With the NHL’s Christmas “trade freeze” starting Dec. 19 and mid-season fast approaching, here’s a look at the latest Eastern Conference rumors. (See last week's Western Conference rumors here).
Atlanta Thrashers: Their rebound from a shaky start to the season has cooled off rumors of their possibly trading Marian Hossa, but if he’s not re-signed by the February trade deadline the speculation could start up again. It’s believed GM Don Waddell might be in the market for blueline depth.
Boston Bruins: Like the Thrashers, the Bruins have also recovered from a slow start, but mounting injuries threaten to derail that improvement. GM Peter Chiarelli could use the cap space freed up from Manny Fernandez’s season-ending injury to shop for depth at forward and defense.
Buffalo Sabres: They’re still feeling the loss of the veteran leadership from Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Teppo Numminen and their inconsistency has their fans uneasy. Ales Kotalik and Dmitri Kalinin have long been rumored as potential trade bait and defenseman Brian Campbell might join them if he isn’t re-signed by February.
Carolina Hurricanes: Rebounded nicely from last season’s disappointing performance, but the Canes could still use some blueline depth. GM Jim Rutherford has been interested in bringing in a veteran puck-moving defenseman for some time and could step up that search in the coming weeks.
Florida Panthers: It’s believed coach-GM Jacques Martin is feeling the pressure to get this team into the playoffs, leading to baseless rumors of Olli Jokinen being shopped. Jokinen won’t be traded, but if things don’t turn around soon for the Panthers, Martin could consider moving other assets to shake things up.
Montreal Canadiens: A recent slump made the Habs the target of wild trade speculations, but another mid-season swoon could spur GM Bob Gainey into action. His best bargaining chips are goaltender Cristobal Huet and winger Michael Ryder, two unrestricted free agents at season’s end who might not fit into the Habs’ future plans.
New Jersey Devils: It took a few weeks to adjust to new coach Brent Sutter’s up-tempo system, but the Devils are once again among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Their defense corps still lacks an experienced offensive blueliner, which could have GM Lou Lamoriello sniffing around for a deal in the coming weeks.
New York Islanders: Coach Ted Nolan and goaltender Rick DiPietro deserve much of the credit for the Islanders being a competitive team this season, but their pop-gun offence could jeopardize their playoffs hopes. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron recently clashed with the coaching staff and could become a potential bargaining chip for a scoring forward.
New York Rangers: A lack of offensive production has the Rangers slipping in the standings, mainly because their top centers lack chemistry with struggling winger Jaromir Jagr. Management could consider shopping Jagr, but his age, salary and declining production could keep him a Ranger. A more likely trade candidate is defenseman Marek Malik, a recent – and unhappy - scratch in several games.
Ottawa Senators: GM Bryan Murray has been in the market for a top-six winger for some time and might tap into his defensive depth to land one. Defenseman Joe Corvo is rumored to be available and his improved play could bolster his market value. Forget about Wade Redden being dealt; he has no intention of waiving his no-trade clause.
Philadelphia Flyers: Inconsistency has recently dogged the Flyers, but GM Paul Holmgren will probably stay patient with his current roster. Holmgren has proven to be an active trader over the past year, but his focus this season is on re-signing key free agents like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Goaltending has been a problem area this season and losing Marc-Andre Fleury for eight weeks to an ankle injury only makes things worse. If backups Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin struggle, GM Ray Shero could either seek a trade or sign free agent Curtis Joseph.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Poor goaltending also plagues this team and could force GM Jay Feaster into the trade market in the coming weeks. The Bolts could also use more secondary scoring, but contrary to recent rumors Feaster won’t be trading Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards or Martin St. Louis.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Andrew Raycroft continues to be regularly mentioned in trade rumors, but his salary and poor performance this season might not attract many suitors. A hand injury knocked defenseman Bryan McCabe out of the lineup for the next eight weeks, but management will likely replace him from within rather than with a trade.
Washington Capitals: Since their coaching change several weeks ago the Caps have shown modest improvement, but still remain in danger of slipping out of the playoff race entirely. It’s a dicey situation for GM George McPhee; he might be tempted to make a roster-boosting trade, but a move now could upset the potential chemistry building within the roster.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, www.spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.