Due to some technical difficulties, I’ll be filling in for Austin this week. As a Leafs fan, I’m subject to a never-ending stream of rumors, potential trades or signings, most of which aren’t anything more than pipe dreams at best. The truth is, though, in today’s NHL, complete with salary caps and a truly unparalleled level of league-wide parity, the days of blockbuster trades are mostly over. However, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, there are more than a few teams that are still looking for a midseason boost to hopefully save their season, or, in other cases, simply make that extra addition that would take them from a good team to one of the elite. Here’s the five teams I think are most likely to make a trade of some sort before the midway point of the year.
1. New Jersey Devils (5-12-2): Is there any team in the NHL that has proved to be more of a disappointment than the Devils this year? After winning the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes twice (at the trade deadline and again this summer), the Devils have stumbled to one of the worst records in the NHL so far. Martin Brodeur, no disrespect intended to perhaps the greatest goalie of all time, is finally showing his age, while new coach John Maclean’s ass must be on fire from how hot his seat behind the bench is getting. With Zach Parise out until February, the Devils are in desperate need of help on a number of fronts, defense being the most pressing need. The Devils have allowed 62 goals already this year, and have a -28 goal differential, worse than any other team except the Edmonton Oilers. For a team that expects to make the playoffs every year, the current state of affairs is unacceptable.
2. Edmonton Oilers (4-10-4): With team success apparently at least another year away, the Oilers should be looking to continue to add solid young talent and build on their future. Players like Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner have already been rumored in numerous deals, but nothing has come to fruition. For a playoff contender, either player would be a welcome addition, while the return garnered by the Oilers’ franchise could be very significant.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-8-3): Honestly, I don’t think the Leafs will make a move unless they work themselves into a playoff spot and can find a deal that helps the team out further towards the deadline. Still, Brian Burke has proven time and time again that he is a bit of a magic-maker, so if a deal should happen to present itself that he would be happy with, I don’t think he’ll hesitate to pull the trigger.
4. Los Angeles Kings (12-6-0): For a team that ranks 2nd in the Western Conference, it might seem a bit ridiculous that they’d be expected to make a trade. Still, if they can find a true first line winger to play with Anze Kopitar and not empty the cupboards to get him, the Kings would probably be interested.
5. San Jose Sharks (9-5-4): Again, in terms of actually needing to make a trade, the Sharks might not jump to the top of anyone’s list. But with the Pacific Division getting tighter every year, the Sharks could probably use some help on the back end. Injuries to some of their veteran defensemen like Doug Murray and Niclas Wallin might even force their hand a bit, and with former 30-goal scorer Devin Setoguchi losing his spot to up-and-comer Logan Couture, the Sharks have a couple of pieces that they could move to fill their needs.
While there’s no guarantee that any of these teams will actually pull off a trade, if there is a major trade in the works, I’d feel pretty safe betting that one of the five mentioned above would be involved. That’s all for now, and if you don’t have any crazy Saturday night plans in the works (and you live in the States), I’m happy to inform you that one of the greatest rivalries in hockey will be televised on the NHL Network tonight, as my Leafs take on the hated Canadiens in Montreal tonight. Go Leafs!