It's the best time of year!
With less than a week remaining before the wheeling and dealing comes to an end, let’s take a look at the five best players that are available for contenders to scoop up. While the amount of buyers clearly outnumbers the sellers, there are still a few players of value to be picked over.
1. Rick Nash, Columbus
It’s no secret that Rick Nash is the biggest name and best player on the market. But will a contending team step up to meet the Blue Jackets’ demands for the star forward? Since Nash is not a rental and is under contract through 2018, GM Scott Howson is said to be asking for four key assets. Although there are many teams that are currently looking for offense, it doesn’t seem likely that another general manager will part with a king’s ransom at this point in the season.
Would Boston trade backup goalie Tuukka Rask and risk burning out Tim Thomas before the playoffs? Would the East-leading Rangers give up any of their young defensemen from a well-built blue-line? For a lot of teams, this trade doesn’t make much sense to be completed in-season. The Nash rumors will persist until 3 p.m. on Monday, but look for the Jackets captain to stay put until summer.
2. Jeff Carter, Columbus
Jeff Carter is having a down season, but his numbers in Columbus (12 goals, 22 points in 38 games) aren’t a fair judgment of his offensive capabilities. At the same time, many have questioned Carter’s character ever since the sharp-shooting forward was unexpectedly dealt from Philadelphia last offseason. Carter’s contract, which runs through 2022, doesn’t help Howson’s ability to make a trade. However, Carter seems more likely to be traded by Monday’s deadline.
Carter’s value has plummeted this year, which means the package to acquire him won’t be as great. Let’s look at Los Angeles (said to be interested in Nash and Carter) as an example. To pry Nash out of Ohio, the Kings would have to trade a big package surrounding goalie Jonathan Bernier and, possibly, defenseman Jack Johnson. To get Carter, the Kings would only have to give up Bernier and some picks, which makes it easier to bite the bullet. Teams are being scared off by multiple factors, but all it takes is one general manager to roll the dice.
3. Ales Hemsky, Edmonton
Like Carter, Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky has seen better days. Hemsky’s current pace of 38 games in 69 points would be his lowest point-per-game total since 2003-04. Despite his lack of production this year, and the fact that he is injury-prone, teams are going to show interest in Hemsky for two reasons: 1. His skill; 2. He’s a rental. It appears Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is more likely to deal Hemsky than to re-sign him. With Nash and Carter yielding a bigger trade package, the Oilers will definitely receive a lot of calls for one of the few talented forwards available.
4. Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen, Carolina
In the last five days we’ve seen three coveted rental defensemen change teams. Nashville traded for Hal Gill, while Philadelphia acquired both Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman. There simply aren’t many quality defensemen out there, which means Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will be busy receiving calls on free agents-to-be Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen. Teams like Chicago, San Jose and Detroit are said to be interested in a defenseman, and both Spacek and Allen have a lot of experience. If Rutherford can’t sign injured forward Tuomo Ruutu to an extension, he may become available as well.
5. Paul Gaustad, Buffalo
It’s not clear yet what direction the Buffalo Sabres will go at this year’s deadline. One would assume they’d be sellers, but every Eastern Conference bottom-feeder feels like they still have a shot at the playoffs. Nonetheless, GM Darcy Regier will receive offers for rugged center Paul Gaustad. The 30-year-old can do a little bit of everything – kill penalties, win faceoffs, chip in offensively, drop the gloves, etc. Many teams are trying to find that final piece to the puzzle – a depth guy that can glue everything together. Gaustad, who is in the final year of his contract, can be that guy.
Photos credit: Getty Images
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