TORONTO - Aaron Ward is pretty sure something is going to happen. The veteran Carolina Hurricanes defenceman is not sure what that will mean, or where he will land when the NHL trade deadline tolls, but he and his wife of 15 years have been preparing for the worst.
"I think this is a poor analogy, but it's like going to the chair," Ward said. "It's more or less inevitable. When you have veteran players in the locker room and they can help another team, it's something that ends up happening and you accept it as part of the game."
The 37-year-old was one of several Carolina players believed to be available heading toward Wednesday's 3 p.m. ET deadline. General managers seemed to maintain a low profile on Tuesday afternoon, executing a handful of small deals around the league, but there were also strains of a symphony orchestra warming up before a performance.
There was a confirmed report in St. Louis that Blues forward Brad Boyes had been placed on the trading block. Carolina forward Ray Whitney has long been rumoured to be on the move, and his name has been joined by a chorus of published reports and online speculation.
One report suggested the Nashville Predators had turned away as many as three offers for defenceman Dan Hamhuis. One of the teams interested in the pending unrestricted free agent was said to be the Philadelphia Flyers, who may also be in the market for a goaltender after announcing Ray Emery will be shut down for the season to undergo hip surgery.
After being left out of Toronto's lineup in Tuesday's game against Carolina, winger Alexei Ponikarovsky was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for prospect Luca Caputi and veteran defenceman Martin Skoula. A consistent 20-goal scorer who will be a UFA at the end of the season, Ponikarovsky's name was often included in trade deadline speculation.
Only one deal of any consequence was completed during the daylight hours on Tuesday, with word the Ottawa Senators had acquired defenceman Andy Sutton from the New York Islanders for a second round selection in the NHL draft this year.
Just before 7 p.m. ET, the Anaheim Ducks announced they had shipped Nick Boynton to the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations. The veteran defenceman was playing in the AHL when he was traded.
Everyone else was left to wait. The Hurricanes and the Leafs, two teams said to become sellers, resumed the NHL schedule against each other at the Air Canada Centre.
"Do you want to stay with your family? Of course," Ward said. "Do you want to stay in an atmosphere where you feel pretty comfortable? Of course. But it's always a good thing as a professional athlete to feel wanted - and teams aren't going to make moves toward the end unless they feel like you can do something for them in the stretch run."
Leafs forward Lee Stempniak is in the final year of his contract, and has been faced with the possibility of a move for weeks, if not months. Fellow forward Wayne Primeau is also on an expiring deal, placing him into the market with Stempniak.
"It doesn't really change what I do every day," Stempniak said. "Until someone tells me differently, you just sort of go about it as business as usual."
Toronto defenceman Tomas Kaberle would have been a coveted commodity, but he and his agent have both publicly stated the 31-year-old veteran would not waive his no-trade clause before the deadline.
There have been 396 trades completed at the deadline over the last 30 years according to the NHL, transactions that involved 723 players. Teams have parted with first-round draft picks only 20 times, but have been more liberal in their use of second-, and third-round selections - moving a total of 98.
"Guys worry about getting traded, but that's part of the business," Hurricanes defenceman Joe Corvo said. "I'd worry about getting bought out or sent down. Getting traded is part of the business. It's not necessarily personal every time, it's just something you've got to deal with it."