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December 30, 2011 :: 10:45am ET
Trading Places
 'Tis the season for teams to begin making some significant roster moves.

CHICAGO, IL -- When the annual Christmas break hit the NHL this year, it was painfully clear that organizations all over the league were embracing major change.

Most recently, the axe fell in Los Angeles and Montreal, and head coaches in almost half the league are either new to their organizations since this season started or are looking over their shoulder for the next pink slip.

Everyone wants to find the lightning in a bottle the Blues found when they made a coaching change, but the only fans to enjoy an instant turn-around have been those in St. Louis.

Once the holidays pass, the talk about more than coaches moving will heat up. If objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, than the trade deadline must feel like it's crawling up the backside of most general managers. With so many teams still within smelling distance of a playoff spot, this year's deadline moves could change the post-season dynamics in both conferences.

But some teams need to make a deal more than others. And some will be more aggressive to find a partner to make a trade, whether it's the right move or not.

Certainly, Philadelphia will put an intense search together to find the right defenseman to fill the captain-size hole left on their blue line by Chris Pronger. Could they make a play for one of Nashville's superstars? It's hard to see them fitting Shea Weber into their present cap situation, and it might be too costly to get Ryan Suter away from the Preds while they're still in a playoff chase. Other names, like the Kings' Jack Johnson, might be more likely to wind up in Philly.

Speaking of the Kings, they might be in position to dump more than a couple players. Dean Lombardi is one of a handful of GMs that are trying to save their job while putting together a competitive team, and having his Kings sitting in dead last in the league in scoring isn't getting it done. The Kings certainly have talent to compete in the West, and aren't out of the mix by any stretch of the imagination, but will they sell or buy at the deadline?

Just up the road from the Kings in Anaheim, the wheels are completely off for the Ducks. They've already made a coaching change, and haven't seen any change in the product on the ice. Anaheim has the worst team plus-minus in the NHL (minus-33) at Christmas, and aren't going anywhere fast this season. A few of their superstar players have been linked to trade speculation -- especially Bobby Ryan -- leading popular belief to be that the Ducks hold the chips to make a game-changing deal that changes the balance of power late in the season.

Some other teams might be looking to create flexibility around the deadline. Colorado has almost their entire roster hitting free agency in July, and they're in the same boat as the Kings.

Would they consider moving someone like Paul Stastny, or are they looking to add pieces to an already-talented and young roster?

Montreal made a coaching change and, just like LA and Anaheim, hasn't seen anything change on the ice (one win in their last six). They struggle to score as much as anyone, but can they appear to be stuck in one of the worst cap situations in the league. The Habs have six of their most expensive players with some form of a no-trade clause in their contract, and all six of them have at least three years left on their current deal.

Meanwhile, Montreal needs to find money to pay P.K. Subban and Carey Price this summer, and recently added two more years of Tomas Kaberle at $4.25 million to their books. Will they ask one of their veterans to waive his no-trade, or will they be forced to sacrifice some of their prospects to make a dent in their scoring problem?

Bankruptcy court judges might need to get involved as well. Phoenix and Dallas are among the teams fighting for playoff position in the West, and there's no guarantee the Coyotes will be in Arizona again next year. Will the League allow them to make improvements at the deadline again, or will they have to make the tough decision to talk to a player like Shane Doan about moving away from the desert before the rest of the organization does?

The Stars have found an owner and the focus in Dallas will undoubtedly be keeping Jamie Benn under their control moving into the future, but will they look to move some of their veterans like Sheldon Sourary or even Mike Ribiero to accelerate their building process?

Carolina might be ready to sell, but would they ever consider putting Eric Staal on the market? Tampa Bay is in desperate need of an improvement in net, but what will it take for them to land a quality goalie? Will Washington move Alex Semin before he hits the market? Will Edmonton ever trade Ales Hemsky or Sam Gagner? And who will be the guy traded out of Buffalo to spark a revival with the Sabres?

With the unknown future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement putting a shadow over the current cap structure, some teams might be trigger-shy. And the continued impact of injuries making life difficult all over the League, some organizations might be forced to make a deal that isn't even on their radar today.

There are so many questions heading towards the deadline. Ultimately, many of these teams might never feel comfortable making a move, while others might roll the dice. In June, we'll be able to look back and point to the one or two moves that were (or weren't) made that changed everything.

Tab Bamford is a Columnist for TheFourthPeriod.com and the Chicago Correspondent for The Fourth Period Magazine.


 

 

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