Will they stay or will they go?

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The approaching NHL trade deadline has the rumor mill churning out numerous trade possibilities, many involving Toronto’s Mats Sundin, Atlanta’s Marian Hossa and Los Angeles’s Rob Blake because of their eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July.

Sundin and Blake have “no-trade” clauses, which they’d have to waive to facilitate a trade. Sundin has, for weeks, been steadfast on remaining a Leaf, while Blake recently told the L.A. media of his desire to stick with the Kings.

Still, it’s been speculated they might agree to a trade if their teams received overwhelming offers for their services, Sundin supposedly to a Cup contender, Blake to a Western (preferably Californian) team.

Hossa lacks a “no-trade” clause and has no input over where he could be dealt. Thrashers GM Don Waddell has attempted for some time to re-sign him, but last week Hossa suggested that possibility was very slim.

It’s widely assumed these players could be playing elsewhere by the Feb. 26 deadline for the right price, but it could take a substantial package for any of them to be traded.

Assuming Sundin and Blake waive their clauses, the Leafs and Kings will obviously seek returns consisting of at least one good young player, a prospect and at least a first round draft pick.

The asking price for Hossa, however, would be different.

Waddell wants an established scorer or playmaker as the centerpiece of any deal, needing to replace Hossa’s offensive touch if his team is to remain in playoff contention this season. He might also seek a high draft pick as part of the deal.

A major sticking point, however, could be the unwillingness of teams to part with first round draft picks this season.

The 2008 and 2009 drafts are expected to be deep, thus teams are less willing to part with their first round picks this season.

Another significant problem is the potential unwillingness of teams to trade for players who could bolt for free agency after this season.

Teams wishing to avoid that scenario with Sundin, Hossa and Blake might want some insurance on their potential investment in the form of a contract extension, which would keep them off this summer’s UFA market.

It would require permission from their current teams to speak with the players and their agents, and might be granted if it could seal a deal.

If Sundin and Blake were planning to return to the Leafs and Kings via free agency they probably won’t accept such a provision. Hossa, who has expressed a desire to play for a Stanley Cup champion in the near future, might consider it if the team making the offer were a Cup contender.

• Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Dan Boyle, both potential UFAs, could also fall into the same category as Sundin, Hossa and Blake.

Their respective clubs have recently opened contract negotiations with Campbell and Boyle in hopes of re-signing them to contract extensions.

Campbell’s asking price is now rumored to be between $6-7 million per season, which would be a hefty jump from the five-year, $25 million contract he apparently sought last summer.

The Lightning might not be able to afford Boyle unless they can either dump salary elsewhere and potential new owner, Hollywood producer Oren Koules, raises payroll for next season.

It’s believed both could be dealt if they’re not re-signed by the trade deadline.

• The Chicago Blackhawks are struggling to stay in the playoff race, leading to rumors they could become sellers by the deadline.

Among those speculated to be available are forwards Robert Lang and Martin Havlat, whom the New Jersey Devils are supposedly interested in.

Havlat is quite talented, but his injury history combined with the remaining year at $6 million on his contract might not attract much interest. Lang, with a year at $4 million left on his contract, could be palatable to the Devils or other teams seeking depth at center.

• Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Cammalleri has been popping up in the rumor mill lately.

The Ottawa Sun recently reported Kings GM Dean Lombardi might be concerned about retaining Cammalleri after next season. The Kings took him to arbitration last summer, and while the award – two years, $3.35-million per season - went in their favor, Cammalleri apparently wasn’t happy with the process.

If a good return could be had, Lombardi might consider dealing Cammalleri at the deadline, but the more likely course would be for the Kings GM to try to mend fences with him. Failing that, Lombardi could move Cammalleri by next year’s deadline when his value might be higher.

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.

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