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.
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.
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.