Russo's Sunday Insider: NHL GMs face tough choices

  • Updated: March 23, 2013 - 11:52 PM

With all the close races for playoff spots, NHL teams are reluctant to trade players who could help them reach the postseason.

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Fading Calgary star Jarome Iginla, right, has to agree to any trade, but will the asking price be too high? His skills have deteriorated.

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 Bad news for the goalies: For the 100th consecutive general manager’s meeting — or something like that — the masked men and their equipment were under attack Wednesday.

When scoring needs to rise, GMs don’t talk about making the nets or rinks bigger — stuff that might actually work. They don’t examine the shot-blocking epidemic or defensive-minded coaches.

They just revert to shrinking the goalies again … even though it never has the desired effect.

At least this GM meeting resulted in some recommendations to the competition committee that might actually make the game safer, such as hybrid icing and grandfathering in mandatory visors.

But nothing concrete happened, so like at all GM meetings shortly before the trade deadline, the most interesting stuff actually happened away from the board table. April 3 at 2 p.m. is the trade deadline, meaning that table has started to be set.

The problem is the jam-packed standings. Take the Western Conference. As of Friday, six points separated eighth and 15th.

So if you’re a team like Dallas (a point from a playoff spot) and have unrestricted free agent-to-be’s such as captain Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr, do you potentially pull the plug on your season and sell, stand pat or buy?

Tough decision, especially when the Stars chose not to trade Brad Richards two years ago. The Stars went nowhere, and he signed with the Rangers.

There could be some rentals on the market, but if you’re a GM, how much can you justify paying for 12 regular-season games? Remember, there’s only one Stanley Cup winner, so giving up real assets this time of year is a gamble.

Here’s some scuttlebutt:

• The Pittsburgh Penguins usually make a big pickup this time of year, and for weeks, it was thought they were in the market for a winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby. That talk has tapered off. The Penguins are red-hot and the Pascal Dupuis-Crosby-Chris Kunitz line is more prolific than any in the league. Look for Boston to add a big-name forward. Look for Buffalo to try to blow everything up. It won’t be easy. Sure, the Sabres can trade rentals such as Jordan Leopold or Robyn Regehr, but the guys they’d really like to move — Drew Stafford, Ville Leino — have big contracts. Some even suggest Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller or Jason Pominville are available.

• The elephant in Calgary’s room is whether or not to trade captain Jarome Iginla. The respected vet — sadly, just not the same Jarome Iginla we’ve all grown to appreciate over the years — has to agree to any trade. The price could be high, too, so be careful here. There’s been absolutely no goalie market (ask Vancouver and Roberto Luongo), but Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, 36, may be movable. He has an expired no-trade clause and only makes $1.5 million next year ($5.83 million cap hit). The Flames could move Jay Bouwmeester, who has a year left on his contract at $6.68 million. No postseason play, though.

•  San Jose’s on the bubble and there’s lots of rumors the Sharks would trade veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, who has a year left at $6.7 million, and power forward Ryane Clowe.

• New Jersey’s David Clarkson’s contract is expiring, which means rumors are running rampant. But look at Lou Lamoriello’s history. The GM has let Zach Parise, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski and others walk for nothing. Doubtful Clarkson is moved.

• Florida is in sell mode. Problem is the sellable pieces — Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Jose Theodore — all got injured. Tomas Fleischmann could be a bargain at the deadline.

• Other names on the block: the Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Washington’s Ribeiro, St. Louis’ Andy McDonald, Colorado’s Milan Hejduk, Winnipeg’s Ron Hainsey, Edmonton’s Ryan Whitney and Ladislav Smid.

Michael Russo • 612-673-4994

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