Some Names to Watch on Deadline Day

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With less than 24 hours until the NHL trade deadline, there are still plenty of moves to be made. The wheeling and dealing will kick into high gear tomorrow leading up to the 3 p.m. (EST) deadline, so with that said let’s take a look at some players who could be on the move, and where they could end up.

The Florida Panthers have announced their intentions to auction off everything that isn’t bolted down to try to accelerate their rebuilding process. They’ve already moved out captain Bryan McCabe and winger Cory Stillman as parts of three different deals over the last three days.

Two names rumored to be potential trade targets are starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun and center Stephen Weiss.

Tomas Vokoun is a UFA at the conclusion of the season, so teams won’t be tying themselves up in a long-term deal, but his cap hit means that he is out of most teams’ price range. His salary is $5.7M, and he is worth the dough. He doesn’t get much publicity because he plays for a small-market team, but his numbers are among the best in the league.

Like I said, his big cap hit is going to prevent many teams from getting in on the bidding for him. Also, he has a no-movement clause in his contract which gives him final say so on whether or not he wants to move. Philadelphia would love to upgrade their goaltending situation, but they’ll probably have to look elsewhere.

One team could really benefit from adding Vokoun’s expiring contract: the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks currently sit in 9th place in the NHL’s Western Conference, and are really the only team in the playoff hunt with both the means and the need to acquire Vokoun. To swing this deal, the Hawks would have to shed nearly $4M in salary to take on Vokoun’s cap hit.

The Hawks right now have 12 players signed for just under $50M for the 2011-2012 season. With the cap expected to be just shy of $59M next year, that doesn’t leave them much room to fill out a roster. After the mass exodus last summer, GM Stan Bowman had to do damage control, and really only pushed the disaster back a year. The Hawks need to sell off some pieces or they are going to be in a  really bad situation.

If the Hawks could convince the Panthers to take Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s contract off of their hands, it would be enormously helpful to their cap situation moving forward. Hjalmarsson is making $3.5M a season until 2014, because the San Jose Sharks signed him to an offer sheet in the summer and the Hawks matched it.

Though he is overpaid, it wouldn’t really affect Florida because they are miles under the cap anyway. They might also be looking to upgrade their blue line since they shipped Bryan McCabe out yesterday. The Hawks hold 11 picks in the 7 rounds of the 2011 draft, including 4 in the first 2 rounds.

Trade Proposal:

To Florida: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Toronto’s 3nd round pick in 2011 (acquired as part of a deal for Chicago’s 2010 2nd round pick)

To Chicago: Tomas Vokoun (the Hawks would then either need to waive Marty Turco or assign Corey Crawford to Rockford of the AHL. Marty Turco could also be sent to Florida as part of the deal, perhaps instead of the pick.

I don’t think that Stephen Weiss will be traded, because I believe he will be one of the crucial pieces of their rebuild, and potentially their next captain. However, if he is moved, the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that has been rumored to be interested.

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The Maples Leafs recently acquired two first round picks (Boston’s and Philadelphia’s, each of which will be fairly late in the round), with which they could try to pry Weiss from the Panthers. However, like I said I don’t think Weiss will be dealt. Florida would also probably want a center back in exchange for Weiss, because that move would leave them really thin up the middle.

Staying with the Toronto Maple Leafs, they have been looking into acquiring John-Michael Liles from Colorado. The undersized defenseman is signed through next year at a cap hit of $4.2M and would fill the hole left as the power play quarterback when Tomas Kaberle was shipped to Boston. Toronto’s GM Brian Burke has shown an ability to pull the trigger on a deal when he identifies a player he likes, even if it costs him a little bit more than others would be willing to pay.

I think pending free agent Clarke MacArthur could be a potential target for Colorado. MacArthur has been used as one of the Leafs primary offensive weapons this year, but Colorado’s forward group is stronger than Toronto’s and he wouldn’t be relied on as heavily. Colorado would then most likely resign MacArthur to a multi-year extension. The Leafs may be hesitant to deal him given that they recently dealt for his junior teammate Joffrey Lupul, but like I said when Brian Burke identifies a player he wants, he doesn’t hesitate to make the move.

Trade Proposal

To Toronto: John-Michael Liles

To Colorado: Clarke MacArthur, Anaheim’s 7th round pick in 2011 (acquired for Joey MacDonald)

Also on Colorado’s blue line and rumored to be in trade talks is veteran Adam Foote. The 39 year old defenseman has won 2 Stanley Cups, an Olympic Gold (2002 – Canada), and a World Championship (2004). He would provide a veteran leadership for a team looking to shore up its defense for a playoff run. Foote is about as rugged as they come, and could provide some good locker room presence and defensive zone play. Two notes on a potential Foote trade: 1) he has a NTC and 2) he is currently recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle. He has begun skating again, but doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play. He wouldn’t fetch Colorado much more than a conditional 7th round pick.

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You know things are bad in Ottawa when Chris Neil is now their third highest paid forward. Yikes. The guy is more than just a fighter, but his $2M a year for the 12 points he currently has doesn’t make much sense. One guy on that team who has been rumored to be on the move for a while now is Chris Phillips. He has repeatedly said that he wants to stay and be a part of the rebuild, and has a NTC to block any potential trade. However, if GM Bryan Murray can find a contending team to take him, he might agree to the move. I predict that by tomorrow at 3 p.m. Phillips has either been moved out or has signed a multi-year contract extension. If he is moved, I could see him headed to Pittsburgh or Washington for a mid-round pick.

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The St. Louis Blues are one of only a couple teams in the Western Conference that aren’t in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots, and a player that could be moved out for a decent return is winger Brad Boyes.

Boyes has seen his goal totals plummet in recent years. After putting up 43 goals in 2008, his totals have dropped to 33, 14 and now 12 this season. Will a team take a chance on a guy who has proven that he can put the puck in the net in the right situation?

One team who has the resources to make this move is the Tampa Bay Lightning. They recently lost top 6 forward Ryan Malone for up to 2 months with an abdominal injury, and adding Boyes to an already potent offense could prove wise for Stevie Y. Boyes’ drop in production has probably hurt his value in a trade, so the Blues won’t be able to demand the world for him.

The Lightning and Blues haven’t had problems making deals together in the past. As recently as 9 days ago, St. Louis sent captain Eric Brewer to the Lightning for a third round pick and prospect Brock Beukeboom. Maybe they channel some of that positive deal making energy to come together for another swap.

Trade Proposal:

To Tampa Bay: Brad Boyes, 2011 7th round pick

To St. Louis: 2012 3rd round pick (The Blues already hold the Lightning’s 2011 3rd round pick and the Lightning are also without their 2011 4th round pick, so they likely wouldn’t deal anymore picks away this year, and picking up St. Louis’ 7th this year helps build on what will be a smaller draft class for them).

Make sure to tune in tomorrow as I’ll be bringing you analysis all day long of every deal that gets made up until the 3:00 deadline. It should be an exciting day in the NHL, so don’t miss it!

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