canada’s roster. So when St. Louis was initially not selected for the national team, needless to say, the relationship soured a little. St. Louis eventually played for Canada as an injury replacement player, so it is unknown if he still wishes to be moved. There is talk about moving the veteran to the New York Rangers, where St. Louis spends the offseason.
Prediction: St. Louis will not be moved. Some things were said in the heat of the moment, but he means too much to the Tampa Bay franchise for the organization to move him, especially right before a potential playoff run. However, the issue may resurface in the offseason.
Ryan Kesler finds himself in a similar situation that his teammate, Roberto Luongo, found himself in last trade deadline. Luongo was a long-time starting goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks, but found his playtime dwindling thanks to a strong push from their backup at the time, Cory Schneider. Luongo requested a trade and that request became public knowledge. It caused Luongo’s value to plummet, as no general manager is going to pay a high price for a player they know Vancouver’s general manager must get rid of. So the general manager of the Canucks, Michael Gilles, flipped the script. He did not trade Luongo at the trade deadline, much to the surprise of everyone…including Luongo himself. Instead, Gilles traded Schneider at the NHL draft, earning the ninth overall pick in the deal. Rumor has it that Kesler also wants out of Vancouver, though he is understandably hesitant to make that declaration publicly.
Prediction: Kesler will be moved by Wednesday. A strong, two-way center is always a hot commodity, and the Canucks can not afford to have a repeat of last season’s drama. Pittsburgh is a likely target, maybe a deal involving young, defensive center Brandon Sutter.
Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe trophy back in the 05-06 season for most valuable player in the playoffs, as he led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup in his rookie year. Since then, it has been a long, slow slide down hill. He often played behind very poor defensive teams, leaving him high and dry on most nights. He also was rarely given a night off, as Carolina found themselves stuck as a bubble team year after year. With no reliable backup, Ward would play in 70 of the 82 games a season. Lately, that has all caught up with the goaltender. He cannot seem to stay healthy, having a recurring injury to his back, and when he has been in the lineup, it rarely ends well for him. His confidence is shot, as is the organization’s confidence in him. Carolina has all but given the starting job to Anton Khudobin, leaving the only question as to how to move Ward and his massive contract.
Prediction: Ward will be moved, though perhaps not by the deadline. The Minnesota Wild have inquired about the goaltender, but may not be able to fit Ward’s contract under the salary cap. Carolina needs to move Ward eventually, as Khudobin has earned himself a nice raise, and Hurricanes’ general manager, Jim Rutherford, is not going to pay a high salary to both.
Then there is Martin Brodeur, or as he is also known “Future Hall-of-Famer, one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game, and New Jersey Devils legend Martin Brodeur.” This year will likely be Brodeur’s final farewell, as the 41-year-old has been reverted to a backup after the Devils acquired Cory Schneider at the NHL draft. He has not played poorly for the Devils, but the team simply has a better shot of winning games with Schneider in net. Brodeur realizes this and has waived the no-trade-clause in his contract to allow the Devils organization to trade him if they are inclined to do so. There is not any particular hurry to move the legendary netminder, as the Devils find themselves fighting for a final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but if they do move him, it will simply be to give Brodeur another chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Brodeur will not be moved. Surprisingly, it is Schneider who put it best in his avocation to not move the veteran, saying that the day the Devils move Brodeur will be a sad one for everyone involved. “It’s clear what he means to this team and this franchise and this area,” the young goaltender said.
These are just a few of the players that could be moved Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline. There could be a lot more and there could be a lot less. Broadcaster and former goaltender, Kevin Weekes, has said that the deadline could be a slow one, due to so many teams being in the hunt for a playoff spot and the prices of the possibly movable players being high. No team wants to give up on the playoff hunt until they are mathematically eliminated, but for some teams, the deadline should be a time to sell, not to buy, regardless of their team’s place in the standings.
This article is one in a series, provided daily, which provides coverage, analysis, and predictions for NHL fans.
By Jonathan Gardner