GMs eyeing elite alternatives

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Brad Richards, Marian Hossa, Olli Jokinen and Brian Campbell will replace Mats Sundin as tomorrow's deadline headliners.

Now that the Toronto captain has refused once and for all to relinquish his no-trade clause, National Hockey League general managers are stepping over each other to get the remaining premier players ahead of the 3 p.m. EST deadline.

With Hossa deemed unsignable by Atlanta before tomorrow and news that Richards has agreed to hear offers despite his no-trade clause with the Tampa Bay, the final day and half countdown has become a mad scramble.

But Vancouver GM Dave Nonis, whose team won three in a row last week to get back in a playoff spot, said he would try and resist the temptation of swinging for the fences.

"It doesn't make any sense," he told Vancouver reporters. "You're up a point or you're down a point and you're going to blow your brains out? I agree it's exciting when you add players, but it has to make sense now and in the future."

Richards, immersed in a five-year $39-million US deal, is suddenly a hinderance to the cost-cutting new ownership of the Lightning, which could use the money to keep big-ticket teammates Vince Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and another potential trade gem, defenceman Dan Boyle.

Earlier lobbying for Richards by teams such as Columbus and Philadelphia might pay off (the Jackets could offer him a spot on a line with Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev), but expect stronger Cup contenders such as Anaheim to get involved by today. One or both of Ottawa and Montreal, which seemed set to face off over Hossa, could change gears and pursue Richards.

"We've had a lot of offers. We expect more," Thrashers GM Don Waddell said on the weekend. "If the best deal is no deal, we'll keep Marian and move on."

Montreal is certainly open to a rental player GM Bob Gainey says. "I think we had a pretty good experience with Alex Kovalev a few years ago," he understated.

Detroit GM Ken Holland has predicted that many clubs would wait until the completion of last night's games before committing to trades, given that 27, including the Leafs, were either in the playoffs or within seven points of the eighth-place clubs.

That's about eight more clubs than this time last year, with more than half the league still within range of a division title and home ice advantage for the first playoff round.

If Jokinen finally gives up on hapless Florida, Minnesota has been his frequent suitor.

The Flyers looked like solid playoff contenders until a spate of injuries and a 10-game losing streak put them in peril. Now, instead of just looking for a mobile defenceman (Leaf Tomas Kaberle was in their sights until he dug in on his no-trade clause), they could be looking for both forwards and rearguards.

Buffalo is trying to unload defenceman Campbell after contract talks fell apart, but while the Flyers have something to offer in Jeff Carter, there is bad blood between the clubs from the Daniel Briere signing last summer when the Sabres felt Philly jumped the gun in courting him.


Videos

Photos