The Edmonton Oilers have been on a bit of a roll of late, winning their first three games since the all-star break.
They enter this week, however, sitting 13th in the Western Conference, 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff berth.
Barring a significant surge over the next two weeks vaulting them into playoff contention, the Oilers will become sellers by the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
The New York Post reported Friday a “well-placed source” said Edmonton Oilers veteran left winger Ryan Smyth “would give serious consideration to waiving his no-move clause” to pursue a Stanley Cup championship with the New York Rangers.
Smyth, however, claimed that was news to him, telling the Edmonton Journal he'd moved four times in the past five years. He added he wanted to return to Edmonton for a reason, implying a desire to finish his career as an Oiler.
Some pundits believe Smyth would agree to be dealt to a Cup contender if Oilers management were to guarantee re-signing him this summer, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Smyth cast doubt upon that possibility, claiming no one's mentioned anything to him.
Gagner a goner?
Center Sam Gagner has been frequently mentioned as a possible trade candidate this season, but his recent offensive heroics – 11 points in two games, including an incredible eight points in an 8-4 victory over Chicago – could make it difficult for management to justify shipping him out now.
During Saturday's Hotstove segment on Hockey Night in Canada, the Calgary Sun's Eric Francis said the Oilers might consider moving Gagner if they could get a top-four defenseman. Given the 22-year-old's size (5-11, 195 lbs) and average skating, there aren't many teams willing to part with that return for him.
Francis pointed out Gagner had been relegated to the third line for most of the season, but the Oilers will now be playing him in their top-six forwards and his performance could determine his future in Edmonton.
Glenn Healy scoffed at the notion the Oilers would move Gagner, pointing out they drafted him and want to keep him in the fold.
The Oiler who is most likely to move is right winger Ales Hemsky.
Healy noted the Oilers soon won't have room to re-sign Hemsky because of the promising young forwards (Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) due for significant raises in the near future.
Hemsky, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is the perfect rental player for playoff contenders seeking offensive depth, but his injury history and decline in production this season could scare off suitors and lessen his trade value.
The Carter conundrum
As the trade deadline approaches, Columbus Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter remains an intriguing figure.
Despite his huge contract – an average annual salary of $5.3 million per season for 10 more years – and concerns over his attitude, some teams are reportedly interested in him.
TSN's Darren Dreger claimed the Los Angeles Kings had “moderate interest” and suggested the Calgary Flames could make a pitch, though his salary would be difficult to fit into their payroll.
Dreger also noted the 27-year-old could be just what the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for up front, but GM Brian Burke hates “mega-contracts” like Carter's.
It's believed the Blue Jackets seek a good young forward and a first round pick in exchange for Carter.
Stewart back to Avs?
Last February, the Colorado Avalanche shipped right winger Chris Stewart to the St. Louis Blues as part of a four-player deal.
Stewart finished last season strong, netting 23 points in 26 games with the Blues, but with only 20 points in 48 games this season, he's well off last year's pace.
The Denver Post's Adrian Dater reported of speculation the Blues are shopping the 24-year-old, suggesting the Avs bring him back as a possible replacement for veteran right winger Milan Hejduk, who could retire at season's end.
It's not unusual for teams to reacquire a player they dealt away, but those kinds of moves don't happen often.
Will Lightning strike?
The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday Lightning GM Steve Yzerman considered the next several games would determine his moves by the trade deadline.
Having stumbled through most of the season, the Lightning have recently shown signs of life, entering this week having won six of their last 10 games.
Rumors have dogged rugged left winger Ryan Malone and veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina, but to date neither has been asked by Yzerman to waive his no-trade clause.
Sitting nine points out of a playoff spot, the Lightning will have to gain significant ground in the standings over the next couple of weeks to turn Yzerman from a potential seller at the deadline into a buyer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.