BOSTON BRUINS: When healthy and motivated, the Bruins remain the best team in the League. If there are on-ice needs, Boston probably could use one more top-nine forward (either as Nathan Horton insurance or to upgrade on Benoit Pouliot) and a veteran defenseman to improve the team's third pairing. Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe wrote on Twitter that Tuomo Ruutu and Jaroslav Spacek of the Carolina Hurricanes are "high on Bruins' radar."
Ruutu and Spacek certainly appear, on paper, to be perfect fits for what the Bruins could use. Ruutu has been a versatile forward for the Hurricanes, in terms of position and ability to play on different lines. Dupont guesses it would cost a first-round pick and a roster player for Ruutu and a fourth-round choice for Spacek.
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Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com suggests the Bruins could find another partner in the Southeast Division if GM Peter Chiarelli wants to land a veteran forward/depth defenseman combo. Mike Knuble and Jeff Schultz have had trouble keeping their places in the Washington Capitals' lineup, and Haggerty sees the Bruins as a potential fit to add both players. The question is whether Washington GM George McPhee would be willing to move them while his team is scrambling to make the playoffs.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: So maybe there is going to be a Rick Nash trade-deadline saga after all -- while Columbus GM Scott Howson declined to comment through a team spokesman on a report from Renaud Lavoie of RDS that Nash is "on the market," Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday morning that the Blue Jackets are willing to field offers for their captain.
"Last week, in no uncertain terms, NHL teams were told Nash was not available and this week, he is," TSN's Bob McKenzie writes. "For the right team, anyway. Less than two weeks to the NHL trade deadline, that is nothing less than a seismic shift.
"That doesn't mean he'll necessarily be traded by the deadline, but it does mean there has been a significant change in his status from last week to this week."
Given the Blue Jackets' position in the League standings, it would be hard to fault Howson for fielding offers on any player if it could improve the team's long-term prospects. Nash immediately would become far and away the best player available, and the type of player who could swing the balance of power as the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs approach.
The Blue Jackets also probably are unlikely to accept any deal that doesn't bring back a huge return, and those deals typically are more likely to happen in the offseason than at the deadline.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: When the All-Star break was over and focus shifted to the trade deadline, the Flyers were an obvious team to expect among the big players in February. They needed to replace defensman Chris Pronger, and they were pushing the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Is it possible that GM Paul Holmgren won't make a big splash this month? Or that maybe he even shouldn't? That is what Frank Seravelli of the Philadelphia Daily News pondered.
"Over the last month, the Flyers haven't looked like the fast, aggressive team that let serious adversities -- like losing Chris Pronger, playing 20 out of 29 games on the road, or even the haphazard play of Ilya Bryzgalov -- roll off their sticks like a crisp saucer pass," Seravelli writes.
"Instead, they've made the Flyers of the first half look like a crop that maybe overachieved. They're just 3-4-3 in their last 10 games, with one of those wins coming in the shootout. The Flyers now trail the Rangers by eight points -- and before the week is over, they could fall back to sixth place for the first time since November."
Part of Seravelli's rationale concerns supply and demand at a key position for Philadelphia. If there aren't any true impact defensemen available (think the two guys in Nashville), then does paying a high price for a rental really make sense for the long-term future of the franchise?
It certainly would be a surprise to see Holmgren sit out a trade deadline when his team has an obvious need, but it could be a possibility if the market for defensemen doesn't change.