Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks are obviously going to be buyers. What will they buy? Not much. Now that they have two healthy goalies, plus a reliable No.3 (Sebastien Caron) as insurance, as well as a solid defense corps (when Scott Niedermayer returns), the team seems pretty set. They have a lot of depth up front, but Anaheim could use a seventh offensive-type forward - someone to step in if there is an injury to someone in the top six. Currently, Mark Hartigan fills that role and would make a cheap pickup if the aforementioned injury comes to pass. One rumor out there is a (prospect) Bobby Ryan for Darcy Tucker swap with the Leafs. It goes without saying that Tucker would be an upgrade to Hartigan…but the Leafs would need to be sellers for this deal to happen.
Atlanta Thrashers – This is another playoff team that will definitely be a buyer. Furthermore, unlike the Ducks, the Thrashers have some gaping holes that they need to address. These holes are the same ones that were there in the summer – a first-line center and a power-play quarterback. Steve Rucchin does not cut it for the former, and Niklas Havelid/Steve McCarthy do not cut it for the latter. They will fill one or both of those needs by the deadline. Whoever they bring in will be gold in hockey pools – and Kovalchuk’s sub-par season will turn around in a big way. They are a part of the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes. The team is also open to signing Brian Leetch (possible) or even Jason Allison (long-shot) to contract. For two months of a season, neither would make a huge dent to the salary cap and as such could be considered low-risk. Jason Blake is a long-shot acquisition, while the team could also look to the Coyotes for Derek Morris or the Bruins for Brad Stuart.
Boston Bruins – The Bruins are sellers. The team has several pieces in place for a solid future, but could always use more blue-chip prospects. Glen Murray will likely be moved, as the Bruins would love to shed his $4 million-plus of salary that is committed to them for the next two seasons after this one. Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart are also involved in heavy trade rumors, with Edmonton coming up as a likely destination in what would be a fairly big package.
Buffalo Sabres – It is looking more and more like Tim Connolly will make it back into the lineup by the middle or the end of March. As such, the Sabres will have their backs against the salary-cap ceiling and a trade will be unlikely. One possibility would be trading away backup goaltender Martin Biron, who would be a starter on most other teams. He currently eats up $2.1 million in salary and if the team were to trade him for a backup goalie and some picks or prospects, it would help relieve some of the loss they are bound to have this summer when Daniel Briere and Chris Drury both become unrestricted free agents. Biron will also be a UFA this summer and if he does get moved he will immediately get ‘gold’ status in fantasy pools as a bona fide starter.
Calgary Flames – The team was looking for a top center and they feel they addressed the issue with Craig Conroy. Between Conroy, Daymond Langkow and Matthew Lombardi, the Flames feel they have as a good a Top 3 as any team in the league and this will likely be the team that they head into the postseason with. Rearguard Andrei Zyuzin may be expendable with the emergence of Mark Giordano. It would open up $1.4 million in cap space for next season, which would make re-signing Matthew Lombardi and replacing Tony Amonte (who will be unrestricted) that much easier.
Carolina Hurricanes – One of the favorites in the Peter Forsberg race, Carolina will be buyers this month. If you recall last season, the ‘Canes scooped up Mark Recchi and Doug Weight early – not waiting at all for deadline day. Do not be surprised if they do this again. Besides Forsberg, the team would be happy to upgrade their rearguards. Frantisek Kaberle will be back soon, and the team has an abundance of offensively skilled blueliners, but none that could be called “elite”. Andrew Hutchinson will likely be moved, as he will just be a healthy scratch once Kaberle returns.
Chicago Blackhawks – Sellers. Michal Handzus will not be back in time from his knee injury to be traded, and the ‘Hawks are trying to re-sign him anyway. Bryan Smolinski is definitely available and likely on the way out. With Patrick Lalime back, Brian Boucher may also be gone. Chicago has already traded Brandon Bochenski, and so has proven that the team is not unwilling to part with a piece of their future to fill needs for down the road. Smolinski being out of the picture could open the door for prospect Dave Bolland next season. Adrian Aucoin is also mentioned in trade talk, including a rumored Aucoin for Craig Rivet swap with the Canadiens.