Life in NHL isn't easy this time of year

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Stephen Weiss is speaking for probably hundreds of NHLers.

The Florida Panthers forward heads to the rink each day wondering if this will be the day when he plays his last game for his current team. It's the thought process played out in the minds of players across the continent as the Monday trade deadline approaches.

"It's definitely on your mind. You hear it," said the 27-year-old, who was the Panthers' top pick (fourth overall) in the 2001 draft and doesn't know life with any other franchise.

"It's more so the phone calls from back home, family and friends asking what's going on. When you've been with a team this long, sure you think about it. This could be the last game you play, or whatever. I've thought about it, for sure, certainly not on a game day. You do your job and that's it. It doesn't bother me that much."

At least Weiss has some control over his situation as his contract has a no-trade clause. He was to play his 539th regular-season game with the Panthers Wednesday night against the Senators in Ottawa. He has played eight full seasons with the Panthers, eight seasons marked by futility (they are 257-282-38-79 during that span), eight seasons with not a single playoff appearance.

But Weiss, while emphasizing playing in the playoffs is his goal, insisted Wednesday his desire is to get to the playoffs with the Panthers.

"I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be here. I was drafted here and I want to see this team turn the corner and go to where I think it can go. If management comes to me and feels like they want to make a move, then I'll look at that and make a decision. It's certainly no secret. I've told Dale (Tallon, Panthers GM) I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be here and I want to be part of the solution."

Although some steam has been taken out of the market with 10 trades during the past week involving 21 players and eight draft picks (two of them first-rounders), Weiss and his peers shouldn't stop worrying.

One NHL executive said Wednesday he expects this Monday's deadline to be as busy as ever.

There were 32 trades made at last year's deadline, which was March 3.

HEAR AND THERE: You can add the name of Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Mattias Ohlund to the potential pot of available veteran defencemen. The 34-year-old has five years left on a contract with a cap hit of $3.6 million, which Tampa GM Steve Yzerman inherited from the previous regime ... Word early Wednesday from a QMI Agency source was Dallas Stars centre Brad Richards, currently out with concussion-like symptoms, was definitely in play and Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk confirmed it in the afternoon. There are believed to be as many as seven or eight teams interested in the pending unrestricted free agent. Problem for the Stars is they are sitting right on the playoff bubble (along with just about everybody else) in the West and have to decide if they are buyers or sellers ... Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran into Sidney Crosby Wednesday (not quite the way David Steckel did) and said the Penguins captain told him he was feeling better, but still not symptom-free from his concussion ...It's expected the Atlanta Thrashers will announce a four-year contract extension Thursday for general manager Rick Dudley, said a report from the Buffalo News Wednesday. He has overseen the remaking of the Thrashers roster this season, his first as GM after a year as the assistant to now-president Don Waddell.

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