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November 14, 2010 :: 8:55pm ET
Where there's smoke...

TORONTO, ON -- The NHL's silly season usually runs about eight months out of the year. Once the trade deadline passes, there's usually a three-month span (March through May) where trade rumors and signing/free agent speculation quiet down. Toss in about a month from mid-August to mid-September where there isn't too much going on and that gives the hockey community about four months of sanity.

Unfortunately for the majority of hockey fans, today's NHL doesn't offer too much in terms of mid-season movement (aka buzz, excitement, etc.). The salary cap has prevented a bulk of teams from making major trades in the early parts of the campaign and you can be sure Brian Burke, Glen Sather and a number of others GMs will be campaigning - once CBA talks pick up - to allow teams to pick up portions of a player's salary as part of trades.

For now, though, general manager's have to work with what they've got.

The lack of deals isn't for a lack of trying, though. There is plenty of chatter out there, which also leads to a number of bogus trade rumors, but that comes with the territory.

When Bryan Murray and Burke both admitted to being engaged in a variety of trade talk (with other clubs) last month, their actions confirmed that a) teams are definitely trying to make moves, and b) their teams aren't doing well enough. Sometimes a good, old fashion public barking can wake up the troops (it worked for the Senators, who are 5-1-0 in November... the Maple Leafs, on the other hand, stink are winless).

Murray is still on the lookout for some help at both ends of the ice. He'd love to get his hands on some secondary scoring, but with about $1 million in cap space, his options are tremendously limited.

The Senators could get creative and package a variety of players in a salary-for-salary swap, but that type of trade can take months to orchestrate (and the more time you give a GM to pull the trigger, the longer he can wait and/or over-analyze).

Burke, meanwhile, desperately wants to acquire a first-line goal-scorer. He openly admits he only has one top line player (Phil Kessel), but even with $3.4 million in cap space and a very attractive tradable asset in Tomas Kaberle, the Leafs have been unable to strengthen their forward unit.

Still, speculation continues to surround Toronto over what players might be on the Leafs' radar. Burke is actually in Chicago tonight watching the Blackhawks take on the Anaheim Ducks (cue the Bobby Ryan trade rumors).

In Montreal, the Canadiens, who made the first trade of the season this week, are already looking for a top-six forward. They created some extra cap space by moving Ryan O'Byrne to Colorado, but they'll still likely need to shed more if they want to acquire anyone of significance.

The Habs could get extra relief, though getting it this way isn't a positive for the team. Andrei Markov is rumored to be out of action for another three months after injuring his surgically repaired knee last night.

One rumor floating around has linked the Canadiens to showing interest in Dallas Stars center Brad Richards. While the Habs have been interested in Richards in the past, dating as far back as was on Tampa Bay, I'd be surprised if the Stars would have any interest in taking Scott Gomez back as part of a large package. You can effectively nix this one, for now.

The Florida Panthers have shown a willingness to shake up their roster, but GM Dale Tallon might wait and see how the season unfolds. It's still early and the Eastern Conference is wide open. The Panthers have seven key players that can become unrestricted free agents next summer and that could translate into an interesting trade deadline if the Cats are out of it come February.

Rostislav Olesz and Stephen Weiss have also popped up in trade discussions over the last few months, but both have also struggled to produce solid offensive numbers and that isn't maximizing any trade value.

In Vancouver, Kevin Bieksa's still available but until Keith Ballard is back to game shape, the Canucks might not be so eager to make a move. They've won eight of their last 10 and the offense is being spread out once again this year. If the Canucks can find someone to take Bieksa off their hands, even for a prospect and/or draft pick, they'll gladly pull the trigger.

Finally, in Boston, the Bruins might be the next team to make a move and this one will have some significance.

Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ference and Marco Sturm, who is injured, have all been tossed around the block, with Ryder the popular choice to be moved. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could place someone on waivers, worst case, but he'd prefer to complete a trade.

Marc Savard was shopped, briefly, towards the end of last season and this past summer, but a move of that magnitude might not be possible this early in the season.

Quickies

  • The Thrashers aren't concerned with Ron Hainsey's one assist. Atlanta president Don Waddell told me Hainsey's role has changed (he's no longer the go-to powerplay guy) and they're quiet pleased with his performance.
  • Nashville's really missing Matthew Lombardi from making his debut with the team. The Predators are searching for some offensive help.
  • Contract talks between the Capitals and Alexander Semin won't begin until Jan. 1, when both parties are allowed to do so. Expect Capitals GM George McPhee to call Semin's agent, Mark Gandler, right after he's taken a sip of champagne around 12:05am on the first day of 2011. It's too early to speculate which direction Semin wants to go and I'm told his contract is the last thing from his mind right now.
  • The Oilers are still debating whether to place Sheldon Souray on re-entry waivers... How long before the Sabres consider dealing Thomas Vanek... Would the Blackhawks take a look at Bill Guerin... Pittsburgh's quietly shopping for a second-line scorer... The Kings are still looking for a first-line player, but don't expect a move any time soon.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine.
His columns appear every weekly on TFP.
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