This season's most tradable players
Last season, Marian Hossa was the crème de la crème of a group of players on the market leading up to the 2008 trade deadline. His acquisition by Pittsburgh helped propel the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup finals since 1992.
This season, the forward is ensconced in Detroit, where he signed as a free agent, something well-remembered by his friends in Pittsburgh. But for teams looking to add such a bauble before the March 4 deadline, well, the cupboard is looking pretty bare.
Here's a list of the top players who could be in play between now and the trade deadline.
The Panthers hit the All-Star break just two points out of a playoff berth. The longer the Panthers stay in the hunt, the more difficult Martin's job is going to be. Bouwmeester has never played in a playoff game since the Panthers drafted him third overall in 2002, but has emerged as one of the top young all-around defensemen in the game. He appears certain to bolt Florida as an unrestricted free agent in July. The Panthers could use more offense, but if they trade Bouwmeester and fall out of the race, that won't endear the team to the handful of fans still left in South Florida.Sidney Crosby. Or in Montreal. As for the possibility of Atlanta alienating fans by trading its best player away for the second straight season, we've got news for you -- Elvis has left the building and so have the majority of Thrashers fans.
Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple LeafsSpeaking of Plan B's, if Martin bites the bullet and hangs on to Bouwmeester, the next best thing in terms of a puck-moving defenseman might be Kaberle, who is fresh off a berth on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He has a no-trade clause that he refused to waive last season when the Flyers wanted him, but Kaberle has suggested he would waive it now if asked. But Burke doesn't believe in asking players to do that. But he will move Kaberle if Kaberle asks to be traded. Confused? Regardless, Kaberle might be a boon to a team like Washington that already boasts Mike Green along the blue line. Or the Rangers? Kaberle has two years left on his current contract at a manageable $4.25 million annually, a pittance compared to what the Rangers are paying underachieving Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival.
Vesa Toskala, Toronto Maple LeafsSpeaking of Mr. Burke, he's been watching closely to see if the Finnish netminder is really the guy around whom he wants to build his new team in Toronto. Toskala, so good for so much of last season, has been wildly inconsistent in 2008-09 (3.29 goals-against average, .885 save percentage). Justin Pogge hasn't exactly lit it up in the AHL, but the Leafs goaltending prospect will likely get some starts in the coming weeks to see if he's got NHL stuff.
Toskala, who has another year left at $4 million, could be on the move. Where? Well, we're guessing Montreal GM Bob Gainey won't go into the playoffs with just Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak again, and there might be some appetite to try and upgrade between the pipes in Detroit in anticipation of a playoff showdown with San Jose or even Calgary, both of whom are much better between the pipes.
Tuukka Rask waiting in the wings for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins. Patrice Bergeron will return from a concussion in the next couple of weeks, but his durability is clearly an issue, and Marco Sturm is gone for the long haul. Does Chiarelli move Fernandez and bring in some offensive depth? Or does he look to ride his goaltending tandem deep into the playoffs?Tim Thomas in Boston, Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet have formed an unlikely tandem that has the Hawks imagining a long playoff run. Would Tallon like help down the middle? Yes. Would he move Khabibulin to get it? That's a big risk to take, but one he might consider. Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi might be intrigued by Khabibulin, who became the first Russian netminder to lead his team to the Stanley Cup when he guided Tampa Bay to the 2004 championship.
Mathieu Schneider, Atlanta ThrashersHard to imagine the 39-year-old Schneider won't be headed somewhere with the Thrashers a million miles from the postseason. Could he help the Ranges' power play? Sure. And if the Blue Jackets remain in the playoff hunt, he might help out Ken Hitchcock's crew in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets boast the NHL's worst power play.
Chris Higgins, Montreal CanadiensThe Habs are deep and young, and Higgins' name has constantly surfaced as a possible part of any deal the Habs seem to be contemplating. The Smithtown, N.Y., native was rumored to be headed to Atlanta for Hossa last season, and his name came up in more recent Lecavalier discussions. Although injuries have limited him to just five goals in 21 games, Higgins scored 72 goals in the three seasons leading up to this one.
Niclas Havelid, Atlanta ThrashersThe underappreciated Havelid is a solid player who would be a boon to a team looking to add defensive depth with a little offensive pizzazz. A member of the gold-medal effort by Sweden at the Torino Olympics, Havelid will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Steve Sullivan, Nashville PredatorsSpeaking of the Preds, you have to wonder if GM David Poile would be tempted to try to move Sullivan, who just returned to action after missing almost two years with back issues. Sullivan is a risk long-term, but for a team looking for offensive depth for the playoffs, he might be just the answer. Hmm. Think he might be a nice fit for Crosby in Pittsburgh? Since Sullivan is set to become a free agent in July, Poile could always bring him back in the offseason if he wanted to.
Mike Comrie, New York IslandersSpeaking of centers, Comrie will be available, as well. Two seasons ago, he was part of an Ottawa team that went to the Stanley Cup finals. He could help out on the power play and add some secondary scoring for somebody.
Mats Sundin and Lecavalier, both big-name centers. What about Spezza?Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne hang them up for good? A team on the rebuild, like Atlanta, the Islanders or Ottawa, might be interested.
Brendan Morrison, Anaheim DucksThe center has endured another hard season after moving over from Vancouver. The Ducks can ill afford to give up any offense (they rank 19th in goals per game); but Morrison is going to be an unrestricted free agent and Murray can move him and get some kind of upgrade on offense that might make sense. The Ducks, who have never adequately replaced Andy McDonald down the middle, might be interested in more help there.
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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