Now that Sweden's victory against Finland in the gold-medal match at the Turin Olympics is so yesterday, attention will shift to the National Hockey League trade deadline. After midnight tonight, general managers have until March 9 at 3 p.m. EST to put the final stamps on their clubs for the 2005-06 season, and many won't know which way to go until later next week, thanks to some tight playoff races.
The salary cap will put handcuffs on some teams but that doesn't mean trades will not happen. Still, clubs that have little breathing room under the cap will have no choice but to deal players off their roster rather than picks or prospects. Also, with the deadline two weeks earlier than it has been in the past, NHL players will get paid three times afterward. Some teams will be discouraged from going the rent-a-player route, and some will think they're still in playoff contention, so they won't rip up what they have.
No matter, there will be plenty to keep an eye on before the regular season ends on April 18. For the next 10 days, the looming trade deadline will be front and centre. Here's a look at some of the winds that have been swirling:
The Carolina Hurricanes have landed their big fish in centre Doug Weight and it would not be a surprise if they are quiet ... Two names have been linked to the Ottawa Senators for awhile: Centre Olli Jokinen and goalie Dwayne Roloson. Ottawa would like to move forward Vaclav Varada, but may have to part with some youth if it wants to improve ... Defencemen are a priority for the Vancouver Canucks, with injuries to Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo and Mattias Ohlund. Eric Weinrich of the St. Louis Blues is a possibility ... There is speculation the Nashville Predators had an inside track on Washington Capitals defenceman Brendan Witt before the Olympic break. Caps GM George McPhee has said Witt will be dealt. Others with interest include the Maple Leafs, Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings ... Colorado and Vancouver also could use Jokinen ... The Philadelphia Flyers would like to fill the hole left by centre Keith Primeau, if there is a hole to fill. Primeau, suffering from a concussion, remains unsure whether he will play again this season. Could Mark Recchi return for a third stint in Philly?
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
The next 10 days are crucial for the Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Minnesota Wild. A good run would put these clubs in more comfortable territory, but a slump could be disastrous to post-season hopes. Even so, Leafs general manager John Ferguson could do with trading forward Nik Antropov (some speculation has him going to Chicago for Tyler Arnason), Jason Allison, Ken Klee and if the right situation arises, Ed Belfour ... The Canadiens would be willing to part with forwards Mike Ribeiro and Radek Bonk ... If the Ducks fall by the wayside, defencemen Keith Carney and Ruslan Salei, both bound to be unrestricted free agents this summer, could be moved ... The Bruins are not expected to trade goalie Andrew Raycroft.
Expect some bodies to move out of Phoenix if the Coyotes, already 10 points out, fall further back. Seeing goalie Curtis Joseph go back to the Edmonton Oilers would not be a shock but he also might interest the Canucks and Senators. GM Mike Barnett said no player is untouchable, but added a core group, presumably Shane Doan, Ladislav Nagy, Keith Ballard and Zbynek Michalek, would stay in Phoenix ... Whether the Bruins fall out of the post-season picture, what to do about left winger Sergei Samsonov? He is due to become unrestricted and there have been no talks between his agent and Bruins management ... Left-winger Jeff Friesen has struggled mightily with the Caps but his playoff success with New Jersey might interest a playoff club ... The Pittsburgh Penguins would love to trade expensive bust Sergei Gonchar but no one wants to pay him $20 million US in the next four years. Also available are forwards Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Ryan Malone and defenceman Ric Jackman ... The Buffalo Sabres have a glut with goalies Martin Biron, Ryan Miller and Mika Noronen. The latter wants out ... Goalie Vesa Toskala could be on his way out from San Jose ... The Blues began unloading when they dealt Weight and Mike Sillinger and would do the same with Keith Tkachuk if they could find any takers for his contract. Dean McAmmond and Dallas Drake also could be moved ... Care for a Chicago Blackhawk? Take your pick. The majority is available.
When the trade deadline and playoff races aren't at the fore, there are several milestones in the crosshairs: With 88 points, Jaromir Jagr leads the scoring parade and is one of a handful of players (Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Daniel Alfredsson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Savard and Dany Heatley) who could top 100 points. Just five players in the past five seasons have amassed 100 points ... Eight players -- Jagr, Simon Gagne, Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Staal, Alfredsson, Heatley and Jonathan Cheechoo -- are on pace for 50 goals ... Staal is on pace for 108 points. The Carolina Hurricanes franchise record is 105, set by Mike Rogers ... Jagr is on pace for 124 points. That would be the most for any NHLer since Jagr had 127 in 1998-99.