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Morning musings: Feb. 26

by Corey Masisak
Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We're just a little more than 48 hours away from the deadline, but the frenzy has clearly already begun.


Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has reportedly been looking for a defenseman to help his team's sturggling PK for a while now, and a move yesterday may help make room for such a deal. Nick Boynton was placed on waivers, and if he clears he can be sent to the AHL, which frees up $500,000 in acquisition space for the Blackhawks.

"Boynton, who has one goal and eight points in 41 games, never emerged as a viable replacement for Brent Sopel, which the Hawks had hoped for," writes Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. "As a result, the Hawks are among several teams in the market for help on defense."

Jahns goes on to name a pair of Edmonton Oilers, Ladislav Smid and former Chicago property Jim Vandermeer, and Tampa Bay's Brett Clark as players the Blackhawks have been linked with. Chicago is 26th in the League on the PK and currently eighth in the West.


The next two days could be long ones for a lot of potential trade targets around the League, and count Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles among that group. Toronto has reportedly been interested in dealing for Liles, who has one more year left on his contract after this one and carries a $4.25 million cap hit.

He has 6 goals and 39 points this year, but that price tag for him next season could prove to be too much for a cap-conscious team. A club like the Leafs with cap room to spare though and a need for an offensive-minded defenseman might be a good fit -- even Liles' first preference would be to stay.

"I always want to stay here," Liles told Terry Frei of the Denver Post. "I love Colorado. I love the guys in the room; I think it's a fantastic organization, the fans, everything about it. There's a reason why I signed here, and I definitely want to stay."

Liles does have a limited no-trade clause in that he can name 18 teams doesn't want to be dealt to. With Tomas Kaberle off the market, Liles and Bryan McCabe are probably the two best offensive defensemen whose names have come up in reports about available players.


There aren't many contenders without pressing needs, but the Red Wings might be in that small group. Detroit is close to getting all of its key players healthy, and the Red Wings are already well on their way to another Central Division title and top-3 seed in the West.

They have wobbled ever so slightly of late and the red-hot Sharks are pressing them for the No. 2 spot behind Vancouver, but the Wings do not have a lot of acquisition space ($570,000 - which is down from the $750,000 that Ted Kuflan of the Detroit News writes the ogranization hoped to have).

"We don't expect to be very active," Holland told Kuflan.

That is a stark contrast from previous years of Holland's regime, but the Red Wings have adjusted to the salary cap era about as well as any other franchise in the League and continue to be one of the elite teams because of it. There has been one area of concern, and that is the backup goalie with Chris Osgood out because of a sports hernia.

Detroit tried to add Evgeni Nabokov but the Islanders claimed him on waivers. Holland has said on a few occasions that he expects Osgood back, but another cheap insurance policy could be a play for him to make this weekend.

"Chris is optimistic and upbeat and he's happy with the progress he's making," Holland told Kuflan. "If that were to change in the next few days, that could affect our thinking (about trades). But anticipate Chris playing again here soon."


Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the Minnesota Wild are interested in Oilers forward Dustin Penner, but Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal doesn't expect that transaction to happen. Matheson reports the Wild are offering draft picks for Penner but don't want to part with their first-round pick in June.

As Russo points out, Penner's cap hit of $4.25 million is too rich for the Wild to take one without someone off the current roster going in the other direction. Matheson says Chuck Kobasew might be a guy that Minnesota tries to include in the deal but doesn't see him as a good fit with the Oilers.

Given the high return most sellers have been getting this month, it makes sense that Oilers GM Steve Tambellini wants a lot for Penner and especially Ales Hemsky. Both have another year on their contracts and the Oilers are not pressed to trade either of them.

"A source close to the Wild said what the Oilers were asking for Hemsky was “astronomical,” but did not elaborate," Matheson writes. "The Oilers would have to get a first-round pick, a second and certainly an experienced NHLer for Hemsky."

This is not the first report of Tambellini's asking price for Hemsky being high. If he does get dealt between now and Monday, it could end up being the biggest transaction of the month.
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