With the end of the Olympics comes one last chance for NHL general managers to make moves to improve their hockey clubs, and that means that the time between now and Wednesday’s Trade Deadline is going to be a period of upheaval for players and teams.
As a bit of a primer, we’ve decided to kick things off at Hockey or Die today by providing a list of 10 players likely to be sent to new homes over the next few days.
Dan Hamhuis, Nashville Predators. Like most of the players on this list, Hamhuis is a pending unrestriceted free agent, in the final season of a four-year, $8.0 million dollar deal with the Predators. He’s an elite defensive defenceman who was on the cusp of making the Canadian Olympic team, and at just 27 years of age is entering the prime of his career. This season he’s been a positive force despite playing the toughest minutes on the team, but Nashville has a great set of young defencemen and may not be able to re-sign him. They certainly cannot afford to let him walk away for nothing.
Fredrik Modin, Columbus Blue Jackets. The 35 year-old Modin has struggled with injuries over the last three seasons, playing less than 100 games in that span. He’s struggled to score while being cast in a defensive role this season, but it’s possible that he could put up some points in the right situation. A team acquiring him for a playoff push likely views him as a third line winger who can add some size and checking ability.
Ethan Moreau, Edmonton Oilers. Rumours are rampant in Edmonton that the captain’s tenure with the team is over, and he’s been linked to several Pacific Division teams. His $2.0 million contract has a year left in it after this one, and that price may scare teams away or at least diminish return, given that he’s unlikely to consistently play above the fourth line at this point in his career.
Peter Mueller, Phoenix Coyotes. For months now there has been speculation that the Coyotes are trying to move Mueller, one of the few disappointments on their rejuvenated club. Coach Dave Tippett has tried to shelter him by playing him against poor opponents and giving him lots of offensive zone starts, but nothing has worked so far. Someone will be willing to take a chance on the 21 year-old, who stands 6’2″, was the eighth pick in the 2006 draft, and recorded 54 points as a rookie in 2007-08.
Fernando Pisani, Edmonton Oilers. Pisani is another unrestricted free agent who can play a bottom-six role for a contending team. He gained notoriety in that role for the Oilers in their improbable cup run in 2006, playing great defensive hockey and showing a surprising offensive touch, which culminated in a short-handed overtime goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Illness has limited both his games played and his effectiveness.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s said that a prophet is only without honour in his home country, and at times it seems much the same can be said about hockey players. Certainly the adage applies to Ponikarovsky, an effective two-way player and a consistent 20-goal scorer since the NHL lockout. While dismissed by one prominent member of the Toronto media as not even being a top-six player, that’s exactly the role that the 6’4″ Ukranian will be asked to play for whichever team acquires him.
Lee Stempniak, Toronto Maple Leafs. I’ve always rooted for the diminutive Stempniak, who if nothing else at least contributed one of the greatest posters in hockey history. A team acquiring Stempniak is not adding him for his offence (although he can contribute) so much as for his defensive play.
Raffi Torres, Columbus Blue Jackets. Torres has been maddingly inconsistent throughout his NHL career, at least when it comes to scoring, but he does add a lot in a supporting role. He’s an underrated defensive player who can be used in any role, but he also brings an at times vicious physical dimension. In the 2006 playoffs, he knocked out both Milan Michalek and Doug Weight with hits that went unpenalized.
Aaron Ward, Carolina Hurricanes. Aaron Ward has had a miserable season. Despite that, he has some value; he brings the famous and ever-popular ‘veteran presence’ as well as ‘Stanley Cup experience’ and his contract expires after this season, so I fully expect some team to add him to shore up their blueline depth.
Ray Whitney, Carolina Hurricanes. Whitney is probably the best offensive player available on the market today, a guy who has flirted with the point per game mark every season for more than a decade and who was a key piece in the Hurricanes 2006 Cup win. The only hitch with Whitney is his no-trade clause, and the fact that he reportedly wants a multi-year contract extension from whoever acquires him. Rumour has it that a trade to the Los Angeles Kings was already quashed because they wouldn’t offer him a three-year contract, and Whitney may surprise everyone and end up staying in Carolina.