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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 4:48 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Could Habs' Kostitsyn be available?

BROSSARD, Que. -- Losing Wednesday's game could put the Canadiens' playoff hopes to bed for good, and with the trade deadline looming Feb. 27 Montreal General Manager Pierre Gauthier may be inclined to declare himself a seller.

Among the potential assets Gauthier could move by the deadline, the names of Gill and injured forward Travis Moen have come up often because they both have Stanley Cup rings and both can be unrestricted free agents July 1.

Another possibility is Andrei Kostitsyn, who played a season-low 4:20 in Monday's 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. He had just one 40-second shift in the third period.

"We need more," Cunneyworth said of his decision to bench Kostitsyn. "For me, I saw a problem with turnovers. That was my main concern. It was three shifts, three turnovers that were painfully obvious. It comes down to managing the puck, and he's a veteran that should know better."

Kostitsyn, who turned 27 on Feb. 3, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. With 20 goals in three of the four previous season and decent size at 6-foot, 214 pounds, it's possible someone with his skill set could interest a playoff-bound team looking for someone to plug into their top six.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 4:41 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

McPhee negotiating tricky trade market

So this hasn't been the best of weeks for the Washington Capitals.

To recap: The No. 1 goaltender has the flu, the former No. 1 right wing is frustrated by being scratched and might want out, the No. 2 goaltender was surprised to learn two hours before a game that he was being replaced by the No. 3 goaltender, and the No. 1 defenseman and No. 1 center remain out with injuries.

Oh yeah, and the Capitals have lost three straight games and now are four points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division with four straight games coming up away from Verizon Center; they've lost 18 of 27 on the road this season.

Got all that?

The challenge for Capitals General Manager George McPhee is trying to figure out what to make of his club's current predicament, and if there is a way he can fix in the next two weeks.

One thing that is clear is that McPhee is trying to fix it, and not waiting around to see if and when injured defenseman Mike Green and center Nicklas Backstrom can or will return. CBC's Elliott Freidman wrote in his "30 Thoughts" column today that, "Apparently, no GM is burning up the phone lines more than George McPhee."

"I still think if we get our guys back and if we can add something here in the next couple of weeks we're good enough to win the Stanley Cup," McPhee said to John Feinstein of the Washington Post. "Then again, a lot of teams are looking to add something right now, too."

Added owner Ted Leonsis, on his Ted's Take blog: "Wish us speedy recovery to some of our players -- and hope we can add some jump via the trade markets during the next few weeks."

McPhee has a few potential roadblocks in the way of making a deal. One is what he already stated -- the market is full of buyers right now and not many sellers. Another is the status of Green and Backstrom. If both are back and healthy, it is great for the team but not for McPhee's ability to make a move -- Washington is already using the long-term injured reserve relief from Green and Tom Poti to stay below the salary cap.

Another issue is trying to determine what the Capitals need if Green and Backstrom are healthy. As McPhee pointed out to Feinstein, the team is 8-0-0 when everyone (sans Poti) is available.

The best way for McPhee to try and improve the team -- or at least shake up the roster and hope that sparks some improvement -- probably is to try and walk a delicate line of being a buyer and a seller as the deadline nears.

For the Capitals to add salary, McPhee is going to have to move some out (assuming Green and/or Backstrom can be ready before the end of the season). If Knuble wasn't an option to be traded before this week, he certainly might be now.

The 39-year-old right wing has three goals this season, and he's been a healthy scratch the past three games. He told reporters he hasn't gone to McPhee to request a trade, but that sounds like a plausible outcome if he doesn't start playing again soon.

"I don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I just kind of got through this weekend with three games in (five) nights -- just wanted to get through it and see what (would) happen," Knuble said to reporters. "Obviously we all saw what happened so it gets you thinking.

"If a player is not going to be used, or in the near future you don't have plans, then that player probably wouldn't want to be there. That's how we are in our League -- you want to go somewhere where you're going to play and contribute to your team and if you can't do it in one place, then you've got to go."

Knuble carries a $2 million cap hit. Another player in that price range who has not played a lot of hockey recently for the Capitals is defenseman Jeff Schultz. He's been a healthy scratch quite often since Dale Hunter became the coach, and his cap hit checks in at $2.75 million. Dealing Schultz would cut into Washington's depth on defense, but whether the team has seven NHL-caliber defensemen or nine won't matter if Washington doesn't qualify for the postseason.

A more radical move would be to deal Alexander Semin, who is on a one-year, $6.7 million contract. Semin has his warts even when he's producing at a high level, but he's been far from that this season. If McPhee could move him to a team willing to take the risk for more offense, he could then use the extra cap space to replace Semin and maybe address another need.

The final issue then becomes what future assets McPhee would be willing to trade to try and salvage the season. McPhee has proven to be a bit of a pack rat when it comes to young assets. He's yet to deal an impact prospect in a trade since this current group of players started making the playoffs consistently. The only young player with significant upside he has dealt was goaltender Semyon Varlamov -- and that was for an overwhelmingly great return and a player who easily was replaced.

Using those parameters, it is easy to take Evgeny Kuznetsov off the table, and probably rookie Dmitry Orlov, as well. Would McPhee part with Marcus Johansson in a deal for an established No. 2 center? How about goalie Braden Holtby, or forwards Cody Eakin or Stanislav Galiev? His history says no, but given how radically things have changed this season in Washington, it is plausible that he takes a different approach.

McPhee has proven to be someone who will make deals at the deadline, but this might be his trickiest two weeks to maneuver since the Capitals returned to prominence five years ago.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 12:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Could Jackets be looking into Nash trade?



Could the Columbus Blue Jackets be investigating a trade of captain Rick Nash?

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the team has made it clear to certain NHL clubs that Nash would be available for the right price.

"We're open to all options to try to improve the team," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson told the newspaper this morning. "As far as rumors go, we're just not going to comment."

The rumor Howson mentioned is one from French-language TV station RDS, which reported Monday that the Jackets had put Nash on the trading block.

Citing a source, Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline wrote that Nash -- who has a no-movement clause -- has not requested a trade.

"The last couple of weeks there have been so many rumors," Nash told the newspaper following the team's morning skate. "And when a team loses, more rumors keep on surfacing. That's what it seems to be right now, is just rumors.

"I'm a Blue Jacket right now. I've played my whole career here and it's a special place to me. So as of right now I'm a Blue Jacket."

However, Portzline reports that following recent organizational meetings, which included, among others, owner John P. McConnell, president Mike Priest, Howson, senior advisor Craig Patrick and interim coach Todd Richards, that the possibility of trading Nash needed to be explored.

Last month, Nash told the Dispatch he had no desire to leave Columbus.

"I love Columbus. I love being here. I love being a Blue Jacket," he said. "The city of Columbus deserves a winner and deserves a good product on the ice. If it comes to that -- like you said, all speculation -- but if they don't want me here, they want to move me? I’m not going to do something where it's going to hurt the franchise just because I have that in my contract."

Howson, speaking with NHL.com Saturday in Philadelphia, said he wouldn't be commenting on any trade rumors leading into the deadline, but said he's determined the path the team wants to take.

"I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place," Howson told NHL.com. "We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 9:41 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Howson won't comment on Nash rumors

According to the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson declined to comment on a report by French-language TV station RDS that Jackets captain Rick Nash has been placed on the trading block.

Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline, citing his sources, said Nash is not being shopped, nor is the club intent on moving him. However, he adds, the Jackets have reached a point where every player on the roster could be available for the right price and that includes Nash.

Nash has a no-movement clause in his contract, and told the newspaper late last month that he has no desire to leave Columbus.

"I love Columbus. I love being here. I love being a Blue Jacket," Nash said. "The city of Columbus deserves a winner and deserves a good product on the ice. If it comes to that -- like you said, all speculation -- but if they don't want me here, they want to move me? I’m not going to do something where it's going to hurt the franchise just because I have that in my contract."

Howson, speaking with NHL.com Saturday in Philadelphia, said he wouldn't be commenting on any trade rumors leading into the deadline, but said he's determined the path the team wants to take.

"I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place," Howson told NHL.com. "We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 1:29 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Bowman: Quenneville not going anywhere

With his team mired in an eight-game winless skid, Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman says he has zero intention of changing coaches.

Bowman told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that Joel Quenneville, who guided the Hawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010, is "absolutely the guy" moving forward and that he's happy with adjustments the coaching staff is making to try to snap the skid.

The Hawks enter the week sixth in the Western Conference with 65 points. Prior to the winless skid, which started Jan. 21, the Hawks were first in the League standings with 64 points.

One reason for the Hawks' skid has been subpar play in net by the combination of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Crawford hasn't won since Jan. 18 and has allowed five goals in each of his last two games. Emery has lost three straight and has allowed three or more goals in each of his last four games.

While the GM said he is working on bolstering the roster, he said trading for another goaltender "is not a priority."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 1:03 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Ducks, Jets exchange minor-league forwards

The Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets swapped minor-league forwards Monday, with the Ducks sending Maxime Macenauer to the Jets in exchange for Riley Holzapfel.

Macenauer, 23, had a goal and three assists in 29 games with the Ducks earlier this season, the first NHL action of his career. He also has four goals and two assists in 13 games with the Ducks' American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. He was a 2007 third-round pick by Anaheim.

Holzapfel, 23, was a 2006 second-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers. He's in his fourth AHL season, and first with the St. John IceCaps. In 29 games this season, he has eight goals and seven assists.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 9:56 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Sutton signing further limits defense market

It appears playoff teams looking for veteran help along the blue line just lost one more option leading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

With the Edmonton Oilers reportedly poised to sign Andy Sutton to a one-year contract extension, the possibility of contending teams standing pat 14 days looks better and better.

Speculation still surrounds a number of defensemen possibly being moved in the next two weeks -- Montreal's Hal Gill, Carolina's Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen, Toronto's Luke Schenn and Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina -- but none of them are blockbuster, franchise-changing quality.

Now, if Nashville decides to move unrestricted free-agent-to-be Ryan Suter, that would change things. But with the Predators fifth in the Western Conference, and Suter vowing not to sign with any team prior to the offseason, it's highly doubtful he goes anywhere.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Howson, Gauthier take in Flyers-Rangers tilt

PHILADELPHIA -- There were two very interesting parties taking in the Flyers-Rangers game today at Wells Fargo Center.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier and Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson both were in attendance, with Howson spending extra time meeting with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

With the Feb. 27 trade deadline rapidly approaching, Howson said he enjoys the opportunity to talk to other GMs one-on-one rather than over the phone.

"You do it both ways, obviously," Howson told NHL.com. "But anytime you can get face-to-face with somebody and talk to them and have a little more time in a face-to-face encounter … I prefer it be face-to-face because I think you can get more out of it."

He wouldn't comment directly on any of his plans approaching the deadline, but said his roadmap runs well beyond what will happen between now and Feb. 27 – and he promised to be an active player in the trade market.

"We've determined what we want to do," he said. "I'm not going to disclose what we're going to do, but we certainly have a plan in place. We're working on it, we're talking to teams. We'll see … it's not just a pre-deadline plan. It's a plan leading up to the draft and leading into next season. We'll see what happens before the 27th and we expect to be active."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 10:48 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Prospal staying put with Blue Jackets

Scratch another potential trade candidate off the list.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, expected to be aggressive sellers at the Feb. 27 trade deadline, signed 36-year-old forward Vinny Prospal to a one-year contract extension with a reported value of $2.5 million. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch is reporting the deal includes a no-trade clause.

Prospal joined the Blue Jackets this summer after spending two seasons with the New York Rangers. Last season, Prospal was limited to 29 games as he recovered from knee surgery.

In 53 games with the Blue Jackets, Prospal has 9 goals and 24 assists.

"We are very excited to have Vinny signed for another year," said Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said in a statement. "His leadership and play on the ice have certainly been positives for us this season."

Teams looking to add a veteran presence at minimal cost can't be happy about the extension. Prospal's original deal also carried a $2.5 million cap hit, and the veteran has 65 games of playoff experience under his belt.

At the time of coach Scott Arniel's firing, Howson said he expected his team to be sellers in the trade market this month. With Prospal locked up for another year, that leaves the Blue Jackets with five unrestricted free agents after this season -- forwards Kristian Huselius, Samuel Pahlsson and Derek MacKenzie along with defensemen Radek Martinek and Brett Lebda.

Huselius has played just two games this season due to pectoral surgery and a subsequent groin injury. Martinek has missed all but seven games due to a concussion.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 7:07 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Isles, Nielsen agree on 4-year extension

The New York Islanders confirmed Tuesday night that they have re-signed center Frans Nielsen, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The team said the deal will be announced Wednesday, but TSN's Bon McKenzie reported that it's a four-year deal worth $11 million, a cap hit of $2.75 million. That's a big jump for Nielsen, who is on the last season of a four-year, $2.2 million deal he signed in 2008.

Nielsen, 27, was the Islanders' third-round choice (No. 87) in the 2002 NHL Draft. He became the first Danish-born NHL player to score a goal when he connected during a 15-game callup in 2007, and became a full-time Islander in 2008-09.

Nielsen entered Thursday's action with nine goals and 25 points in 51 games after posting career highs of 13 goals, 31 assists and 44 points last season, when he led the NHL with seven shorthanded goals. He is also one of the NHL's most proficient scorers in the shootout -- his 57.6 percentage (19-for-33) is the best of any player who has taken 20 or more attempts.

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I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh