As the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline approaches, the Eastern Conference's contenders are in a buying mood. Will they find any partners in the bottom half of the conference?
Here's a look at who is -- or at least should be -- selling:
Pretenders and Bubble Teams
The Senators didn't expect to be this high this soon. They entered the season prepared for pain, but Paul MacLean's coaching and revivals among their key players has them in playoff contention. GM Bryan Murray swung a big move mid-winter by acquiring Kyle Turris. He has said on record he doesn't want to trade Filip Kuba. His team shouldn't be viewed as big buyers nor sellers.
For Sale: Kuba and oft-scratched faceoff enforcer Zenon Konopka are both pending free agents. But the player the Sens would probably most like to deal is Sergei Gonchar and his $5.5 million cap hit that continues through next season.
Thanks to the weak Southeast Division, the Jets have a shot at a division title and a third seed in the playoffs -- which means home games in their intimate building packed with rabid fans. But they're still in recovery mode after years of mismanagement in Atlanta.
They are likely to stay the course, neither swinging for a big trade nor shedding assets that would help their playoff push.
For Sale: Pending UFAs include Jim Slater and Tanner Glass -- who are part of a valued checking line in Winnipeg -- goalie Steve Mason, and defensemen Johnny Oduya and Randy Jones. None are likely to fetch a price that gets the Jets to sell.
The Panthers are part of the trio of Southeast teams that could finish as high as a third seed or as low as missing the playoffs entirely. Florida enacted a major free agent overhaul over the summer and got rid of David Booth in mid-season. That has given them the jump they were looking for, but they are riding a four-game losing streak heading into trade deadline weekend.
For Sale: A subject of trade rumors in recent seasons, Stephen Weiss is about to become the franchise leader in games played and the franchise brain trust finally appears to understand how valuable he is. Weiss will stay, as will the rest of the team unless any pieces can be used to improve the roster now. Pending UFAs include Mikael Samuelsson and Jason Garrison, but Dale Tallon's charge is to make the playoffs now and end the Panthers' decade-long postseason drought. No selloffs like previous seasons -- rather, the pressure to make the East's top eight might force a purchase.
UPDATE: Sure enough, the Panthers acquired Wojtek Wolski from the Rangers today.
The Capitals aren't supposed to be here. They're supposed to be the dominant team in the Southeast again. They could still win the division title and grab the eighth seed, but it won't be convincing even if they do. Roman Hamrlik is unhappy being scratched, Tomas Vokoun is drawing blame from the coach, and no one knows what's eating Alex Ovechkin.
For Sale: Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern and Dennis Wideman are all pending UFAs. The Capitals still want -- and must -- make the playoffs, but the reality of their plight means GM George McPhee must consider all offers for his players. Wideman is a point-producer several GMs have taken a chance on in the past.
If the Maple Leafs can stabilize their goaltending, they should be able to grab a playoff seed and prevent a second Southeast team from joining the playoff party. That's a big if. Brian Burke says they're looking. Meanwhile, Burke has his eye on big ground-shifting moves that could help now and in the future.
Targets: Goalie, Rich Nash Auction, Dustin Brown Sweepstakes
For Sale: Luke Schenn is in rumors enough to make you think he could be had in the right deal. Mikhail Grabovski is their biggest pending UFA. The Leafs talked contract with him, but if an agreement can't be reached he might be auctioned off. That scenario becomes more likely if the Leafs can add another top-six forward through trade.
Sellers at the Deadline
GM Steve Yzerman has already sold three roster players for futures in Steve Downie, Dominic Moore and Pavel Kubina. He's even claimed career AHLer Tim Wallace off waivers just to fill the lineup. His sale may be over.
After splurging like Florida over the summer, the Sabres have buyer's remorse. High expectations have not been met, and even former starlet Ryan Miller is taking heat. They would consider selling almost anyone to change their mix.
The Islanders are in the awkward phase of their rebuild where most of their prospects aren't developed enough yet to be major NHL contributors nor major trade chips. Meanwhile, their veteran stopgaps are hardly desirable. Their two biggest trade chips, Evgeni Nabokov and P.A. Parenteau, are players they'd prefer to re-sign.
Like the Capitals, the Habs made a short-sighted coaching move and are still picking up the pieces. The team is embroiled in all the histrionics we've come to expect from the Montreal media market when things go poorly.
For Sale: Travis Moen is a pending UFA but is injured and reportedly not for sale. Among their other UFAs, Andrei Kostitsyn is reported to be unhappy, and Chris Campoli has bounced around enough that teams may no longer see him as much of an improvement.
Contract and free agency information for this post was found at CapGeek.
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