Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: Will there be 'wow'?

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2011 - 1:00 AM

A flurry of big-name activity usually accompanies the NHL trade deadline, but this year might just be different.


There’s a chance a player like the Stars’ Brad Richards could be dealt, but the price will be steep.

Photo: John F. Rhodes, Mct - Mct

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It may not seem like it because players are flying off the shelves, but there are far more buyers than sellers heading into Monday's 2 p.m. trade deadline. That just makes for a smaller, more expensive market.

That's why many teams may stand largely pat in terms of real impact moves. Maybe you add a depth forward here or sixth defenseman there, but in terms of wow factor, most teams will barely make a ripple.

That's not to say players won't move. They certainly will, maybe even one big one in Dallas' Brad Richards. But you talk to GMs, the bar was set when Mike Fisher went to Nashville for a first-round pick. The prices since have been incredibly inflated for the most marginal of players.

It'll take a significant amount of assets to pick up Richards as a free-agent rental (unless he's re-signed by his new home), but the Stars are clearly entertaining it because GM Joe Nieuwendyk has been more talkative than an 8-year-old on an airplane.

Nieuwendyk, after trading James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski, has made sure to get the word out to teams other than just the Rangers that Richards can be had.

But the way teams jumped in front of the deadline in the days leading up to it, the talking heads at TSN and Sportsnet who devote live, all-day coverage starting at 7 a.m. CT may have to fill a lot of dead air Monday.

Maybe Pierre McGuire can do a stand-up act or Bob McKenzie can play the banjo to provide some entertainment.

One buyer may be the Los Angeles Kings. We've all been waiting for GM Dean Lombardi to lure that big fish even well before he battled New Jersey for Ilya Kovalchuk last summer. Could he make that big impact move now?

Depends upon what he'd be willing to give up. It's clear he has interest in Edmonton's Ales Hemsky, but the price for the Oilers player is said to be extraordinary.

The Oilers are willing to deal defensemen Ladislav Smid and Jim Vandermeer, while Dustin Penner's on the block, too. But GM Steve Tambellini is in the driver's seat. Penner and Hemsky have a year left on their deals, so he could wait until summertime to deal them.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray is in the midst of dismantling his team. He's traded Fisher, Alexei Kovalev, Brian Elliott, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu. He'd move Chris Neil in a minute and is in conversation with Chris Phillips about either staying or going. Phillips wants to stay.

"It's up to him," Murray said. "I've never had a team with the group of players we thought we had play the way we have. ... We never found a way to get things going. Now I have to rebuild. It's not fun."

Other scuttlebutt? Florida's willing to move Stephen Weiss, Bryan McCabe, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun. Columbus is willing to trade Rostislav Klesla and Jan Hejda. Colorado would trade John-Michael Liles or Paul Stastny. Buffalo would trade Tim Connolly in a heartbeat.

Vancouver's looking for a depth forward. Carolina's looking for a defenseman. Minnesota's looking for a center. San Jose's looking for a backup goalie.

The most amazing philosophical change heading into the deadline has been a few teams' willingness to make, dare we say, actual hockey trades.

Pittsburgh snagging Neal and Dallas Goligoski was as much about the future as the present. And the St. Louis-Colorado deal that sent Erik Johnson and Jay McClement to Denver for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk was completely about the future.

"Because the cap restricts so much, going forward, I see more of teams trying to strengthen and correct areas that may be missing early," Murray said. "I think we'll get more hockey trades than just financial trades."

That would be nicer than Bob McKenzie on a banjo.

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