We're jumping out of the Olympic furnace and into the trade deadline fire.
Nary a beat has been missed since the end of the Sochi Games and the real start of the trade deadline frenzy. In the days leading up to Wednesday's deadline, names will be thrown about like so much confetti. Often it's much ado about nothing, and the trades that do get made don't guarantee success of any kind.
That said, here's a look at the 10 most intriguing names you'd better get used to hearing in the coming days.
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts' captain was miffed at not being selected to the original Canadian Olympic roster, and was likely still a little sore at being passed over four years ago. Many think St. Louis might have told GM Steve Yzerman (also executive director of Team Canada for the past two Olympics) that he'd rather not finish out his contract in Tampa. The two-time scoring champ has a no-move clause that complicates things. He has one year left on a deal that pays him $5 million in real dollars in 2014-15, down from $6.5 million this season. His cap hit is a manageable $5.625 million. If, as some reports suggest, St. Louis is interested in going only to the New York Rangers (he has a home in Connecticut), it's hard to imagine a deal gets done by the deadline, if at all. But if St. Louis is really tired of his time in Tampa, a bevy of teams would be interested in the services of a proven leader and playoff performer. The cost would be enormous, though, because the Lightning are a playoff team and would need to replace a top-line forward. If this happens, it'll be one of the few deals that actually deserves the term "blockbuster."
Our guess: St. Louis remains a Bolt until at least the draft.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
This is a similar story to the St. Louis situation, with former Frank J. Selke Trophy winner Kesler seemingly ready to move on but the Canucks likely asking for maximum return value for a top asset, given that they're in the middle of the playoff picture. Still, as our good friend Pierre LeBrun reported some time ago, the Canucks are considering remaking themselves on the fly, so moving a core player in favor of younger assets fits the long-term plan. Kesler would be a Grade A acquisition for any team looking to make a long run, especially in the tough-as-nails Western Conference. The center has an injured hand that kept him out of Wednesday's win over the Blues, so that's an issue. He has two years left on a deal that pays him $5 million (same cap hit), and that number makes him more attractive to many teams, as opposed to being a straight rental player. He also has a no-trade clause, and a deal might be easier to do at the draft.
Our guess: Kesler stays in Vancouver, for the time being.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Unlike a year ago, when there was all kinds of discussion about potential landing spots for Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo -- who ended up staying put -- there are actually teams looking to bolster their goaltending situations this season. It's fair to say the St. Louis Blues' chances of winning a Cup go up exponentially if Miller is between their pipes. And if you're Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota and are looking at a playoff tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom, given the uncertainty over Josh Harding's health, well, that's a bit scary for a team with high expectations. As long as new Buffalo GM Tim Murray plays his cards right -- for example, rather than asking for the entire moon, maybe asking for only three-quarters of it -- there's no reason he can't accomplish what the Canucks were unable to do and move an elite netminder at the deadline.
Our guess: Miller in a Bluenote jersey strikes the right chord for us.
Thomas Vanek, New York Islanders
You don't think of Vanek as having all that much playoff experience, but he actually performed quite well in the postseason with the Sabres, delivering 15 goals in 36 games. And we know that hockey folk in general are dismissive of Vanek's party Olympics in Sochi, when he and the rest of the Austrians whooped it up the day/night before their embarrassing qualifying-round loss to Slovenia. That bugs me if I'm a GM thinking of handing over a first-round pick and a top prospect for Vanek, but he is the top true rental player on the market this season. It took a while, but Vanek eventually meshed nicely with John Tavares (OK, who wouldn't mesh with Tavares?) and Kyle Okposo in New York. Islanders GM Garth Snow has once again made hash of his team and is (or should be) desperate to unload Vanek, who will go to market in July as a free agent. The obvious destination is Los Angeles, where scoring is scarce and the Kings have a bevy of nearly NHL-ready young forwards who could be attractive to Snow. Don't snooze on the Penguins, though, because GM Ray Shero has never been shy about getting in on the big guns at the deadline.
Our guess: Vanek is a King by week's end.
Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
We all know that the Rangers would like to keep their captain and two-time U.S. Olympian. But we also know GM Glen Sather is opposed to letting Callahan walk for nothing in July and the team isn't interested in the contract length/dollars Callahan is reportedly seeking. Some have scoffed at the idea of a one-for-one, Callahan-for-Martin St. Louis deal, but if neither player is going to be with his current team long-term, why not? The Rangers would certainly miss Callahan's toughness and his play on the penalty kill, but St. Louis is best buds with Brad Richards, dating back to their time in Tampa, where they won a Cup in '04. For us, Callahan fits nicely with a Bolts team that has lots of interesting moving parts. If Steven Stamkos returns to form and Valtteri Filppula is also healthy after the Olympic break, Callahan adds a different component to their forward contingent.
Our guess: Yes, he stands as a straight rental and there are suggestions the Buffalo Sabres will push hard to sign Callahan come July (he's from nearby Rochester), but a long run in the sun this spring could change all that, no?
Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres
Poor Moulson. He started the season playing with Tavares, was dealt to lowly Buffalo and now is looking at having to pack his bags yet again. The good thing is he'll end up somewhere with playoff dates in mind come mid-April. His production has tailed off since going to the Sabres (go figure), but he's a proven goal scorer, and for teams looking to bolster their top six and add some weaponry for the power play, Moulson will be an attractive alternative to Vanek. We think of him as a younger version of Bill Guerin when Guerin arrived in Pittsburgh, which makes us think the Pens might be a good fit. Ottawa would like to bolster its offense, too, and we already know about the Kings' similar needs. Depending on what the Lightning do, Moulson might also be a nice short-term fix if GM Steve Yzerman moves Martin St. Louis. Lots of moving pieces but Moulson is headed somewhere.
Our guess: Moulson joins the Penguins' mighty arsenal.
Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames
In a two-year period in 2010 and 2011, Cammalleri played in 26 postseason games for the Montreal Canadiens and collected 16 goals and 29 points. He hasn't played in the postseason since and there have been concussion issues, but if a team is looking at a straight rental and a pure scorer, Cammalleri fits that bill. For a Flames team trying to reseed the farm, the price tag is likely to be more moderate than for Thomas Vanek or even Matt Moulson. If, as suggested, the Blues are looking to move Chris Stewart, does a guy like Cammalleri fill a hole for a team that has Cup aspirations? Cammalleri will make $7 million this season, although his cap hit is $6 million, so that will be a factor in finding him a new home, although the Flames would certainly be in a position to retain some salary to make it happen.
Our guess: If the Bolts move Martin St. Louis, would Cammalleri be a nice fit with Steven Stamkos? Yes.
Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
Hemsky is an interesting figure in the marketplace. He twice scored 20 goals for the Oilers and looked like he'd be part of the team's offensive machinery for a long time. But injuries and other issues have kept him from realizing that potential. He hasn't scored 20 since 2008-09 and hasn't played in a postseason game since the Oilers' run in '06. Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish has to turn Hemsky into some sort of asset, and for a team not looking to give up much in terms of young assets or picks, Hemsky might be an interesting add. He makes $5.5 million in real money, with a $5 million cap hit, which might be a problem given that Hemsky has only seven goals this season and has fallen down the depth chart in top-heavy Edmonton. Ottawa might make sense, or perhaps Detroit, where injuries cloud the issue for a Wings team that is still very much in the playoff hunt but won't want to mortgage much in the way of futures.
Our guess: Hemsky had a nice Olympic tournament with three goals and an assist in five games, and a change of scenery could make him a nice deadline steal, assuming the Oilers don't price themselves out of the marketplace.
David Legwand, Nashville Predators
Given how few centers appear to be available, Legwand might fetch a reasonable return, if that's the direction that GM David Poile decides to go. The Preds are on the edge of the playoff discussion in the West, but given the team's history of losing players such as Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis to free agency and the young assets the Preds have sent away in bolstering for playoff runs the past few years, our guess is that Poile will see if there is a fit to move Legwand, who has a no-trade clause but would no doubt enjoy a shot at a Cup somewhere. An original Predator, Legwand is from the Detroit area and would be a nice fit for a Wings team that missed the boat with the Stephen Weiss signing and could use help down the middle. Legwand has had a nice campaign for the Preds with 10 goals and 40 points. His cap hit is a manageable $4.5 million.
Our guess: Detroit. And there would also be a chance for the Wings to keep Legwand beyond this season at a modest salary given his connection to the community.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Not sure what kind of impact Brodeur might have on a playoff-bound team, but it is interesting to consider the possibilities now that the torch clearly has been passed to Cory Schneider in Jersey. The Devils' playoff chase will come down to the wire, and after allowing Zach Parise to walk for nothing in 2012 and losing Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL last summer, GM Lou Lamoriello should make it a priority to get assets in return for a player who isn't going to be around long-term. Even if that means trading the franchise's Hall of Fame netminder. Brodeur appears to be open to such a move and there are a couple of teams looking to shore up goaltending. We mentioned the Wild and maybe a Kuemper-Brodeur tandem wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. And what of the Pittsburgh Penguins? Tomas Vokoun has been given permission to practice, but he's missed three-quarters of the season and to expect him to be in playoff shape in seven weeks is a bit much, no? Marc-Andre Fleury has been terrific for the Pens, but he's also coming off multiple subpar playoff years. Would Brodeur be a nice safety net or a constant distraction? The Pens could also play the Devils in the first round if New Jersey sneaks in. Hmmm.
Our guess: And what about Chicago, which rode Corey Crawford all the way to the Stanley Cup last spring but had Ray Emery as a Plan B? Not sure Antti Raanta is the same kind of safety net yet, so perhaps Brodeur would fit.