High-stakes poker game is here

The high-stakes game of poker that is trade deadline day begins with many NHL general managers with lots of chips on the table but unsure where to place their bets.

GMs who spoke to ESPN.com in recent days describe this as one of the most curious trade periods in recent memories. So many teams would like to add pieces but there are so few teams that are actually out of contention. Seven points separate seventh and 13th in the Western Conference, and teams like as Dallas and Colorado have assets they’d like to move including Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, David Jones, T.J.Galiardi and/or Daniel Winnik, but they would like to make a hockey trade and bring back every-day players.

In the Eastern Conference, there remains a furious battle for the Southeast Division lead and the last playoff berth in the conference.

Much of the attention Monday will be focused on whether the Columbus Blue Jackets will move captain Rick Nash, but as of Sunday evening it appeared that the top suitor, the New York Rangers, were unprepared to meet the demand for top assets in return. Will the asking price drop as the day progresses?

Will Toronto GM Brian Burke, looking to make a move for an impact forward and perhaps a goaltender, find a deal that works for the slumping Leafs? And what kind of Plan B exists for the many teams looking for offensive help? Andrei Kostitsyn in Montreal, Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy in Buffalo will be players whose names are bandied about.

Defensemen are always at a premium on deadline day and this year is no different, with Jaroslav Spacek and Bryan Allen in Carolina likely to be on the move to teams looking to shore up their defensive lineup. Will there be a trade out of left field? Given the strange dynamics of this year, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility. Stay tuned.