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AROUND THE NHL

SabresTV's Brian Duff takes his weekly look around the league

Thursday, 02.23.2012 / 10:43 AM / News
By Brian Duff  - Sabres TV Host

It’s not all about the NHL’s trade deadline right now. It just seems that way.

But because of our proximity to 3 p.m. Monday, February 27, it seemed like a good time to canvas my NHL Network peers on what they believe will be the story of Deadline Day.

Starting with 1998 Masterton Trophy winner and former netminder Jamie McLennan, I asked the question: Which team will make the biggest impact at the deadline and why?

“I think it will be two teams. I believe Los Angeles is going to try and add skill and goal scoring up front, with Dean Lombardi feeling the heat, he must make a HUGE splash in the playoffs.  He went to his trusted friend and confidant in Darryl Sutter to turn around the team from behind the bench, now he will attempt to give him more to work with. He has a coveted backup goalie in Jonathan Bernier as a major bargaining chip, yet he has not much cap space to take on salary so he will have to be creative. Maybe even get someone to take on huge salaries (Dustin Penner) or ship guys to the minors.

"The other is Edmonton. I think they will have some activity in the form of moving guys out (Alex Hemsky, and possibly Nikolai Khabibulin or Sam Gagner), looking to land a young goalie and more depth on the back end (a puck-moving defenseman). They are certainly sellers, but aren’t going to give away anything for free. The plan is to make the playoffs next year, so they need to add depth and stockpile depth to get better this summer and surround the young kids with veteran leadership to help them grow.”

Also an award winner from that same St. Louis Blues team in 1998, King Clancy Memorial Trophy recipient Kelly Chase offered this:

“Just listening to all the general managers talk, they all believe that the asking price for Rick Nash is astronomical and yet teams are willing to pay for him. This is getting to the point where they’re asking for something reminiscent of a Lindros-type package of players, yet Nash has not yet got 80 points in a season. If Columbus can pull this off - awesome. It’ll be the greatest contributing factor to turning this organization around. A culture change is needed there. This will be big.”

Longtime NHL analyst Billy Jaffe agrees with McLennan, that a couple of teams will make noise.

“I see Colorado, even in wake of dealing Kyle Quincey and acquiring Steve Downie, as having a number of pieces that could or will be in play and therefore by volume, could be the biggest player.”

Jaffe added: “When it comes to biggest impact it may well come from Anaheim, by moving one of their better defensemen.”

Is he alluding to Lubomir Visnovsky? We’ll see.

A veteran of more than 600 NHL games, and now of YouTube fame for having his watch destroyed while broadcasting between the benches this week, Mike Johnson also has eyes on a Western Conference contender as being an active one.

“I think the Nashville Predators will have a big impact at the deadline. The organization wants to build off last year and get more than one round. They have several young prospects that they have to deal and a need, which is to improve their scoring. They also realize that this may be the last time they have Shea Weber and Ryan Suter together. And they will want to make the most of that opportunity while also trying to convince Suter to stay. They also have the cap space necessary to make any move they want.”

And the last words belong to that of our longest-serving analyst at the NHL Network, former Washington Capitals coach Gary Green.

“I would have to think that either the Washington Capitals or the Detroit Red Wings will make the most impact at the trade deadline. The Wings have great cap space and want to win another Cup while Mike Ilitch can still enjoy it. They are right there on the doorstep of having the ability to do that. Home ice advantage will have a significant positive impact on that, but their road record this year has been less than desirable considering their place in the standings. Everyone would like to acquire talented young players but the Red Wings may forego giving up anymore of their future top picks (even though later rounds seem to be more prosperous for the Wings) by acquiring another gritty defenseman (preferably a right shot) and a solid, rugged forward, even if that means just renting Ryan Smyth for a few months.

“As far as the Capitals go, so much depends on the health of Nicklas Backstrom, who before his concussion was the Caps best player. I have a feeling that Dale Hunter isn’t as enamored with his team as he was upon accepting the job and GM George McPhee may now agree. It may be time for a major shakeup in Washington since the ‘firing the coach’ card was played to no avail, and waiting until July 1 may be too late for the general manager."

Enjoy deadline day. Like you, we’ll all be paying close attention.

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