By Allan Muir
With a third of the season in the books, NHL clubs have a fair idea of where they're at and what they might be willing to buy, or sell, in the trade market. Here's a quick look at some of the weightier rumors that are making the rounds.
Rumor: Pierre LeBrun believes the Boston Bruins will make a play for Daniel Alfredsson.
The read: LeBrun is 100 percent right that this will be Alfredsson's call. The chance to play for the Stanley Cup might sound appealing from the outside, but unless the wheels completely fall off in Ottawa, I think loyalty to the Senators organization will carry the day. Still, if Alfie does decide to go that route, familiar faces (GM Peter Chiarelli, Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly), easy travel and a solid shot at the Cup might make for a soft landing in Boston. The Penguins, desperate for help on the wing, and Flyers would be in the mix as well, but the B's have more forward talent in the cupboard to seal a deal.
The read: So much for building on last season's run to the playoffs. The Panthers are a point out of the Eastern cellar at 4-7-4 and allowing a league-worst 3.73 goals-against per game. With a tough skein ahead (Pens twice, Bruins and Flyers), the time to look ahead to next season is about to smack them in the face. The building blocks are in place for the future, but GM Dale Tallon might not see pending UFA Weiss as part of that picture. The former fourth overall pick (2001) has never fully delivered on his potential, so a change of scenery makes sense. Weiss could net the Panthers a mid-to-low first rounder and a solid prospect. The Wings could pull that off. Keep an eye on Jose Theodore, Florida's other noteworthy UFA-to-be. Jakob Markstrom needs more ice time, so moving Theo makes sense. If the Bruins aren't comfortable with Anton Khudobin as their backup heading into the postseason, Theodore might make sense in Boston.
The read: I'm not convinced that GM Jay Feaster would be able to cut the strings on a 46-year-old Joe Nieuwendyk if he were still wearing the flaming C, so the idea of moving Bouwmeester seems like a longshot. Still, Calgary is 14th in the West and can't win at home (2-5-2), so a trade can't be ruled out. Dealing Bouwmeester would be less emotionally damaging than sending Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff packing, and with a year left on his deal, he'd bring a healthier return than a pending UFA. He doesn't deliver on his $6.68 million cap hit, but he'd improve a lot of top-fours. Philadelphia, Detroit and the Rangers could all get in on the action if/when he becomes available.
The read: Adding a legitimate scoring forward that can fit into their top-six, maybe even their top-nine, has to be a priority for a team that won its first February game just two nights ago. But moving Boyle? At 36, he'd be the right guy to move if San Jose is looking at the future. But the Sharks are looking at the playoffs, so dishing a guy who has been their most effective defenseman more nights than not seems like a step in the wrong direction. Jason Demers has been in the doghouse for three of the last six games, so he could be dealt without creating a hole in the lineup. At just 24, and with nearly 200 NHL games to his credit, Demers might draw the right kind of attention in the market.
The read: They've shown themselves to be a petty, vindictive organization in the past, so this course of action doesn't seem just likely, but probable. Montreal still intrigues me as a possible landing spot, as do the Blue Jackets. In Buffalo, Darcy Regier might also try to speed up the process. A strong finish by the Sabres might be the only thing that saves his job, so it makes sense for him to bring in some skill and character before the deadline.
Rumor: The Oilers are willing to part with defenseman Ryan Whitney. The read: His legs are gone. You never want to say never -- the Wings have pulled key contributors off the scrap heap before -- but it's hard to imagine any team thinking it could squeeze any value out of him at this point.