The calendar has flipped to February, and in the course of this NHL season that means it is trade deadline month. There were a couple of interesting trades in January, but hockey's swapping season is likely to pick up in the coming days. Here at NHL.com, we will bring you a daily roundup of reported rumors about who might be available and which teams might be looking to make a move for your lunchtime consumption in Deadline Diner.
CHICAGO: The Blackhawks have already made one move to address an area of weakness by adding center Brendan Morrison. If GM Stan Bowman has a shopping list as the trade deadline approaches, another defenseman is almost surely on it. After an 8-4 loss Thursday night, he might be thinking about adding goaltender to the list as well.
People can overreact to one bad game, especially when it is three weeks from the trade deadline, but Chicago's need on the blue line – and possibly in goal – was magnified by all of the attention Edmonton's Sam Gagner has received for his eight-point night.
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times reported two weeks ago that Bowman was looking for a defenseman capable of playing second-pairing minutes and a veteran center. He's filled one need, but the other clearly remains.
Goalie - CHI
GAA: 2.94 | SVP: 0.900
GAA: 2.94 | SVP: 0.900
Some shrewd moves by Bowman in the summer after winning the Stanley Cup has stocked Chicago's system with desirable prospects, and he still has significant acquisition space under the salary cap to make more than one move if he wants.
Bottom line: could be an interesting couple of weeks in the Windy City.
EDMONTON: Sam Gagner, welcome to the NHL spotlight. That's what one magical, historic night will do. Before Gagner's eight-point outburst against the Blackhawks, his name had been mentioned as a potential trade target as the Oilers continue to rebuild.
So how does one huge night alter the team's plans for Gagner, or does it alter them at all?
"That little general manager that stands on every fan's shoulder each February is jumping up and down on mine, stamping his feet: "Trade him now! His value will never be higher," writes Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca.
"No, at this young age, with the ability to rip off a performance like this, you couldn't possibly trade Same Gagner. Not yet. In Year 2 of a complete overhaul, there is no reason to make such a risky move on a 22-year old you've been grooming for five years now."
There are valid questions about Gagner, who was the No. 6 pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, and whether or not he can be a No. 2 center on a contending team. Some people might point to Thursday night as his validation, but he still needs to be more consistent during the course of a full season. He's had 15 or 16 goals and 41 or 42 points in each of the previous three seasons, and before Thursday night he was on pace for ... 41 points.
"Maybe this guy IS that second-line [center] behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that Edmonton is searching for," Spector continued. Or, is this like that '06 Cup run for Edmonton -- a magical moment in time that had no legs. Lightning in a bottle, caught once and never again....
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"Remember, Gagner is only 22. He doesn't even enter his prime for another three to five years."
Edmonton doesn't need to be in any hurry to move Gagner, but if his value is increased and he could net the Oilers what they need (more young, top-4 caliber defensemen to pair with all that talent at forward) then that would be an interesting decision for GM Steve Tambellini to ponder.
TAMPA BAY: Last season the Lightning, with new GM Steve Yzerman and new coach Guy Boucher, were the new darlings of the NHL after making a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Year Two in Tampa has not gone as well, to say the least.
That said, the Lightning have shown signs of life recently, and are trying to creep back into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the East. What does that mean for Yzerman's plan in the days and weeks ahead?
"The plan changes," Yzerman told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune. "We lose seven in a row and things are looking bleak, then we win five in a row. And now we have three more here at home (including Thursday against Winnipeg) and if we can get through that, see how many points we get out of it and see what else happens around the League, you get a better indication" of which way to go.
Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times mentioned forwards Ryan Malone and Dominic Moore and defenseman Pavel Kubina as potential trade targets should Yzerman decide he team has run out of time after the bad first half. Moore and Kubina are pending UFAs, but Malone has three more years on his deal at $4.5 million and has struggled at times to stay healthy.
"All we can do," Yzerman told Cristodero, "is be prepared to act one way or another."