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Panthers, Blues, Caps show some life

12/31/2005 - NHL


CAUGHT IN THE NETS
ILL WIND BLOWING


Blackhawks forward Martin Lapointe blasted his teammates for their effort shortly before Christmas, a tirade that yielded a desultory 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. A few days later, GM Dale Tallon told Chicago writers that he was so disappointed by the team's play that he would entertain trade offers for essentially any player. More hot air to be sure.

The problem facing Tallon is that in luring free agents to the moribund franchise in the offseason, he had to overpay to get them on board. Now, in the new NHL, it's no longer an option simply to trade your mistakes to a team with lots of money. In most cases, a team willing to take on salary will want to dump some back.

Who, for instance, is going to be interested in Nikolai Khabibulin, the NHL's highest paid netminder, when he carries an .879 save percentage and three more seasons of a $27 million deal? Or captain Adrian Aucoin, who signed a four-year, $16 million deal, but has been plagued by injury and has but one goal in 22 games?

No one. Go down the list. Matthew Barnaby. Curtis Brown. Lapointe. Three "character" forwards brought in to lead the Hawks to the playoffs, three who have combined for 13 goals and will be all but impossible to deal. Instead, most potential trading partners will be interested in young players such as Mark Bell, Pavel Vorobiev, Rene Bourque, Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith, players Tallon will be loath to part with.