Sellers at NHL trade deadline

GEORGE POPALIS, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

TORONTO -- The NHL's trade deadline is just under a month away and that means it's time for teams to assess their chances and decide whether they are buyers or sellers.

As it stands now there are 25 teams still in reasonable playoff contention, which leaves a few possible sellers that could make great trading partners as the deadline approaches. The vultures are circling their prey; let's look at four teams that could get picked apart come Feb. 28:

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: (17-30-3) 15TH IN EASTERN CONFERENCE

There's not a team or a general manager in the league that has had a tougher go-around this season than the Devils and Lou Lamoriello. A bad signing, an aging goaltender and injuries have taken their toll on these Devils and they've been stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference all season long.

For the first time in more than a decade the focus will be on who Lamoriello might unload at the deadline, instead of who he might add for another Stanley Cup run.

While the Devils may not want to give up on their core players, Jason Arnott is a seasoned veteran who could easily be moved to a Cup contender. With more than 100 NHL playoff games under his belt, the 36-year-old has the proven post-season experience to go along with a very attractive contract that makes him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds he'd bring a bruising physical style requisite for a long playoff run, while also adding some valuable scoring touch. The veteran centre has 12 goals and only 22 points through 50 games, but could benefit from moving to a contender with a more potent offence. Although Arnott has a no-trade-clause in his contract, he has said he would waive it for a chance at a second Stanley Cup. He won his first with the Devils in 2000.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: (22-23-6) 11TH IN EASTERN CONFERENCE

Just seven points back of a playoff spot, these Panthers aren't done yet. But at some point over the next 25 days, general manager Dale Tallon will have to decide whether Florida will be buyers or sellers. With ties and shootouts happening on a nightly basis around the league, gaining ground in the East will be tough, so let's assume the trade winds blow the doors wide open in Florida.

The most obvious candidate for a change of scenery is goaltender Thomas Vokoun, whose name always seems to pop up around deadline time. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and although preliminary extension talks have been started with Vokoun's agent, there's no guarantee anything gets done in time for the deadline. Vokoun has had sparkling numbers over the past three seasons in Florida while playing for some pretty bad teams and this year has been no different. His 2.51 GAA and .923 SV% are good enough to make GM's with goaltending issues salivate, so would you have to think a few teams make a serious run at the 12-year veteran.

Other movable pieces set to become UFA's this summer include long-time NHL'ers Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe, who would make great rentals down the stretch. But there's a more intriguing name that keeps popping up in trade rumors and that's Stephen Weiss. The Panthers' leading scorer (14 G, 35 P) would offer a short-term scoring boost to a contending team and at only 27- years-old, he could become a long-term building block.

OTTAWA SENATORS: (17-27-8) 13TH IN EASTERN CONFERENCE

For a team that has made the playoffs in 12 of the last 13 seasons, a drop-off like the one Senators are experiencing this season may be surprising to some, but no goaltending, no defence, and no scoring will do that to a team. This is a club that's 29th in the league in goals-scored-per-game and 26th in goals against, while there's not a single player on the roster who has played more than 15 games with a positive plus/minus rating. In short, they've been pitiful.

With general manager Bryan Murray in the final months of his tenure, he's ready to blow things up in Ottawa and there are only a few untouchables. Murray has made it known that Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson are going nowhere, but anyone else on the roster might want to prepare for a possible move.

The most likely candidate for a trade out of Ottawa could be veteran blueliner Chris Philips. In the final year of his contract, the 32-year-old becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, making him the perfect rental player. With plenty of teams desperate for help on the back end, the smart stay-at-home defenceman could get a long look. Others who might draw serious interest include Mike Fisher, Jarkko Ruutu and maybe even Alexei Kovalev, who could be an offensive sparkplug in the right situation.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: (20-25-5) 12TH IN EASTERN CONFERENCE

The Maple Leafs have interesting and very movable pieces on their roster, meaning general manager Brian Burke will be a very busy man over the next few weeks. The most sought after player will likely be veteran defenceman Thomas Kaberle who becomes a UFA this summer.

The talented puck mover has a no-movement clause in his contract that always seems to be a contentious issue in Toronto at deadline time, but he recently hinted to the fact that he might be open to waiving the clause for the right deal. Whether or not the Leafs get anything back for the 32-year-old may not matter as much since his $4.25 million salary coming off the books would give Burke more financial flexibility in the offseason. At this point, all the pressure is on Kaberle and whether or not he wants to seek out greener pastures before season's end.

J.S. Giguere is another big contract that's heading for free agency this offseason. The veteran Stanley Cup winner has had moderate success with the Leafs this year when healthy and could shore up the goaltending situation on a contending club. Francois Beauchemin is another name that is coming up in trade rumors. Although he too has a no trade clause, it is believed that Burke has a list of 12 teams where the 30-year-old blueliner would accept a trade.


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