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.
While the Bruins continue to set the pace in the Northeast Division, back-to-back losses to the Detroit Red Wings has their credentials as a Cup contender feeling a little flimsy. Boston has a deep and talented roster, but an addition or two is probably needed for the Bruins to be considered among the top contenders for a Cup run.
"For us, we looked at it as a bit of a measuring stick, and obviously we didn't do very well," coach Claude Julien said to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald.
Expect the Bruins to be active in the next two weeks, and they have cap space (because of Marc Savard's injury) and assets to deal. Boston's top prospects are among the League's best, but the Bruins also have prospect depth and two first- and two second-round picks in the 2011 draft to work with. GM Peter Chiarelli made news by saying he'd move Toronto's first-round pick (likely a top 5-8 selection), but his own 1st rounder or the two No. 2s might be more likely.
Clearly, the Bruins are close to being a prime contender for the Cup, and as Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe writes, now is a good time to make a push in the Eastern Conference.
"With Pittsburgh shorthanded following injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Washington off its points-producing pace of last season, the Bruins could challenge Philadelphia, the East’s top club, with additions at center and defense," Shinzawa wrote.
There is no NHL franchise reeling more this morning than the Avalanche. The club has lost eight straight games -- a record in the Denver era. Colorado lost by eight goals last night -- also a record in the post-Quebec portion of the franchise's history. The hope that came with Peter Forsberg's return is now gone after his retirement.
The Avalanche are now firmly in 14th place in the Western Conference. The pack of teams competing for the final five spots in the playoffs has moved forward without them. Colorado is 10 points back of eighth place with 25 games to play. To say the team's chances of making the playoffs are slim to none is not an exaggeration at this point.
This could mean it is time to consider the Avalanche as potential sellers and GM Greg Sherman has some assets to move if that is the case. First and foremost among them is forward Milan Hejduk. Pendings UFAs who can be impact forwards are few and far between this season, so Sherman could have several suitors for Hejduk if he ends up being available. Defenseman Adam Foote is also a pending UFA but not likely to bring as much of a return. Both players have no-trade clauses (Hejduk's is a no-move) that would have to be waived.
Given that Colorado was in contention for a top-four spot in the West before this collapse, and how the franchise has been rebuilt with elite young players such as Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Kevin Shattenkirk, it is hard to believe that Sherman would "blow it up" and move other guys with years still left on their contracts. John-Michael Liles, another guy with a no-trade clause (though it is limited), would probably attract a nice return. He has one year left on his contract with a $4.2 million cap hit, but the Avalanche are already thin on defense and that would leave another big hole to fill in the offseason.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers have done an admirable job of staying among the top five-seven teams of the Eastern Conference despite a rash of injuries. A big reason for their buoyancy has been the play of the team's young players like Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Marc Staal.
New York hasn't been an organization known for showing patience, but Arthur Staple of Newsday writes that GM Glen Sather may be willing to do so this month.
"I think we can compete," Sather told Staple. "It doesn't mean we're going to do anything [at the deadline] or not do anything. The whole goal this season has been to keep these young guys going as well as they can, to create a team that takes some ownership in itself. It took us a while to get to that stage, but we're getting there."
If Sather does look to make a move, a veteran defenseman to put with his young corps could be a beneficial move. From Sather's comments, it doesn't sound like he's going to be willing to pay a big price to do so.