NHL trade deadline looking up

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

Let’s hope that the two fairly significant trades this week — the Ottawa Senators’ dealing of Mike Fisher to the Nashville Predators for a first-round pick and a conditional choice, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner from the Anaheim Ducks for Francois Beauchemin — are the initial indications of what is to come on Feb. 28, the day of the NHL trade deadline.

For several years, the actual deadline day has helped insomniacs get a good day’s rest. Plenty of trades happen, but few involve players of great value. And usually when players are brought in for playoff runs, they don’t become large factors in Stanley Cup victories.

But the intrigue has gone into full swing with the aforementioned swaps and the acknowledgement of Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli that he has had potential trade discussions involving the 2011 first-rounder acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal.

Chiarelli has to compensate for the loss of Marc Savard but, of course, he won’t be the only GM looking for help. And on paper, at least, there should be some fairly big names available, whether they are forwards, defencemen or goalies.

Among the players who could be traded — based on the fact they are going to be unrestricted on July 1 and play for teams that appear to be out of the playoff race — are Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe of the Florida Panthers, Alexei Kovalev and Chris Phillips of the Senators, Jason Arnott of the New Jersey Devils, Milan Hejduk of the Colorado Avalanche and Tomas Kaberle and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Maple Leafs.

There’s no doubt that others will be swapped. Just keep your fingers crossed that we’re not looking back in a few weeks with the realization that the Fisher and Lupul trades were the biggest in February.

Past to help the Pens?

An intriguing team to watch in the next couple of months will be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With captain Sidney Crosby unsure of his return from a concussion and Evgeni Malkin finished because of torn knee ligaments, the Penguins will be glad that they put a 12-game winning streak in the bank earlier this season.

And this is where the experience that comes with winning a Stanley Cup, as the Penguins did two years ago, should be a benefit. Subtracting Crosby and Malkin from the Pittsburgh lineup re-inforces how much the pair meant to their team’s success. But no fewer than 12 other current Penguins played some kind of role on the club that beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in 2009. These guys have had to deal with adversity and they’ve come through.

“It’s not going to be pretty hockey, right now,” Jordan Staal said. “This is one of those unusual things and, hopefully, we can get through it.”

Entering Friday, the Penguins had 74 points and were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, which gave them a 16-point cushion over the Atlanta Thrashers, who were in ninth with 58. The Penguins, who have injuries to several other players, will face a stiff test in winning more than they lose down the stretch, but we don’t see them bottoming out.

Ice chips

One statistic that is hard to figure is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goal differential. The Lightning has 71 points and is sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference, 16 games over .500, but it has given up 169 goals, one more than the 168 it has scored. The teams on either side of the Lightning in the standings before Friday’s games — the Philadelphia Flyers and Bruins — both were plus-44 in goal differential ... A favourite memory of Andrew Peters, who officially retired: His fight with goalie Ray Emery, then with the Ottawa Senators, nearly four years ago. Forget goalie-versus-goalie scraps. Watching Peters, then with the Buffalo Sabres, and Emery exchange punches was a stranger, yet better, spectacle ... Does anything say small town more than an Ottawa radio station banning Carrie Underwood songs because her husband was traded to Nashville?

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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