Latest buzz on eve of NHL trade deadline

Sunday evening was approaching without an NHL trade. The calm before the storm?

"A lot of sniffing happening today," an NHL GM, who requested anonymity, told ESPN.com on Sunday afternoon. "Teams are figuring out what the market is now for rental players. Lots and lots of talking right now, so don't be surprised if there's a flurry of rental moves Monday."

Some big names may move Monday, but the majority of the transactions should be carried by depth defensemen and third- or fourth-line forwards.

Let's begin in Carolina.

Eric Staal's undetermined status won't affect what the Hurricanes will do ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Veteran GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com on Sunday his target remains the same.

"We're pretty satisfied with our team, but if we can add depth to our defense, we would do that if the price was right," Rutherford said.

Rutherford added that a defenseman with an expiring contract would be his preference.

In the meantime, the team is comfortable with how it lined up Saturday with Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter centering the top three lines. Plus, the acquisition of veteran winger Cory Stillman, bolstering the top-six forward group, looks more important than ever.

As for Staal, who got his bell rung Friday night against Pittsburgh, he didn't accompany the team to Montreal as a precaution. Rutherford said the captain would undergo baseline testing Sunday and Monday before the team could have a better idea of his situation.

One player Rutherford will continue to get calls on right up until the final minute Monday is Joni Pitkanen, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. While Rutherford would not comment, our read here is he'd rather keep the talented blueliner for a hopeful playoff run, but will continue to listen to offers in case one blows him away.


• A day after sending captain Bryan McCabe to the New York Rangers, the big question surrounding the Florida Panthers and GM Dale Tallon is whether he can move his other big-ticket item, netminder Tomas Vokoun (UFA July 1). But it's believed there was little interest in the veteran netminder, who has a no-movement clause and is playing out the final year on a contract that pays him $5.7 million. The market for a starting goaltender has all but dried up.

Still, Tallon was expected to be busy with other veteran players, including Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner, both UFAs July 1.

Reasoner is attractive to teams looking for a third- or fourth-line center that is adept at killing penalties. Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, for instance, told ESPN.com he has been looking for someone to take the penalty-killing pressure off his top players. The Vancouver Canucks are likewise looking for someone with Reasoner's skill set.

There may also be some interest in another UFA-to-be Panther, Christopher Higgins, although he's out of action with a broken thumb and it's not known when he might return.

• There is a lot of interest in Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles, who has a limited no-trade clause and could be helpful to a team looking for a veteran puck-moving defenseman. As we reported Saturday, Toronto is among the teams that have expressed interest in the 30-year-old Liles, who has another year left on his contract at a $4.2 million cap hit. That number may scare off some suitors, although Liles has tied a career-high for assists this season with 35.

• Another Avalanche player whose name is receiving a lot of attention is center Paul Stastny, even though multiple sources tell ESPN.com he isn't in play at all.

With three years left at $6.6 million annually, it's hard to imagine many teams willing to take on that kind of commitment for a player who hasn't yet established himself as a No. 1 center. But the 25-year-old Stastny, a member of last year's silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team, has a lot of upside. It's all a moot point if he's not in play, but that may not deter teams that are looking to improve their offense, both short-term and long-term.

• The Blackhawks continue their search for a No. 5 defenseman, one that kills penalties. A source told ESPN.com on Sunday that they are quite smitten with Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers, although the price was still too high to get him as of Sunday morning, so the Hawks may have to look elsewhere. The Hawks are also looking for a center.

• In Vancouver, young backup goalie Corey Schneider isn't expected to go anywhere, a source said. While he's a valuable chip to eventually cash in for the Canucks, it's expected the team will wait at least until the June draft to begin shopping him. Right now, they need him for insurance in a Cup run.

• The New York Islanders might move Radek Martinek, just the kind of No. 5-6 defenseman that's in demand on deadline day. The 34-year-old is UFA July 1.

• Our colleague Renaud Lavoie of the French-language sports network RDS in Montreal reported Sunday that the Canadiens were not done shopping, looking intently for a forward.