TORONTO -- With the NHL trade deadline two weeks away, most general managers are still attempting to formulate their plans and figure out if they're going to be buyers, sellers or neither.
The majority still believe there is enough time to come to those conclusions before the deadline at 3 p.m. ET April 3, but the overriding feeling among the general managers is this year's deadline could be the most unpredictable of them all because the condensed schedule has resulted in many more teams being in the hunt for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than in a typical season.
"It's been that different so far," Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told NHL.com at the GM meeting here. "Everything is compressed, so will the flurry be compressed? Will there be a flurry? I don't know. It's been so different because everyone is in it and everyone is looking to add. There are a few teams that aren't looking to add, but I would say most of them are still in the race."
The Western Conference was even tighter with six points separating the fifth-place St. Louis Blues from the 13th-place Nashville Predators. The same amount of points was the difference between the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings and the 10th-place Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a least one point in 11 straight games (7-0-4).
"We have a totally different year than we've ever had," Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said. "We're going to have more teams in the race, and so I would suspect that you're going to pay a premium for players because so many teams are looking for them and these races are going to have a lot of teams in them right until the end."
Rutherford is one of them on the prowl. He said he's been looking for a defenseman to bolster his depth for most of the season and his calls to other GMs have increased because he's still trying to acquire one.
The Hurricanes' pursuit could be even more amped up now because Justin Faulk was diagnosed with a second-degree MCL sprain and is out for 2-4 weeks.
"We just keep working at it," Rutherford said.
Chiarelli, Stan Bowman of the Chicago Blackhawks and Steve Tambellini of the Edmonton Oilers all told NHL.com that as of Wednesday they are looking to add before the deadline. And they represent only a small sampling of managers who without question are looking to bolster their rosters for a playoff push.
The Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are all in that mix.
Predators general manager David Poile went on NHL Network and said his 13th place team is hoping to be a buyer.
If there are that many buyers as of now, that means there are fewer sellers. Even the teams that could turn into sellers by April 3 haven't been able to determine that. That's why Rutherford said teams are going to pay a premium for players.
"I don't think guys are going to want to trade players away until they're out of the race, and as it is now, certainly in the West, you could make an argument that almost every team is still in it," Bowman told NHL.com. "So it's going to be tight."
But there are some teams that want to factor realism into their trade-deadline plans. In particular, Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said his goal with any move would be to make the club better for next season and beyond.
All three have contracts that will expire after next season and come with salary-cap hits of $5.3 million (Pominville), $6.25 million (Miller) and $7.1 million (Vanek).
"I don't think it's a case of making players available or not available; it's that you're trying to improve the club and the focus goes beyond this season," Regier said. "It's that simple, so you have to be open to anything that's going to do that."
Holmgren, who admitted he is disappointed in his team, said he would "probably not" look to bolster it for a playoff run this season.
"We're fairly far back right now," he continued. "If there is something there that will help us now and in the future I'd probably do that, but I'm not looking for anything."
Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is in a different position because he has some interesting trade chips -- Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr (they all have contracts that expire at the end of the season) -- but isn't yet sure if he wants to use them.
The Stars were 11th in the Western Conference entering the games Wednesday night, but one point out of eighth. They started a stretch of four games in six days Wednesday night at the Colorado Avalanche.
"We've kind of seen this movie before, but I think two weeks will tell a lot here," Nieuwendyk said. "There are some decisions to make on some players, but I think it's a day-by-day thing."
The days are dwindling, so decisions will have to be made relatively soon. The problem is many GMs may not be ready to make them by April 3.
"All these trade deadlines end up being kind of the same, at the very end with the number of players and transactions, so you'd think that will happen again, but I don't know," Chiarelli said. "It really is different as far as the number of teams in it and what it takes to get into the race right now. It takes a lot less now than it would be after 60 games or so."
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