Trade deadline looming

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

The games that NHL general managers are playing with each other have hit high stakes.

Although it's clear dominoes are being set up across the league as far as trades go, it's not obvious when they will begin to fall.

"There's hardly anything out there right now, unless you're willing to give up something very, very significant," Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. "You can get a top-six forward, a goal-scorer, but it's going to cost, it's going to cost a lot."

A couple of GMs, Brian Burke in Anaheim and David Poile in Nashville, have said they have no interest in mortgaging the future for the present. Poile learned the hard way last year when he acquired Peter Forsberg for a hefty package and watched as the Predators retained their pretender status in a first-round playoff elimination at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.

As fans hop from one foot to the other in impatience at the lack of deals, remember that the heated phone lines last February did not begin to bear trade fruit until the last few days before the deadline.

MORE OFFERS COMING?

Did Kevin Lowe start a trend last summer? Perhaps, former Philadelphia Flyers GM Bob Clarke figured.

Lowe got some of his colleagues upset when he signed Dustin Penner, then with Anaheim, to an offer sheet after trying the same course with Thomas Vanek of Buffalo. Clarke, who dipped his foot into controversy when he signed Ryan Kesler to an offer sheet a few years ago only to see the Vancouver Canucks match it, would not be surprised if more GMs followed Lowe's path. Clarke shook his head at the GMs who get their hackles up when offer sheets are signed.

"It is in the rule book," Clarke said. "The responsibility of a manager is to do what is right for your club. Who gives a care about the other 29 teams? If it is right for your club, do it if it's in the rules. They put the rules in, use them."

The crop of restricted free agents this summer will be deep, and is slated to include the Flyers' Jeff Carter, Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and Wojtek Wolski of the Colorado Avalanche. Already gone from that list are Mike Richards, Dion Phaneuf and Ryan Getzlaf, who have signed long-term pacts.

FORSBERG FOLLIES

About the only suspense remaining in the Forsberg sweepstakes is when he returns to the NHL, not if he does.

Forsberg's return has been in the minds of several players, with Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators telling reporters this week that he thinks Forsberg will sign with the Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks' Markus Naslund saying Forsberg is "definitely coming back."

Forsberg has been given clearance by his foot surgeon to resume his NHL career, but Forsberg does not want to come back to the NHL until he absolutely is certain he will not have further problems with his right foot.

"If Peter is not healthy, Peter won't come back in the NHL," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "I have full confidence in that. I don't feel he would come back here unless he feels he can play at the level he needs to play. He was embarrassed last year."

Forsberg's decision is expected in the next week or so, because he does not want to give prospective teams plenty of time to do something before the trading deadline if he turns them down.

The final three possibilities for Forsberg are thought to be the Flyers, Canucks and Avalanche.

ICE CHIPS

The Canucks could face a couple of hungry youngsters this weekend. Paul Stastny might return tonight to the Avalanche lineup against the Canucks after recovering from an appendectomy, while Chicago Blackhawks rookie Jonathan Toews, out since Jan. 1 because of a sprained left knee, could play against Vancouver tomorrow ... Though the Buffalo Sabres would rather re-sign defenceman Brian Campbell and have not given up on doing so, the rumours remain strong that Campbell will wind up with the Blackhawks. Cam Barker and Jack Skille could go to the Sabres ... Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson met with captain Adam Foote on Wednesday but there has been no resolution regarding the defenceman's future with the team. "I have no intention of trading him if we're in a playoff race," Howson said.


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