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Posted On Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 3:28 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Pens' Shero still looking for forward help

Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero has made one trade to bolster his depth at forward, and he said on NHL Live! that he might not be done.

Shero added forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen from Dallas for defenseman Alex Goligoski on Monday. He's got a bunch of other forwards who are injured and could be back at some point, but he remains focused on looking for more help.

"I would like to add another forward if possible, but it depends on what is going to be available and the price is going to be," Shero said. "This year I'm not into trading our first-round draft pick or something like that. That might take me out of some things, but if there is a right player, a rental, that makes sense for us [I'll be interested]."

Pittsburgh is still in second place in the Atlantic Division and has the second-most points in the East, but the Penguins will not have Evgeni Malkin for the rest of the season and Sidney Crosby remains out with a concussion. Crosby hasn't played since Feb. 5, and hasn't moved past doing light workouts at this point.

"I think he's feeling better, but really is there no update," Shero said. "Until he is symptom-free and can progress moving forward, it is really status quo. I go back to January 6th -- I don't think there's been a time where I've actually asked him 'how are you feeling?' Once he's feeling better and can move forward he'll let me know and we'll go from there.


There may have been some question about whether or not Crosby's status would help dictate Shero's plan in the next few days. One theory would be if the Penguins don't think Crosby can play, maybe they wouldn't sacrifice future assets to try and win without their top two centers.

"It is an easy answer to that -- our expectation is to win whether it is with Sid or without Sid and Geno," Shero said. "I think our goaltender is playing great, as good as anybody in the League. I think our defense has been strong all year. I think we have guys here that have won. I think the additions of Neal and Niskanen help solidify us and if there's another player or two out there and if there's another player or two out there that can help us, I think we can still be a good hockey team."

Alex Kovalev's name has been mentioned with the Penguins on several occasions in the past couple of weeks. If Crosby isn't going to be available, that would free up a lot more cap space but if Shero is reluctant to pay a big price that may not matter much. Colorado's Milan Hejduk could be a good fit, but Avalanche GM Joel Sherman has said he doesn't plan to trade Hejduk.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 2:34 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Stars GM: 'All options' open with Richards

Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was a guest on NHL Live! this afternoon and his injured/pending free agent star center, Brad Richards, was one of the main topics of discussion.

Richards is second on the Stars with 24 goals and leads the team with 63 points. He has not played since February 13 because of a concussion. Just as important, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and his name has come up in many media discussions about the forthcoming trade deadline.

It turns out his name has come up for Nieuwendyk as well.

"I've discussed it with some teams," he said. "All options are in play here. It is certainly not my first choice. We've maintained all along that we'd like to keep Brad as a Dallas Star for a long period of time. There's a lot of uncertainty on our side as far as ownership and things like that are a concern from them. All options are open. It is certainly going to have to be good type of deal in order to pry him away from us because we are sitting here tied for eighth right now and have a lot of home games coming up in March."

This will not be an easy decision for Nieuwendyk. Richards would be the marquee player available this week, just as he'd be the top player available on July 1 if he doesn't sign between now and then. Richards is a legitimate No. 1 center and has a Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume. He also doesn't turn 31 until May, so he could have several years at a peak level remaining.


He's also concussed, which makes a potential deal tricky for other teams.

"Unfortunately there is not timetable for Brad," Nieuwendyk said. "We're talking about some of our best players here. Brad probably is our best player. It is difficult. I think he is feeling better. I anticipate that he will start skating soon although we don't have a timeframe on when he'll return."

There is more to the decision for Nieuwendyk (and for Richards) than just signing a contract. The Stars are a franchise with an in flux ownership situation. It is also one that needs to build some momentum with a fan base that was used to seeing the club win for a long time.

Making the playoffs would make some money and maybe help sell some season tickets for next year. Keeping Richards (and eventually signing him) would be the best-case scenario for Dallas. Keeping him and losing an elite player for nothing could be devistating.

"For our fans and our franchise it is important to make the playoffs, so that is always in the front of our minds," Nieuwendyk said. "Obviously the situation with Brad is a very delicate one, but we're certainly not going to give him away unless we feel we can make our team stronger now and for the future."
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 12:27 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Early afternoon musings: Feb. 23

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We'll try to do this most mornings between now and the deadline.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The combination of two straight wins and some continued struggles by other teams around them has the Blackhawks level with the eighth-place team in the West ... but so are three other clubs. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that GM Stan Bowman is scouring the League for a physical defenseman who can help on the penalty kill.

“I think some teams are going to try to hold their guys close to the deadline,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “We don’t necessarily want to wait that long. If we find a guy we’re comfortable with, we’ll make it work.”

Bowman told Jahns he has no intention of moving any of the key players currently in place for Chicago. The salary cap, as it has since the summer, will weight heavily on what Bowman can try to do in the next 5 days. According to capgeek.com, the Blackhawks have about $1.15 million in acquisition space. For Bowman to add any player whose cap hit is greater than that, someone will have to come off the roster.

The Blackhawks are 27th in the League on the PK. A guy like the Islanders' Radek Martinek ($1.5 million) could help in that area, but he's not overly physical. Adam Foote ($1.25 million) might also make some sense depending on the severity of his lower-body injury.

DALLAS STARS

The Stars are one of said teams helping teams like the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets back into contention. Dallas has lost 5 games in a row and, after leading the Pacific Division for much of the season, is now in 11th place, level with Chicago and two other teams at 68 points.

This all leads back to Brad Richards, of course. Richards is a pending UFA and if GM Joe Nieuwendyk were to make him available, he immediately becomes the best player on the market. There is also a question of Richards' health, as he's currently not playing because of a concussion. Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside of ESPN.com discussed the Richards situation this morning in their Daily Debate.

"[Nieuwendyk] once again reiterated he wants to sign Richards and keep him in Dallas, but also has to look at all his "options.'' As GM, there is no question he has to see what's out there for Richards," LeBrun said. "The team is fading fast and the forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Stars must get value in return."

LeBrun and Burnside debated the viability of the Los Angeles Kings being suitors for Richards. TSN's Darren Dreger writes that as many as six teams could be interested in Richards. If Nieuwendyk feels like Richards isn't going to sign, he should be able to find a very nice return -- even though Richards is not healthy and even if he waits until the last day or two of the trade window.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

A month ago it seemed pretty easy to point to the Devils as a team that would be looking to sell as the deadline approached. Pending UFA center Jason Arnott's name has appeared in trade deadline primer stories everywhere. Well, now that the Devils have started to play their way back into the fringes of the playoff race, it remains to be determined if a guy like Arnott is going to be available.

Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger writes that GM Lou Lamoriello has to decide which way to lean, and he's not tipping his hand at this point.

“As I’ve said for the last month plus, we’ve been going game by game and day by day and we’ll continue to do that," Lamoriello said to the Star-Ledger. "No preconceived notions, no crystal ball. Just simply taking things as they are."

If the Devils do end up deciding to sell (seems pretty unlikely at this point), expect a lot of interest in Arnott and maybe goalie Johan Hedberg as someone's insurance plan. If Lamoriello wants to add a defenseman would make a lot of sense but the cap situation is tricky.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 12:49 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Early afternoon musings: Feb. 22

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We'll try to do this most mornings between now and the deadline. We've had 11 trades in the previous eight days already.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

A couple of weeks ago, it said here in this space that the Ducks were a good fit for Ray Emery because the organization was lacking at the position behind Jonas Hiller. Well, that's become pretty evident with Hiller out again because of dizziness and fatigue.

The Ducks are trying to stay in the playoff race in the West without Hiller, but Anaheim has lost 3 games in a row and yielded 21 (yes, 21) goals in the process. Still, Anaheim GM Bob Murray tells Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register that he's not planning on making a deal -- yet.

He wants to see when Hiller will be ready to play again. Emery has allowed 5 goals on 64 shots in 2 games for the Ducks' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, but Murray said he wants to give Emery more time before considering a recall. If it looks like Hiller will not be back soon, it may force Murray's hand.

"Making deals is really hard," Murray said. "If it comes to that point where I think Jonas is really going to be a while, we may have to say, 'OK'. Not at this point."

BUFFALO SABRES

There aren't very many pending UFAs at center for buyers to choose from, but Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News writes that Sabres pivot Tim Connolly could still be in that group. The Sabres remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the East -- four points back of Carolina with two games in hand.

But Buffalo also hasn't been playing all that well of late (three straight losses) and Harrington said that Connolly isn't expected back next season.

"It's unfathomable that the Sabres would re-sign Connolly again for next season," Harrington writes. "And many observers think it would be hard to believe he even lasts the week here."

He mentions Pittsburgh, Washington and Los Angeles as teams that could be interested in Connolly's services. He is making $4.5 million in the final year of his contract, but has only 8 goals and 26 points this season. He's one of the top playmakers in the League when he's healthy and in form -- both of which have not happened consistently enough in his career.

CALGARY FLAMES

Given Calgary's surge into playoff contention, it makes sense that Flames interim GM Jay Feaster would want to give his club a boost in that direction. His problem is trying to do without further damaging the organization's future.

The Flames don't have a second- or a third-round pick in this year's draft because of past deals, and Feaster has manitained he doesn't want to give up future picks. Given the way the team has played, he also told Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald that he doesn't want to disrupt the team's chemistry.

"As far as buying, if we can find the players and we can do it at a price that makes sense, then we would do it," Feaster said to the Herald. "We have to be judicious about our deficit spending. We have to be careful about it. And so it's not going to be easy."

Given how well the team is playing, Feaster could just stand pat and see how long this run continues. If he does do something (and he'll have some cap space if Nicklas Hagman is removed from the NHL roster) it would probably have to be a minor deal for a late-round pick or prospect he's not sold on.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Every time the Panthers have been on the edge of playoff contention in recent years, the club has tried to keep the roster intact to make a desperate run for the postseason. Well, a new regime led by GM Dale Tallon has made it pretty clear that's not going to be the case in South Florida this season.

Assistant GM Mike Santos tells Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel that his team is open for business.

"We're going to make trades to improve the team in the future regardless of where we are in the playoff race,'' Santos told the Sun-Sentinel. "This is a long-term project. There's 10 years of mismanagement that we're trying to turn around, hopefully in three or four years."

Fialkov lists six pending UFAs plus center Stephen Weiss and defenseman Dennis Wideman as potential trade targets. The big names among the UFAs are goaltender Tomas Vokoun and defenseman Bryan McCabe, but forwards like Marty Reasoner, Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak and Chris Higgins also have a fair amount of value.

People have been wondering where all the trade activity is going to come this week with 11 deals already in the books. Look south - Tallon could go on a trade binge this week that rivals or surpasses what has gone in Ontario to this point.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

GM Brian Burke has already had a vast impact on this trade deadline, and he's probably not done. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports Burke told fans at a Q&A session during Family Day on Monday he still intends to be active -- but as a buyer now instead of a seller.

Mirtle writes that Burke is looking for a puck-moving defenseman, and names Colorado's John Michael-Liles as a potential veteran addition or Atlanta's Zach Bogosian if Burke tries to stick with his plan of adding younger players.

Burke also said pending RFA Clarke MacArthur could be on the move if his salary demands are deemed too high.

"MacArthur would give Burke another key trade chip to move, joining the two first-round picks and a third-round pick he acquired in the [Kris] Versteeg and [Tomas] Kaberle trades," Mirtle writes.

Bogosian is precisely the type of player Burke appears to covet -- young with plenty of upside and maybe a little out of favor with the current organization. It is hard to imagine the Leafs giving up a lot for a veteran like Michael-Liles, but Bogosian (or a player like him) could be worth a high cost.


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Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 12:23 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Report: Souray on re-entry waivers

Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reports the Edmonton Oilers have placed defenseman Sheldon Souray on re-entry waivers, so another team could pick him up at half the price tomorrow.

There is clearly a high level of demand for defensemen at this time of the year, and yesterday was a good example of that. Tomas Kaberle and Ian White were dealt to contenders, while St. Louis and Colorado sent shockwaves through the NHL with a four-player swap that included Erik Johnson and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Souray, who will turn 35 in July, has one more year left on his contract. He's set to make $4.5 million next year, but his cap hit is $5.4 million, so a team that claims him would owe a pro-rated portion of $2.7 million this season and a full $2.7 million next year.

Whether or not another team will put in a claim for Souray remains to be seen. The Oilers loaned Souray to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League when they decided he didn't fit on the opening-night roster and didn't want to use up a roster spot with their own AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

He has 3 goals and 11 points in 26 games for the Bears. Souray missed time with multiple injuries, including a broken hand from a fight.

The New York Rangers were reportedly interested in Souray, but reports from earlier this month said that is no longer the case.
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Posted On Friday, 02.18.2011 / 2:12 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Bruins, Leafs reshape franchise futures with deals

The Boston Bruins are ready to contend for the Stanley Cup and the Toronto Maple Leafs are ready to rebuild.

Boston made a pair of trades today to beef up the roster with the hope of claiming the Cup for the first time in three decades, while Toronto finally embraced reshaping the organization with youth and building for the future.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli identified two needs -- veteran help at center and a puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman -- and filled both voids. He's added centers Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley in a four-day span, and finished his shopping spree by landing defenseman Tomas Kaberle.

Boston had lots of depth at center, but Marc Savard is out for the season with a concussion and rookie Tyler Seguin has been inconsistent. By adding Kelly and Peverley, coach Claude Julien has plenty of options in the middle and could have to move a couple of guys to the wing.

Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci should continue to center the top two lines, with Kelly or Peverley in the middle on the third line. Either Kelly, Peverley or Gregory Campbell will likely shift to the wing. Seguin will either move to the wing, or be sent back to the Ontario Hockey League.

Kaberle becomes Boston's leading scorer among defensemen, and should immediately slide onto the top power-play unit. Zdeno Chara should see a lot of passes from Kaberle, and goaltenders around the League should look forward to plenty of one-timers from Chara in the coming weeks.

If Philadelphia, Vancouver and Detroit were clearly the top three Cup contenders as of this morning, it might be time to add Boston and make the group a foursome.

Toronto general manager Brian Burke has retooled his franchise in the past two weeks, and the emphasis on prospects and draft picks is a new approach for a franchise that has been trying to compete and rebuild at the same time.

Burke has added a pair of prospects in center Joe Colborne and defenseman Jake Gardiner that are recent first-round picks. He's picked up two first-round choices and a third-rounder in the 2011 Entry Draft, and a second-round selection could be party of the Kaberle bounty if he re-signs with Boston or the Bruins make good on their push for a run to the Cup final.

The Maple Leafs now boast an intriguing collection of young talent -- something that has long been missing in Toronto. Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie and Gardiner could be the foundation for a solid defense corps, while Colborne and Nazem Kadri could eventually be Toronto's top two centers.

How the Peverley deal works in Atlanta should also be interesting to monitor. GM Rick Dudley was looking to shake up his roster with the Thrashers on the verge of falling behind both Carolina and Buffalo in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Peverley has been one of Atlanta's top two centers for much of the past two-plus seasons and a bargain at $1.325 million. He had been dropped to the fourth line recently. Both Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart played for coach Craig Ramsay when he was an assistant coach with the Bruins, and both should play key roles in trying to get Atlanta back into the postseason.
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Posted On Friday, 02.18.2011 / 10:58 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Senators, Avalanche swap slumping goalies

Two teams outside the playoff picture made an interesting goalie swap this morning as Colorado has sent slumping netminder Craig Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott.

Both goaltenders were surprising successes last season. Anderson was a No. 1 for the first time in his career and helped the Avalanche to the playoffs. He led the League in saves and shots against after playing 71 games. This year he has an .897 save percentage and a 3.28 GAA.

Elliott moved in front of an injured/ineffective Pascal Leclaire on Ottawa's depth chart and started 55 games with a 2.57 GAA and a .909 save percentage. He struggled in the playoffs against Pittsburgh and it carried into this season. He's 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA and an .894 save percentage.

Anderson is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, while the soon-to-be 26-year-old Elliott is a restricted free agent. Both goalies could have a chance to earn a new contract, either with their new team or to catch the eye of a scout from another club, in the final few weeks of the season. This could end up being a classic "change of scenery" trade, or it could end up not mattering much in the grand scheme of things for either franchise.

It would seem this trade is a clear move in Robin Lehner's direction as Ottawa's goaltender of the future. That future could be as soon as opening night in 2011-12, because Leclaire is a pending UFA as well. Colorado's future at the goaltending position remains in question. The Avalanche have prospect Calvin Pickard, but he's nowhere near ready for the NHL.

If anything, the trade of Anderson signals Colorado will be shopping for a goaltender this summer. There could be some interesting options available. Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere are all pending UFAs. So is Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, and Colorado making a run at him would certainly add some spice to that rivalry.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 5:44 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Ottawa's Phillips staying put?

Weeks ago Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips was indentified by media members as one of the top targets at his position for this forthcoming trade deadline.

It looks like other GMs around the League hoping to acquire Phillips might have to look elsewhere for a veteran defensive defenseman. Phillips, a pending unrestricted free agent, told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun that he wants to stay with the Senators.

"I do [want to stay] and I know people will call me crazy for saying that," Phillips said. "But I think you need some veteran guys that have been around to help and guide the young guys coming in. I’m okay and would take on that responsibility."

Phillips is precisely the type of stay-at-home veteran that ends up on the wish list of several teams at this time of year. He hasn't had a great year, but his playoff experience and defensive sensibilities are coveted by contenders.

If he isn't willing to waive his no-trade clause, other options could include st. Louis' Eric Brewer, Edmonton's Jim Vandermeer and the Isladers' Radek Martinek. Toronto's Tomas Kaberle and possibly Florida's Bryan McCabe headline the group of UFA defensemen who are more known for their offensive production.
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 11:09 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Morning Musings: Feb. 16

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We'll try to do this most mornings between now and the deadline.

BOSTON BRUINS

If the Bruins did indeed have a puck-moving defenseman and a veteran center on their list of needs, then GM Peter Chiarelli might be almost done shopping. He acquired the center yesterday, picking up Chris Kelly for a second-round pick. There were also numerous reports about him being in talks with Toronto GM Brian Burke about Tomas Kaberle. Burke told a Boston radio station that he and Chiarelli are talking but didn't name players involved.

Kaberle has a no-trade clause, but his comments to reporters after the Leafs' win against Boston last night implied he'd waive it for a move to Beantown.

"I would think so," Kaberle said when asked if Boston was a good place to be if he does get traded. "Obviously they have a pretty good team, good goaltenders. I've played a lot of games against them and it is always tough and they're always tough to beat. We'll see what is going to happen."

Chiarelli says his management staff is tracking nine trade targets on defense. Kevin Paul DuPont of the Boston Globe believes that Kaberle is one, with Atlanta's Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian and Ottawa's Chris Philips also on the list. Kaberle makes a lot of sense for the Bruins, who are looking for an offensive-minded guy who can help the power play.

The compensation for Kaberle could be interesting. Paul Dupont writes a deal is "likely to include Boston’s own first-round pick in this year’s draft." There is little chance Toronto's first-rounder from the Phil Kessel deal would be involved, but Burke might not be willing to settle for a late first-round pick.

Boston still has a No. 2 in the 2011 draft, courtest of a trade with Minnesota for Chuck Kobasew two years ago. The Bruins, as detailed on this blog, are flush with high-end prospects.

Kelly cost the Bruins their own No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft. It was a high price to pay for a No. 3 center, but the Bruins have the assets and Kelly brings some much-needed depth and playoff experience. While Boston is loaded with talent at the position, Fluto Shinzawa points out why it was an area of need.

"Even before [Marc] Savard suffered his latest concussion, the Bruins had been dissatisfied with their performance up the middle," Shinzawa writes. "Bergeron has been carrying the offense between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Gregory Campbell has filled the club’s needs on the fourth line. But Savard hadn’t found his offensive tempo before his injury. [David] Krejci has been inconsistent all season. For the most part, [Tyler] Seguin has looked every bit the teenager he is. The team gave Blake Wheeler several looks at center, but he hasn’t given them the presence they’re seeking."

"In Kelly, the Bruins now have a veteran they’ll need if they are serious about a deep postseason run."

CAROLINA HURRICANES

The Hurricanes have shrugged off a slow start in the first half of the season to chase down Atlanta for the eighth spot on the Eastern Conference. Still, Carolina has to hold off both the Thrashers and the surging Buffalo Sabres, who are two points back and have two games in hand on the Hurricanes, if the Canes are going to return to the postseason after missing out last year.

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer talked to team owner Peter Karmonos about the trade deadline. Karmonos told Alexander that GM Jim Rutherford has been authorized to add payroll if needed to help the club make the playoffs.

"Jim can do whatever he feels he needs to do to improve the team," Karmanos said. "We've worked together for 25 years, and he knows how I feel. Right now, the question would be who would you replace in our lineup? Another is, who's available? We're trying to figure all that out."

The Hurricanes have two established stars in Eric Staal and Cam Ward, and a host of young players moving into greater roles behind them. Carolina could probably use a veteran at both forward and defense to bolster the team's depth as crunch time nears. Rutherford has a track record of being willing to deal at this time of year, so don't be surprised to see the Hurricanes make an addition (or two) in the next two weeks.


DALLAS STARS

Yesterday it was the Colorado Avalanche as the "team in crisis" in the Western Conference. Today, it is the Dallas Stars. Dallas was one of the NHL's top stories of the season for a couple of months, forging a lead in the Pacific Division and challenging for the No. 2 seed in the West. Now, the Stars are without Brad Richards and have lost 8 of their past 10 games -- including a 4-1 defeat at last-place Edmonton last night.

"They didn’t lack in want-to, they lacked in composure," writes Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "They were overwhelmed by the pressure of the situation. Needing points to stay in the playoff race, needing positive momentum heading into death trap games in Calgary and Vancouver, the Stars simply fell apart."

Dallas is now perilously close to being engulfed by the swarm of tightly-knit teams behind them. The Stars sit fifth in the West, which is really a four-way tie for the Nos. 4-7 spots. Eighth-place Calgary is two points back, and a postseason-less Spring is three points away.

For much of the first half of this season, Richards was the UFA trade bait rumor du jour. When Dallas established itself as a contender in the West, that speculation went away. If the Stars keep losing, expect it to return.

"If the Dallas Stars stay in free-fall they have to trade their UFA Brad Richards if his blow to head vs Jackets is minor, don't they?" writes Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson on Twitter.

Richards could very well become the Jay Bouwmeester of this year's trade deadline. Florida faced the "should they or shouldn't they" trade Bouwmeester decision two seasons ago, and the Stars as an organization face similar pros and cons about trading Richards.

Dallas is an organization that could greatly benefit from a playoff run, both in galvanizing the fan base and the financial windfall that comes from it. Florida desperately needed to make the playoffs, so the Panthers held on to Bouwmeester. Will the Stars do the same, or will they look to add assets for the future? Richards would be the best player on the market -- and there are several contenders who are almost certain to get into a bidding war for his services.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 1:06 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Kings still looking for offense

Teams can rise and fall quickly in the middle of the Western Conference, and the Los Angeles Kings have been a great example of that. The Kings are on the upswing after sweeping East contenders Washington and Philadelphia on back-to-back days and are now on a 7-0-2 run.

Los Angeles is currently in 10th place in the West, tied with Minnesota at 65 points but only one shy of the top eight and four back of Phoenix for the No. 3 spot. The Kings are also, like St. Louis and Columbus, a franchise that has been trying rebuild with youth and establish a group that contend for years to come.

It makes for an interesting dilemma for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who wants to help his club reach the playoffs but also doesn't want to sacrfice building for the future. Lombardi said in an interview on NHL Network that his team's recent success hasn't altered his plan for the next two weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

"No -- so many parts of this plan are coming together -- even in the summer you gauge how certain players are going to perform and I think in most cases, although maybe some of young players took a little stumble before they got back on their feet, that our projections are we are where we thought we'd be and what we need," Lombardi said. "We'll continue to look for it.

Lombardi's Kings were one of the two finalists in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, but trying to match New Jersey's creative deal, which endup being 15 years and $100 million, was not something he wanted to pursue.

"I don't think we look back on that because that deal never made sense for us," Lombardi said. "Part of putting this team together is a process and you've got to think not only about what is right in front of you but what's down the road. We have a very strong nucleus that is starting to come together. It needs time to mature, but we want to keep it together. It was one thing to go out and acquire a player prior to the [salary] cap, but you start doing things like that [now] and you're setting yourself up to create a huge hole later. Quite frankly that made zero sense for us the way it came out."

The Kings did eventually add Marco Sturm in a trade with Boston, but offense -- and in particular an impact forward -- remains on the wish list in Los Angeles. Lombardi's team was the one most-often linked to Jarome Iginla, though interim GM Jay Feaster has said he didn't talk to anyone about his captain. Expect the Kings to mentioned when other potential impact forwards are rumored to be on the move in the next two weeks.

"That was something we felt we needed to upgrade," Lombardi said. "We felt coming into the year that we'd be one of the best defensive teams in the League, which we are if you look at our goals against. Yeah, we'd like to increase our 5-on-5 scoring, but not at the expense of eventually having to blow this thing up because we went out and did something extreme."
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He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice