The rebuild of the Columbus Blue Jackets officially began Thursday night when an actual hockey trade took place, almost unheard of in advance of the trade deadline.
Jeff Carter moped his way right out of hockey's abyss (a good lesson for the kids out there) and onto the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.
Carter wasn't a free-agent rental. He's a player with 10 years left on his mammoth contract. These type of trades usually wait until the summertime, but worlds aligned. Carter wanted out; the Blue Jackets are beginning a rebirth; the Kings are desperate to make the playoffs.
Now, with Monday's 2 p.m. trade deadline fast approaching, everybody around hockey is waiting for the next domino to fall.
Will the Rangers, Flyers, Maple Leafs or some other wild card step up and hand Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson the king's ransom he's seeking for Rick Nash?
Or, will we go back to traditional deadline type deals -- free-agent rentals who are unable to be re-signed by their current teams or simply have no future there for draft picks and prospects?
The deadline will lack a little luster now that many teams have re-signed their top free agents. Those include Kyle Brodziak (Minnesota), Ales Hemsky (Edmonton), Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina) and Frans Nielsen (Islanders). Also, the inevitable Marek Zidlicky-to-New Jersey move was made.
The only certainty? As is the annual tradition, the Maple Leafs quietly will let it be known they're in on everybody so their fan base knows they're working.
Besides every big- name forward in the game, the one position Toronto is really after is goaltending. Leafs GM Brian Burke made that be known during a radio interview last week.
Burke would like a veteran presence and is likely to be eyeing Evgeny Nabokov, who is negotiating a potential contract extension with the Islanders. The Maple Leafs have called Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on Josh Harding, but there is concern if he's 100 percent and if he's ready to assume No. 1 duties in the heart of a playoff race. Doubtful Vancouver's Cory Schneider will be dealt now, but L.A.'s Jonathan Bernier and St. Louis' Ben Bishop could be had for the right price. Ottawa also might be looking at a goalie, with Craig Anderson hurt.
Other names who could be on the move:
• Washington's Mike Knuble: Need veteran presence? There's Knuble, who is out of favor with Caps coach Dale Hunter and has been scratched routinely. But he's the type of guy who could add great depth and leadership for a starved contender.
• Philadelphia's James van Riemsdyk: Nearly traded for Bobby Ryan earlier this season, his future doesn't appear to be in Philly. Toronto has long been a rumored destination, now Dallas in a package that could land Steve Ott. Vancouver is also hot after Ott.
• Carolina's Jaroslav Spacek: The hard-hitting defenseman with a big shot almost certainly will be moved. Chicago has lost out on Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina. The Hawks could now be looking at Spacek, Hurricanes teammate Bryan Allen, the Wild's Greg Zanon and Dallas' Sheldon Souray.
• Toronto's Mikhail Grabovski: Burke is trying hard to work out a new contract, but as of Friday, the gap was wide and if nothing can get done, the Leafs will cut him loose.
• Buffalo's heavily shopping Brad Boyes. But so far, no takers, including the Wild, because his skating is a major issue. Paul Gaustad is a pending free agent and could be moved. The Sabres also continue to try to trade Derek Roy, but concern over his shoulder and a $4 million cap hit next year is scaring teams off.
• Lastly, for the Zach Parise obsessed out there, the Devils captain and pride of Minnesotans everywhere will not be traded.