[originially published in last night's St. Louis Game Time paper.]
The trade deadline is just 11 days away and while this year seems like there may be way more talk than action, there remains potential for some interesting moves to be made. The Central Division, of course, is one of the most competitive in the whole league, with four teams in the playoff eight right now and the fifth, Columbus, is in the running for worst team in the league and therefore one of the teams that the rest of the league is eager to pick the bones of, stripping them of any reasonably useful player. If there are a bunch of trades between now and Feb. 27, the Central could be a division that sees some of the most interesting moves made. With that in mind, this is my wish list for Central Division trades:
The Chicago Blackhawks have lost nine straight and the players and coach are clearly frustrated. The fans are near apoplectic. Their general manger, Stan "Stop asking about my dad" Bowman, isn't that worried. It certainly isn't the goaltending, he believes, even though his team ranks 27th in the league in goals allowed per game and his starter, Corey Crawford, ranks 43rd in the league in save percentage among goalies with at least 20 games played. A list, by the way, that only has 46 goaltenders on it.
My wish is that Stan Bowman believes in himself here. The rumors are that he's chasing down a gritty forward like Tuomo Ruutu and a big defensive defenseman like Andy Sutton (before he was taken off the market by the Oilers). Stay with that raggedy goaltending and instead overpay for "grit" and size. Better yet, overpay to pull Rick Nash out of Columbus. The big winger is available and would likely approve waiving his no movement clause to go to Chicago. The Hawks could then try to shoehorn in another offensive-minded guy. His $7.8 million cap hit over the next six seasons would be a nice way to continue to handicap Chicago and keep them from building another significant team in the Windy City.
Plus, we would still have six games a year where there's a chance to see T.J. Oshie dismantle Nash again with another big, solid check. I'd really miss that if Nash were to get traded outside the Central Division.
The Nashville Predators are in a Catch-22 position because they can't trade away pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter because he's such a big part of their defensive system. But Suter has said that he'll leave Nashville this summer as a free agent if he doesn't see a commitment to winning by bringing in some offensive help. There's the catch, of course: Suter is the best asset they have to exchange for a big-ticket forward to help out. The bigger problem for Nashville is that Suter could cause a domino effect on their blueline. If he leaves this summer as a free agent, team captain and fellow stud defenseman Shea Weber is an unrestricted free agent the following summer. No big-ticket forward help could mean that Suter leaves this summer and Weber leaves the next summer, leaving the Predators without their best defensemen and no big scorer and no real potential to be force in the Central Division.
Yeah, that sounds good. Let's make that the wish list for them: nothing, no one, nada. Bye, Ryan! Bye, Shea!
The Detroit Red Wings are rolling right now, but all of their best players are their older players and their concern has to be that they are peaking too soon and that their older, anchor players aren't going to be at their best by the time the regular season ends. Their general manager always makes a deal or two to bolster the lineup and will likely do it again this year. If you ask their fans, every potentially available player would love to come to Detroit, so clearly they will have their pick of the litter. The current object of their affection is Ducks winger Teemu Selanne. Should he want to go to a contender, the Ducks will move him and the Red Wings will probably have the assets to rent him.
Great, I say. That works out perfectly with my wish list. Add another old guy who will be leaving this summer and trade away one of your few younger assets to get him. Keep chipping away at the foundation. On top of that, Selanne is a perfect playoff fit for Detroit as far as the Blues are concerned. Selanne only plays well in Anaheim and in Winnipeg. Remember his stint as a San Jose Shark? Awful. Remember that abortion of a season he spent in Colorado? Just terrible. He had 163 points in 254 games with those two teams. With Anaheim and Winnipeg he has 1,229 points in 1,062 games. He just doesn't do well anywhere else.
You want Selanne so badly, Detroit? Have him. Do us another favor and see if Paul Kariya will come suit up for you too.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to get value for anyone they can move. Hopefully Nash is gone. It's possible someone will want R.J. Umberger and his bloated, stupid contract. Someone might even want Antoine Vermette and that French Revolution name and lack of game. The Jackets management goes to bed every night praying that someone will call them about Steve Mason. And Jeff Carter wants out of Columbus so badly that he's just going through the motions for the Blue Jackets in an attempt to get himself traded.
My only deadline wish for Columbus, short of sending Nash to help cripple the Blackhawks? That they can't or won't move Carter and he's forced to rot on a roster he wants no part of. He's probably having a hard time even finding a way to spend all his money in college town Columbus. If there's anything I hate in sports more than a crybaby, it's a quitter. And Jeff Carter has proven to be both this season. Don't let him get his wish and move him out of town. Let him sit there and continue to cry and half-ass his way through his season. It may be too late for him to learn the life lesson, but might as well try - your season is a complete bust anyway.
The St. Louis Blues are in a spot where they have to be considered buyers. But when a team is playing well and is near the top of the whole NHL in points, messing with team chemistry is a dangerous proposition. Adding a new personality to the locker room has to be done carefully, plus the Blues roster is already pretty deep - it'll be hard to find a guy to bring in who comes in and justifiably bumps another guy up to the press box. The depth lines don't need tweaking and the goaltending and defense would be hard to improve. The only move that makes sense is some sort of impact offensive player and there just aren't that many of them out there available.
My wish list for the Blues? If they don't stand pat and do decide to make a move, do something like general manager Doug Armstrong always seems to do: make a move no one sees coming for a player no one thought was available. I won't be so presumptive as to tell the general manager what to do or who to go get, I'll just leave it as is: I trust his judgment.
-Sean "Paul Statsny" Gallagher