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Morning Musings: Feb. 10

by Corey Masisak /
Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline.


Despite a loss to scorching hot San Jose last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets remain on the fringe of the postseason chase with 57 points -- good for 12th place in the West and six back of eighth-place Calgary. The big question for the Blue Jackets is what direction to go in the next couple of weeks.

Do the Jackets try to add and make a push for the 8th spot, or do they try to sell and get ready for next year?

"The players decide if the team is good enough," Columbus GM Scott Howson told Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch. "Right now, we're showing signs of climbing back in. If we can do a deal that makes sense for the team, we're going to do it."

One of the problems for Columbus is the lack of postseason trips in its brief franchise history. The Blue Jackets have only been to the NHL's spring dance once, and like a couple of their expansion brethern (Nashville and Atlanta) have not advanced to the second round. Getting more fans back to Nationwide Arena is critical, and this is the tough decision teams like this have had to make -- does a playoff appearance do more to help the franchise in that area or would trying to rebuild some more to be a contender in future years?

"The team, as constructed, is neither the 14-6 team of the autumn or the 6-14-4 team of the dark holiday season nor the 6-3-2 team of midwinter," Arace writes. "It is a team which, this morning, is three games over .500 and below the playoff bar. It is not good enough."

Should the Blue Jackets decide to sell, Howson has several interesting assets. Pending UFAs defenseman Jan Hejda and goalie Mathieu Garon could draw interest if Howson doesn't want to drasticly alter the makeup of his roster for next season.


There are 14 teams in the West that still fancy themselves as a playoff contender, but the Edmonton Oilers are the one club that is clearly not. Still, Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini told the Edmonton Journal this deadline already has a different feel than last year's when he dealt Denis Grebeshkov, Lubomir Visnovsky and Steve Staios.

"This year there’s not the pressure to move players in order to make room. We have enough room for our young players," Tambellini said to the Journal. "But I'm approaching this as I have other deadlines — where I am wide open to listening to ideas of how other teams can help make us a better team now, and maybe importantly, in the future."

Jim Vandermeer is the team's top pending UFA, and could be one of those depth defenseman that about half the League goes looking for around this time of year. There continues to be lots of speculation about Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky, who both have one year left on their contracts.

Tambellini didn't have much to say about his pair of potentially coveted forwards, but it sounds like he is open to a variety of different options with trade proposals between now and the end of the month.

"There's a lot of different scenarios that will come across the desk in the next couple of weeks and if it's younger, great," Tambellini said to the Journal. "If it's something that makes sense as far as a veteran, we'll look at that, too. We'll make a deal if it's good for the Oilers moving forward. If not, we’re very comfortable with where we're at. We have young players in young positions, we have good veterans playing hard in their positions and contributing from a leadership perspective.”


The Panthers are another team like the trio mentioned about with no recent playoff success, and their need for better attendance is probably even greater. Florida dealt Michal Frolik, one of the team's top forwards in recent seasons and a guy who will turn 23 years old next week, to Chicago yesterday along with goalie prospect Alexander Salak for Jack Skille, prospect David Pacan and former prospect Hugh Jessiman.

Assistant general manager Mike Santos told reporters in South Florida that this deal doesn't mean the Panthers will be sellers in the coming days.

"I think we’re buyers. Skille’s a known quality," Santos told the Miami Herald. "He might not have played as many games as Frolik in the league, but he was with an organization pretty deep in forward."

Frolik hadn't scored a goal in 23 games and had dropped to the fourth line at times for Florida. Skille, like Frolik, was a high first-round pick but hasn't been able to secure a greater role with the Blackhawks.

"We saw the upside [with Frolik], but in the last 10 to 12 games we're getting outhit badly, so we needed a more physical presence up front," Santos told the Sun-Sentinel. "We traded one guy with 8 goals for another with 7 goals, but he really brings that element we need, more physicality who's harder to play against."


Any mention of the Capitals during the next two weeks will center (pun intended) around the team's need for an upgrade in the middle. Sure, there will be speculation about the Capitals being interested in a veteran goaltender, but unless there is an injury or GM George McPhee has a drastic shift in his assessment of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, Washington is not going to be adding a potential No. 1 goalie this month.

That leaves us with the hole in the middle. Rookies Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault have now played a combined 70 games this season. Almost all of them were as the two centers that joined Nicklas Backstrom to form the team's top 3 in the middle. Johansson and Perreault have combined for 13 goals and 12 assists - not terrible numbers for one center on a contender but as the No. 2/3 combo it is pretty ghastly.

"Both have shown promise this season. Both also have been prone to bouts of ineffectiveness as they adjust to full-time roles in the NHL," writes Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner.

At this point it certainly looks like it will be a seller's market at center. There aren't a lot of obvious, impact guys available at the position and several contenders in the East, namely Washington, Pittsburgh, New York and Boston, could all be looking for one in the coming weeks.
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