It's easy to identify possible trade targets by searching the list of potential free agents. But it's a little bit more difficult to decipher the attractiveness of those players who still have time on their existing contracts. With the salary cap set to go down to $64.3 million next season from this year's prorated $70.2 million, obtaining a player with another year on their deal can be either a burdensome risk that outweighs the short-term value of acquiring the player or provides some stability moving into the offseason. Here's a look at some top-end players who have another year left on their deals and who could be in play this week:
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres Vanek is injured but it was interesting to hear him talk about his future with the team during the weekend. Vanek, who has one year left on his contract at a $7.142 million cap hit (his actual salary is a more manageable $6.4 million), seemed less than thrilled at the prospect of sticking around if the underachieving Sabres are going into rebuild mode. Vanek is a top-end talent offensively (he has a team-best 33 points in 28 games) but, on a team that has consistently lacked leadership in recent years and hasn't won a playoff round since 2007, he certainly hasn't made a dent in that department. GM Darcy Regier would no doubt be looking for a significant return in terms of a first-round pick and collection of top prospects if the Sabres decide to go this route. Vanek does not possess any restrictions on his contract that would prevent Regier from moving him if the deal was right.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres Miller is in an interesting position given the trade rumors that surround the Sabres and the relatively dormant market for starting netminders at the deadline. The former Vezina Trophy winner has one year left on his deal with a $6.25 million cap hit and there is a feeling the time may have come for a change of scenery for both the team and the franchise netminder. Of course, it's hard to tell what the team will look like vis a vis the GM and head coaching positions after the coming offseason. Perhaps Miller, who controls at least part of his destiny as he can identify eight teams to which he will not be traded, simply hangs around to become the cornerstone of a new era with the Sabres. Maybe that new era includes some other netminder. While Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff are the obvious candidates vis a vis starting goaltenders that could be on the move by Wednesday, Miller has become perhaps the most interesting of the small group. Teams that could be looking for goaltending help include the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers What's wrong with this picture? The New York Rangers are dead last in goals-per game and begin action this week having been shut out twice in a row as they try to hang onto the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Yet there is a possibility the Rangers would move one of their most skilled players in Gaborik as it's clear the bloom is off the rose for the three-time 40-goal scorer. Gaborik has been in and out and back into head coach John Tortorella's doghouse this season and has tallied just nine times in 31 games. He's been benched and moved up and down the lineup. With one year left on his deal at $7.5 million and a no-trade clause, moving Gaborik wouldn't be the easiest trick to pull off. Clearly the Rangers would be looking to add some skill and grit up front -- the likes of which departed the lineup in the Rick Nash deal and via free agency when Brandon Prust signed with Montreal -- as well as some offense on the back end. It wouldn't have to be in the same deal, but if they can swing it, the Rangers would love to get some assets for Gaborik they could possibly flip to satisfy some of those aforementioned needs (i.e. a Ryane Clowe or Boyle). It would be a bold move to send Gaborik packing but hard to see how things could get any worse at least offensively for the Blueshirts and for Gaborik himself.
Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche The Avs are a mess unless you think being in the hunt for the first overall pick in June's draft is a good thing. After botching the Ryan O'Reilly offer sheet, GM Greg Sherman is under some considerable pressure to make something positive happen and moving Stastny might be one step in that direction. Stastny, who was moved to the injured list Monday with a foot injury sustained a week ago, has one year left on a deal with a hefty $6.6 million cap hit. He is unencumbered in that the lack of a no-trade or no-move clause, which means he can be dealt at the team's discretion. Still, Stastny's numbers have never approached that which his salary suggest he should have attained -- he has eight goals in 31 games this season -- which might serve as its own no-move mechanism. Still, the 27-year-old is physical and can play center, which would make him attractive to a number of teams not the least of which would be the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames Cammalleri is an interesting case as he has one year left on a deal that carries a big $6 million cap hit and even bigger $7 million price tag in real salary. He also has a limited no-trade clause. But anyone who watched the Montreal Canadiens' magical run to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, a run that included upsets of top-seeded Washington and defending Cup champion Pittsburgh, knows Cammalleri has that rare ability to elevate his game to another level when the stakes are the highest. Can you say high risk, high reward?
Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres Two NHL captains have already been dealt this trade deadline period (Brenden Morrow of Dallas and Jarome Iginla of Calgary both going to Pittsburgh), so why not a third? Pominville has one year left on a contract that will pay him $5.5 million with a slightly lower cap hit of $5.3 million. It's a lot of dough for a player with just 10 goals this season. Like his teammate Miller, Pominville can identify eight teams to which he will not be traded. The Sabres have to decide if their captain is going to be part of their long-term plans just as he will have to decide if he wants to stick around beyond next season. Montreal might be a good landing place, although that would require trading in-division.
Jamie McBain, Carolina Hurricanes As our Pierre LeBrun reported Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes would entertain offers for the big defenseman, who was selected 63rd overall in 2006. The Hurricanes just opened the vault to sign Alexander Semin long term and have a collection of good young defensemen in the pipeline, so McBain might be an attractive option for a team looking to add some depth along the blue line. McBain has one more year left on his contract with a $1.8 million cap hit ($1.9 million in real salary) and the fact he's just 25 should be another attractive element for GMs to consider. With Ladislav Smid signing an extension with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the number of economical defensemen with a lot of upside became even smaller.