Well, since this is a new blog, I figure I'll bring everyone up to speed on the players most likely to move by the impending trade deadline, next Wednesday, March 4. For league-wide trade deadline coverage, check out SBN's NHL Trade Deadline hub. In this article, I feature Filip Kuba, Chris Neil, Christoph Schubert, Mike Comrie, and Antoine Vermette as the players that might be moved. And there was scouting representation from 12 different teams at last night's game against the San Jose Sharks, and you can bet they weren't looking into whether or not Patrick Marleau would fit into their system.
First up, Filip Kuba. Acquired just before the season from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Kuba is likely the Sens' most valuable tradeable asset. Although both Kuba and the team has said they're willing to sign a contract extension, Bryan Murray has apparently decided that the $4M salary that Kuba is likely to demand for next season is too rich for Ottawa's blood, and that--combined with the fact that Murray has said he's not interested in losing free agents for nothing--makes him a prime candidate to be dealt by the deadline.
In return, Murray has said he's looking for prospects and picks. Given that Mathieu Schneider was exchanged for a second- and third-round pick, and that Ryan Whitney was dealt for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi, the price for mobile point-producing defencemen is high. My expectation would be that Kuba could yield at least a first-round pick or a promising prospect, and quite possibly a package including either of those key chips.
Dancing partners, realistically, could be just about anyone currently in playoff position. His $3M salary for this season, with only a portion of that remaining, is not going to break anyone's budget, and there's a cliché that you can't have enough defencemen when preparing for a playoff run.
Next up, the other (sort of) big-name pending UFA: Chris Neil. Debate rages as to what Neil's true value is, with his camp apparently looking for a raise from his current $1.1M salary to the $2.5M range (according to the Ottawa Sun), while Murray has apparently offered something in the range of $1.5M per year. It's not like Murray to cave into a player's demands, so unless Neil decides to take less than he would likely get on the open market, Murray's going to deal him.
The market price for a player of Neil's ilk hasn't been demonstrated yet. He has gained a reputation as a good fighter who can still skate a regular shift and contribute, although statistically this season (2G, 4A, 6P, -12) he hasn't been both. Still, for a team looking for toughness, he could be worth a risky prospect, or a second-round pick in the least. Then again, if all Montréal gets for Steve Bégin is an AHL-calibre player (Doug Janik), maybe the going price for toughness isn't too high. (I think and hope that Neil has more value than Bégin on the market.)
Interested parties, according to that above-linked Sun story, include the San Jose Sharks (who may have been waiting to get a look at Neil in last night's game), the Detroit Red Wings, and the Edmonton Oilers.
Christoph Schubert's actually on a reasonable contract that pays him $900k this season and next, but he hasn't proven his worth this season. I've often thought of him as a player at a crossroads: He can be a good fourth-line forward, if he wants to settle into that role, but he's got some serious work to do to become a reliable top-six defenceman. He's got a good shot, decent speed, and he can hit, but his defensive responsibility leaves something to be desired.
Once again, consulting the Sun, Schubert could bring a reasonable return in the form of a similarly-proven defenceman; apparently the asking price is Edmonton's Ladislav Smid. Seems like a lateral move, at best, but Smid was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks during Murray's reign there, and we know how much he likes reuniting with old players.
Other than Edmonton, tough to say who might be interested. Still, as a 'Black Ace' who can play forward or defence in a pinch, he'd be a good insurance policy for any team gearing up for the playoffs.
Yes, Ottawa just acquired Mike Comrie, but he's still a pending UFA. And we all know what Murray said about not losing UFAs for nothing. Still, Murray also said that he and Comrie have discusses Comrie's interest in returning to Ottawa long-term, so if the small centreman-turned-winger is willing to take a paycut on his current $4M salary--say, in the range of $2.5-3M per year--it seems possible for Ottawa to keep him around (It's not like he needs the money, anyway, he's got a sugar momma in Hilary Duff).
If Comrie's going to be traded, though, his value isn't as high as it maybe should be. He's having an off-year this year, with only 8G and 13A so far. Still, if he is on the market, he could very well bring a early-mid-round draft choice or a half-decent prospect in return. Tough to say who'd be interested without resorting to pure speculation, though.
Antoine Vermette also seems unlikely; Rumours have indicated that Murray is reluctant to trade Vermette because he's one of few secondary scorers this team has--even if his scoring has been lacking at some points this season.
Although I was surprised the Sens re-signed him in the off-season, there are reasons: Namely, at $3M next season, he's a pretty good bargain for a role-player who can kill penalties with the best, skates like the wind, is among league-leaders in the faceoff circle, and can score when he feels like it. Those are the same values that would make him attractive to a team looking for offensive depth and special-teams help, and he's not quite a rental, either. If he was dealt, it would have to make sense for the Senators: We're talking a high draft pick with some others thrown in, too, or a very promising prospect as part of a package. Maybe even an already-regular NHLer, if he's got enough of an upside.
Again, a lot of teams would likely be interested, but rumours have consistently included the Vancouver Canucks as an interested party.