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Big names could move before NHL trade deadline @NHL

There are plenty of big names in play as time ticks away before Wednesday's NHL trade deadline, and clubs searching for a top-level defenseman have quite an impressive list to target.

Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer of the middling Anaheim Ducks have been mentioned in trade rumors, along with Tomas Kaberle of the also-ran Toronto Maple Leafs, and impending free agents Jay Bouwmeester of Florida and Phoenix's Derek Morris.

The cost is high, both in what teams can command for their assets and in salaries. The biggest question general managers have to ask is how much risk is worth it to acquire a rental player that could be gone in free agency by July 1.

"We make our mistakes as a group more on the trade deadline than we do the rest of the year," Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said. "That's historical and I don't think it will change."

The original date for the deadline was Tuesday, but earlier this season it was pushed back a day because there were 12 games scheduled compared to only two on Wednesday. That will help logistics as past years have shown that the deadline rarely passes without a tremendous amount of activity.

There have been 25 trades completed at the wire in each of the past three years, with at least 40 players moved in the final hours of dealing - including 45 in 2008. The record for traded players on deadline day is 46, set in a flurry of 24 swaps in 2003.

This year's class could include New York Islanders captain Bill Guerin, disappointing Phoenix forward Olli Jokinen, injured forward Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton's Erik Cole, Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal, and St. Louis' Keith Tkachuk and Colorado's Ryan Smyth, who have experience with being traded in deadline deals.

Smyth famously cried two years ago when failed contract negotiations with the Oilers led to a stunning trade to the Islanders, who paid a hefty price to obtain "Captain Canada."

Smyth shook off the disappointment of leaving the only NHL team he had known and helped the Islanders get into the playoffs on the final day of the season. New York was gone in the first round, and Smyth was gone from the Islanders on July 1 when he turned down their offer and returned to the Western Conference by signing with the Avalanche.

That deal included a no-trade clause, so if Smyth is to be dealt by the last-place team in the West this year, it will be with consent that as of Monday he hadn't been asked to grant.

Guerin appeared ready to leave the Islanders on Saturday when he was pulled from the lineup after warmups, but a trade never materialized. He also has a no-trade clause, but seems willing to go to an Eastern Conference playoff contender.

The Islanders, who own the NHL's worst record, could be the busiest team on Wednesday as they look to turn veterans into less-expensive younger talent or draft picks. They started their purge late last month by dealing forward Mike Comrie and defenseman Chris Campoli to Ottawa in a trade that included a first-round draft choice.

Doug Weight and defensemen Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek could be sent packing, too.

By now, teams will have decided if they are buyers or sellers. Tight playoff races in both conferences delayed some decisions by clubs on the fence.

The St. Louis Blues began Tuesday in 11th place in the West but only three points out of a playoff spot. Whether they feel they are in the race could determine if they deal Tkachuk.

"The key is to make the playoffs. Anything, as we all know, can happen if you do," Blues president John Davidson said. "It sends the right message to your team.

"We're a young team. ... They're going through almost a playoff experience right now trying to get into the playoffs. We want them to keep that in mind. That's very important to us regarding our growth."

The New Jersey Devils added four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur to their lineup last week, not in a trade but in his remarkable return from elbow surgery that forced him to miss 50 games.

His team did just fine without him and surged to the top of the Atlantic Division. Brodeur won three games in four days upon his return, including two shutouts.

The Devils might be set with their lineup after acquiring veteran defenseman Niclas Havelid from the Atlanta Thrashers for rookie defenseman Anssi Salmela on Monday.

"Usually when you do well, they don't want to change much of the chemistry of the team," Brodeur said. "The pressure of maybe making changes is a little different than when you're in the seventh or eighth spot or even on the outside looking in.

"You're going in, and sometimes GMs are trying to make a big bang to see if they can jolt the rest of the season."

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