By Jim Kelley
March 01, 2010

"Psst, hey buddy, need a goalie? I've got one. Tim Thomas, with an up-to-date Vezina Trophy on his resume. I can let you have him real cheap, at least as cheap as a bona fide scorer with maybe a prospect and a draft pick if you're interested."

"No, too rich? How about Carey Price? He's a good goalie, honest. Okay, he's been roughed up a bit lately, but that's just Montreal. Happens all the time. Get him a change of scene and put him behind a couple of guys who actually care about playing defense and ... Come on buddy, can't you at least listen? It's not like we're asking for Vincent Lacavalier in return. Heck, the guy who wouldn't make that deal isn't even the GM up there any more."

Imaginary conversations? Yes, but while it's a safe bet that most fans haven't been thinking about the resumption of the NHL's regular season, you can be sure that general managers were. The trading deadline is at hand: Wednesday March 3 at 3 pm. Though most GMs will tell you that "they like their team" and "the salary cap will be an issue," we hear that ever year come deadline day.

As always there will be buyers, sellers and teams that will do both -- see: Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks at last year's deadline day. Toronto GM Brian Burke, who already rocked the trade watchers world with his acquisitions of J-S Giguere and Dion Phaneuf, has declared himself open for business and willing to listen to offers that would add a player or two or even take away a player or four if the other team offers talent at any level. There will be more than a few GMs with a similar mindset.

With that in mind, we've taken in the likely trading scene for the 2010 deadline. It's not our intent to flash all 30 teams before your eyes, but we will look at the needs of Cup contenders and teams that are likely to try to position themselves for a playoff run.

Cup Contenders

The Capitals have no real weakness (unless you consider not having a Cup-savvy goaltender on the roster), but they could benefit from bringing in a puck-handling or shooting defenseman who can orchestrate a proper power play. They will likely have to cut into their formidable offense to get a top four blueliner, but they can afford it. The Caps could also go the rental route, but GM George McPhee has been reluctant to surrender picks or prospects unless it's for an over-the-top player, and those kind aren't usually available on the defensive side.

The defending Cup champion Penguins are in the Capitals' class and then some, with Marc-Andre Fleury their net, but they had their scouts out across the NHL prior to the break and appear to be looking for some defensive depth, the kind of gritty forward who will drive the net, or just a hungry veteran who has never won a Cup and would likely energize a team if he got the chance to play for a contender.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello made his big move early, getting Ilya Kovalchuk from Atlanta before the break, but that doesn't mean he's finished. A quality backup for Martin Brodeur, he of the shaky Olympics, might be high on the agenda. The Devils could use some defensive muscle on their blue line and a little more scoring from that area as well.

Playoff contenders

Ottawa established itself as perhaps the most improved team in the East during their 14-2 run up to the break. The Senators have scoring up front and may have solved their problem in goal, but they will need a quality defenseman in order to go from merely making the playoffs to making a run in the playoffs. They would be wise to also try for an experienced forward who has some scoring ability to replace at least some of the goals lost when Dany Heatley abandoned the team.

The Sabres are likely to get a lift out of the stellar play of goalie Ryan Miller at the Olympics, but the "problem" is that Miller has been their best player all season, so they certainly need more than what he provides. Buffalo has smallish and sometimes ineffective forwards on its two top lines and could use a large center or burly winger who can drive the net. Their defense is based on team play but could use a stay-at-home and puck-control blueliner. Buffalo has a history of slight moves at the deadline, is loathe to part with prospects or high draft picks, and usually has to deal with an ownership-imposed cap below the max. That makes dealing difficult. Still, there are quite a few role players on the roster and the Sabres could afford to part with one or two. Getting some mental toughness into the locker room will help, especially if the Sabres have to play the Senators in the postseason.

The Flyers would be wise to look at shedding some tough guys for a third- or fourth-liner who actually helps win games. An experienced veteran who can settle a sometimes fractured dressing room would also help. As always, the Flyers need an upgrade in goal, and as usual, they aren't likely to get it.

Montreal, New York, Boston, Tampa Bay could make a move to get to a postseason berth, but none of the four look capable of going beyond one round.

Cup Contenders

The Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks followed by the Coyotes, Kings, Avalanche and Predators will likely gain a postseason spot and possibly score an upset in the first round. Calgary, Dallas, Detroit and Anaheim are in contention for the coveted eighth spot.

San Jose and Chicago are powerhouses, but not without needs. There have always been quiet questions in San Jose regarding the "big game" capability of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (his latest performance for Team Russia in the Olympics will only add to them). The Sharks have already addressed a primary need on defense by acquiring Niclas Wallin from Carolina before the break, but they have a handful of unrestricted free agents -- among them, Nabokov, Patrick Marleau, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer and Manny Malhotra -- one or more of which could go in return for a third- or fourth-liner who has some real winning experience and a mindset that helps other players rise to the occasion.

In Chicago, there are questions about the mental toughness of goalies Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi, neither of whom have gone far in postseason play. Ideally, the Hawks would like to make a deal that takes some of the pressure off their cap status while getting perhaps an unrestricted free agent who can perform as a role or depth player upfront or on defense.

The Canucks could use a bit more in the secondary scoring department, especially if it comes in the form of a veteran player with true Stanley Cup experience who could help settle young talented players who lack the mental toughness for a deep playoff run. If that player can also perform as a third-line, two-way center, then the Canucks will have struck gold.

Playoff contenders

The Coyotes have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft and could spend one on a quality veteran to help their thin defense or struggling power play. The problem is that the Coyotes are financed by the NHL's member teams and there is no room for more debt. They also have prospects and some expendable young players on their roster, but league oversight weighs heavy on the mind of GM Don Maloney.

The Kings are said to be in the market for any kind of sizeable winger who can get to the net and score. A veteran blueliner to lead the kids and take pressure off Drew Doughty, who had a stellar Olympics, will help as the team rushes to the finish line. The view from here, however, is that the Kings are still at least a year away and their management will use this spring as development time for a young and coming team.

Colorado is said to be looking (like everyone else) for a veteran defenseman, but not at the cost of a prospect or a draft pick. Word is that Nashville is looking for a penalty-killing forward who can win face-offs and a winger who'll add to what is usually a weak offense, but like Colorado, the Preds aren't likely to give away youth or picks. They might give up goalie Dan Ellis, who is heading toward unrestricted free agency and seems to be behind goalie Pekka Rinne, another pending unrestricted FA who looks like the goalie the always-cash-strapped franchise will try to keep.

Detroit currently sits out of a playoff spot by a single point. The Red Wings, usually a Cup contender, look older now, but are counting on their own players to get healthy and complete the playoff push. There may not be another option as the Red Wings are at the max in the cap department and don't have much to give up in a trade.

The Flames held the eighth spot by a point at the break and are also stuck at the top end of the cap -- not a good place to be when you need a lot of scoring help. Calgary has already given away its top pick in the 2010 Draft in a deal with Phoenix to acquire the already-departed Olli Jokinen. There aren't many (if any) true prospects in their system.

Like the rest of the tightly bunched pack, the Ducks will likely look to add even though one could argue that they'd be better selling off veterans for prospects and looking toward next year. The Ducks are said to be shopping a veteran defenseman (Ryan Whitney or perhaps even Scott Niedermayer) who can bring youth or picks in return, but are also interested in acquiring some toughness on the blue line and could use at least one veteran up front.

The Blues could upgrade, should veterans such as Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk agree to waive their no-trade clauses for a shot at the Cup elsewhere. Even if that happens, St. Louis must improve its goaltending and, well, it would be better to accumulate picks and prospects now and address the net issue during the offseason.

The Stars also need to make moves. Normally, they would be handicapped by the fact that they are for sale, but cash-strapped owner Tom Hicks may just allow some additional salary if it gets the club into the playoffs which would enhance sale value.

Stay tuned.

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