The calendar has flipped to February, and in the course of this NHL season that means it is trade deadline month. We are now less than a week away from deadline day, and hockey's swapping season could get crazy 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.
BOSTON: The Bruins started slow before becoming the class of the League for a two-month stretch, but they are back in a funk with just seven wins in their past 16 games. What's worse, they've been shut out four times in February and are missing two of their top-nine forwards in Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley.
Last year at this time, GM Peter Chiarelli made three moves to bolster his roster, and two of them -- adding Peverley and Chris Kelly -- proved critical in the team's Cup run. Can he do it again?
"Whether the B's get any help before Monday's trade deadline remains to be seen," writes Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. "It might be tough for general manager Peter Chiarelli to pull off anything, considering he doesn't have a second- or fourth-round pick, and teams might want Tuukka Rask or [top] prospect Dougie Hamilton."
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Before the injury to Peverley, the Bruins' top need might have been another veteran defenseman, but forward has likely become the priority now.
BUFFALO: The Sabres, like every team at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, are not that far from the eighth spot and a playoff berth. That said, Buffalo has shown no ability to string several wins in a row together and currently sits in 14th place.
Should GM Darcy Regier decide to begin retooling his roster now instead of during the offseason, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News thinks he has some options.
"As a veteran who is seventh in the league in faceoff percentage, can kill penalties and play against another team's top scoring line, [Paul] Gaustad might rank as one of the better rental players on the market," Harrington writes. "Gaustad and Brad Boyes, also in the final year of his contract, could easily be rented out. Players like [Jordan] Leopold, with one year left on his deal at a reasonable $3 million, and Derek Roy (one year, $4 million) could be in play."
It obviously didn't work out the way people expected in Buffalo this season, so look for Regier to try and gain some flexibility with the salary cap. The Sabres' needs are another potential dynamic scorer and some size/grit/toughness/etc., but those could be addressed in the summer -- the big thing for Regier now might be to acquire picks/young assets and open up cap room for later.
COLUMBUS: Rick Nash and Jeff Carter are the two biggest names that have been reported to be on the trade market at this point, but GM Scott Howson has other assets to move as well. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports that Howson isn't just getting calls on his two highest-paid forwards.
"Sources told The Dispatch that the Blue Jackets have had inquiries regarding winger RJ Umberger and center Derick Brassard," Portzline writes.
Umberger has a five-year contract worth $4.6 million per season that hasn't even started yet. Brassard has two more years left on his current deal at $3.2 million. Portzline also wrote that "no player is off-limits, other than those with no-movement or no-trade clauses in their contracts."
Left Wing - CBJ
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 23
SOG: 137 | +/-: -8
SOG: 137 | +/-: -8
As for what direction Howson wants to go with the direction of the roster …
"Fast and competitive," Howson told Portzline. "We want fast, and fast isn't just a player's feet. It's puck movement, it's vision, it's hockey sense, it's hands, it's brains … it's a lot of different things."
FLORIDA: The Panthers have the longest current streak of seasons without a playoff berth. They are also clinging to first place in the Southeast Division, with both Winnipeg and Washington not far behind.
GM Dale Tallon has plenty of cap space, but he also has a long-term plan that started with offloading almost half the roster between the trade deadline and last offseason. So now that his team is in playoff contention, can he become a buyer one year after being one of the biggest sellers?
"We're not going to do anything that doesn't make sense for us, not only now but for the long term," Tallon told Mike Berardino of the Sun-Sentinel. "We're going to be very patient."
All of those trades in the past year have restocked the Panthers' system with potential impact players. While the team's top young players -- defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov, forward Jonathan Huberdeau and goalie Jacob Markstrom -- are certain to be off-limits, Tallon still has another group of six-to-eight interesting prospects, but he's also short a second-round pick in either 2012 or 2013 because of the Kris Versteeg trade.
"I'm not going to live and die on a daily basis on whether we're going to make the playoffs or not," Tallon said to Berardino. "It's about whether we're getting better and our franchise is getting stronger."