Between now and then, general managers will be burning up the phone lines, scouts will be scurrying to rinks all over North America and fans will be hanging on every rumor that hits the Internet or the newspaper.
The "buyers" -- and there are a bunch of them -- will be seeking a player or three that can move them closer to their Stanley Cup moment. The "sellers" will be eyeballing a bigger picture, a way to get back on the path to competitiveness.
Some moves will be successful, while others won't work out quite as planned. That's just the way it goes.
As the deadline for deals looms, I figured it was a good opportunity to take a look back at some of the trades that went down this time last year. I've singled out several last-minute trades, as well as a few others that took place in the weeks leading up to League's final shopping day of the season.
Blues trade F Brad Boyes to Sabres for 2011 2nd-round pick (D Joel Edmundson, Moose Jaw, WHL)
Right Wing - BUF
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 13
SOG: 81 | +/-: -5
This didn't work out so well for the Sabres. They were gambling that Boyes would re-gain the scoring touch that helped him score 76 goals for the Blues in 2007-08 and 2008-09. He didn’t.
In 68 games in Buffalo, Boyes has just 8 goals. Since scoring 33 goals in 82 games in 2008-09, he has scored just 34 times in 211 games the last three seasons.
In the deal, the Blues were able to save $4 million in both real dollars and cap space for the current season, and they gained a second-round pick, which they used to take the rugged Edmundson. Even if he never plays a game in the NHL, this turned out to be a terrific deal for St. Louis. (Deadline Day; Feb. 28, 2011) Panthers trade D Dennis Wideman to the Capitals for F Jake Hauswirth and a 2011 3rd-round pick (D Jonathan Racine, Shawinigan, QMJHL)
This trade has worked for both clubs. The Panthers wanted to unload the final year of Wideman's deal ($4.5 million in real dollars; $3,937,500 cap hit). They've since traded Hauswirth to the Stars' organization and selected Racine with the third-round pick, No. 87 overall.
GM Dale Tallon used the cash/cap savings as part of a total overhaul of the team's roster. Now, the Panthers currently sit atop the Southeast Division, poised to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2000.
Wideman, meanwhile, has become a valuable asset for the Capitals, who have been without top puck-moving defenseman Mike Green for long stretches over the past calendar year. Wideman is the club's top-scoring blueliner with 38 points, he's playing a team-high 24:14 minutes per game and he played in his first NHL All-Star Game last month. (Deadline Day) Blue Jackets trade D Rostislav Klesla and F Dane Byers to Coyotes for F Scottie Upshall and D Sami Lepisto
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 11
SOG: 75 | +/-: 9
If you're wondering why the Blue Jackets haven't been able to get out of their own way for more than a decade, you can get some insight from deals like this one.
Upshall and Lepisto became unrestricted free agents last summer and signed with the Panthers and Blackhawks, respectively. The Blue Jackets did save $2.975 million against the cap moving Klesla, but they ended up using that money to overpay for free agent defenseman James Wisniewski.
The 29-year-old Klesla, meanwhile, has been a steady performer for the Coyotes, putting up 11 points and a plus-9 rating while, averaging near 20 minutes per night. Advantage: Phoenix. (Deadline Day) Panthers trade D Bryan Allen to the Hurricanes for F Sergei Samsonov
Both sides got what they wanted in this deal. The Hurricanes were looking for a veteran defender for the stretch run and beyond, while the Panthers were seeking to dump salary in advance of their summer restructuring.
Allen, who could move again before Monday's deadline, has eight points and a plus-2 rating in 60 games for the Hurricanes while averaging 19:12 of ice time per game. A defensive defenseman, Allen has been pretty much as advertised.
By dealing him, Florida saved $3.15 million in real dollars and $2.9 million against the cap. (Deadline Day) Oilers trade F Dustin Penner to the Kings for D Colten Teubert, a 2011 1st-round pick (D Oscar Klefbom, Swedish Elite League) and a 2012 conditional draft pick
Left Wing - LAK
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 13
SOG: 76 | +/-: -6
This deal really hasn't worked out very well for the offensively-challenged Kings. Penner has just 7 goals in 63 regular-season games -- not a lot of bang for $4.25 million. At least Penner's deal expires at the end of the season.
The rugged Teubert, the 13th pick in the 2008 draft, has split time between the Oilers and the club's AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. He remains a work in progress.
Klefbom could end up being the most valuable asset in the deal. Scouts really like the talented 6-foot-3, 204-pound defenseman, who helped Sweden win the gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship. The 18-year-old was named to the tournament all-star team. (Deadline Day) Panthers trade F Chris Higgins to the Canucks for D Evan Oberg and a 2013 3rd-round pick
Higgins proved to be a helpful depth forward during the Canucks' run to the Stanley Cup Final. In 25 playoff games, he had 4 goals and 4 assists. He made enough of an impression that the club opted to re-sign him to a two-year deal worth $3.8 million ($1.9 million per season). Higgins has responded by totaling 11 goals and 18 assists in 49 games.
The Panthers dealt Oberg to the Lightning in December, but they still can make something happen with that third-round pick in the 2013 draft. We can check back with them in 16 months or so.(Feb. 21, 2011) Penguins trade D Alex Goligoski to the Stars for F James Neal and D Matt Niskanen
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 30 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 57
SOG: 248 | +/-: 0
While both sides likely feel comfortable with the trade, I believe the Penguins got the better of it. Why? I felt the Pens were dealing from strength (Goligoski was their No. 3 puck-mover) and I don't see a huge difference between the two defensemen.
I think Goligoski is marginally better than Niskanen. On average, he's playing approximately 4:20 more per night. But the Stars gave up an All-Star left wing to make that upgrade.
In the end, Neal and Niskanen are going to be an important part of a potentially deep playoff run with the Penguins, while Goligoski will try to help the Stars qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. (Feb. 18, 2011) Maple Leafs trade D Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins for F Joe Colborne, a 2011 1st-round pick (RW Tyler Biggs, USNTDP) and a conditional 2012 2nd-round pick
When you win a Stanley Cup, I guess the trades that you make along the way are just fine. In this case, the Bruins ended up hoisting the Cup without a significant contribution from Kaberle, who left Boston to sign with Carolina as a free agent before subsequently being dealt to Montreal.
To date, Colborne, a first-round pick in 2008 (No. 16), has yet to make the jump to a full-time NHL gig. He continues his development with the AHL's Toronto Marlies.
The Leafs used the Bruins' first-round pick as part of a deal with the Ducks to move up eight spots, and with the 22nd selection, they grabbed rugged forward Tyler Biggs, who's currently in his freshman season at Miami (Ohio) University. (Feb. 18, 2011) Thrashers trade F Rich Peverley and D Boris Valabik to the Bruins for F Blake Wheeler and D Mark Stuart
Center - BOS
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 29 | PTS: 38
SOG: 99 | +/-: 16
At the time, this didn't seem like such a big deal. In the end, however, Peverley played a significant role in the Bruins' Stanley Cup journey. More than the 4 goals and 12 points he contributed during the playoff run, Peverley's versatility was a huge asset for coach Claude Julien, who plugged him into several different spots up and down the lineup.
The Bruins rewarded Peverley with a new three-year contract ($3.25 million cap hit) that kicks in next season.
On the other end of the deal, Wheeler has become a more consistent performer in Winnipeg. He leads the team with 36 assists and 47 points while playing to a plus-7 rating. If he can continue his strong play, the deal won't be so bad for the Jets, either. (Feb. 15, 2011) Senators trade F Chris Kelly to the Bruins for a 2011 2nd-round pick (C Shane Prince, Ottawa, OHL)
Like Peverley, Kelly proved to be a valuable role player for the Stanley Cup champions. He had 5 goals and 8 assists in 25 playoff games while playing an important part on the club’s penalty-killing unit.
In the final year of his contract, Kelly continues to be a good fit in Boston. In 57 games, he has 14 goals, 27 points and an impressive plus-21 rating. I suspect GM Peter Chiarelli will try to re-sign him at the right price.
The Senators, who were in a heavy rebuild last spring, used the second-round pick to select Ottawa 67's center Shane Prince. In 48 OHL games this season, Prince has 36 goals and 77 points. Only time will tell if his skills will translate to an NHL career.