SUN Hockey Pool

NHL GMs in the sun for ice talk

PIERRE LEBRUN

, Last Updated: 12:43 PM ET

NAPLES, Fla. -- With anticipation growing as the trade deadline approaches, the NHL's 30 general managers are gathering in this picturesque part of Florida for their annual three-day meeting.

Officially, there's an agenda from the league to look at possible rule changes and the general state of the game in meetings today through Wednesday. Unofficially, it's a great opportunity for GMs to get some face time with their potential trade partners ahead of the deadline Feb. 26.

"It's part of our job, everybody talks and has conversations," San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson said yesterday. "It's an interesting time in that where this game is at. With the parity and the competition amongst the teams, the history of the moves that were made last year, the number of players with no-trades, it's a fascinating time in our business."

Making trades isn't what it used to be. Between the more than 100 no-trade clauses that exist in the NHL and the salary cap system that limits payrolls on teams, it's yet again been a quiet year in terms of moves. The Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators completed a four-player transaction last Monday, but that has yet to trigger more deals.

Still, several GMs around the league said their phone calls are getting more pressing as the deadline approaches. Meeting in Naples will accentuate that. The later the season goes, the smaller the cap hit in absorbing a salary, and that's why there was a flurry of moves at the deadline last year and in 2006.

"I think there will be some movement, but maybe not as much as some people think," said veteran New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

Last year, the GMs also met in Naples, but didn't complete a trade of any significance. Instead, they planted the seeds for moves at the deadline a week later. That's exactly what happened between Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, who laid the groundwork during these meetings for the Ryan Smyth trade.

Atlanta Thrashers GM and head coach Don Waddell hasn't been able to re-sign star winger Marian Hossa to a contract extension ahead of his impending unrestricted free agency.

Plenty of suitors will line up for Hossa.

Does he take the best package in order to get value in return for a player who may walk away July 1? Or does he keep the player because he's so integral to the team's pursuit of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference?

Darcy Regier finds himself in a similarly tough position. The Buffalo Sabres GM is trying to re-sign all-star defenceman Brian Campbell, who, like Hossa, will be an unrestricted free agent July 1.

It won't all be trade talk. Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke is forging ahead with his idea of altering the collective bargaining agreement to allow teams to retain salary in trades.

Burke has been touting this idea for two years and on many levels it makes sense. Each team would be allowed to retain a limited salary under the cap. It would help facilitate trades earlier in the season when almost none are completed. Trades excite fans, which is needed for a sport dying to get more attention in the U.S.


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