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The Gambler

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Lately when I think of Jim Rutherford, I start humming the famous Kenny Rogers song, "you've got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em," yadda, yadda, yadda. You can tell we're within 30 days of the trade deadline because JR is in full "neither confirm or deny" mode. He's being quoted as saying something different in the paper almost every day! Monday he said that the Canes had a surplus of defensemen and that he was entertaining offers. He also said he was in the market for 1 or 2 forwards and that the Canes had assets that he could offer if the right deal came up. That's really nothing earthshaking or new there, he has said before that the Canes were wanting to add another forward. But in yesterday's paper he backed off on that a bit by saying that he wasn't sure that adding a forward would help the team. Last year he felt that adding the right players could put the team over the top. This year he's not so sure because the team has been so inconsistent. Is that some type of message to the team to get their butts in gear or is he just blowing smoke at the media? One never knows with Rutherford. As I have said before on this blog, you don't want to play poker with the man. My bet would be that he will add a forward though.

Let's take a look at who the Canes might trade. I'm going to make 3 categories of players. The "No Way they get traded Group A", the "Possible but unlikely trade bait group B" and the "Guys I want to see gone ASAP trade fodder, Group C". Now this can get pretty complicated because the guys I might want to be traded could be the hardest to trade because of contract issues or their recent performances. But let's take a look.

Most of the team will be in Group A: Staal, Williams, Brind'Amour, Whitney, Stillman, Walker, Ladd, Cole, Belanger, Ward, Grahame, Commodore, Hedican, Wesley, Wallin, Gleason, and Kaberle. I would be shocked if we traded any of the players in Group A.

Group B: Seidenberg, LaRose, Adams, and Babchuk. In my opinion, management would prefer to keep these players. But they may become vulnerable if the Canes want to get a difference maker or a high end rental. They really can't afford to give up very many draft picks like last year. Instead of dealing a future first round pick, they could deal someone like Babchuk, who is a former first round pick. I think Anton is the most valuable of these players, has huge potential, and would be one of the last Group B players I would trade, but if you could get the services of a healthy Peter Forsberg for Babchuk and Adams or LaRose? It just might make JR think about it. The problem with trading Babchuk though is that the Canes already have tons of time invested in him. Maybe at this point in his career, he's worth more than a 1st round pick? He could be up in Group A.

Group C: Hutchinson, Tanabe, and Letowski. These guys I think are the most expendable, but is it possible to even trade them? Tanabe is a free agent at the end of the year. There's really no reason for a non-contending team to trade an asset for him now when they can sign him at the end of the year. David has played well lately though, so JR could trade him to another contender for a draft pick which could be packaged in a different deal later. Yes, there could be multiple deals! Also, sometimes there are "throw in players", players the new team doesn't really want but takes so that the team receiving the high paid player can free up roster space and salary space. For instance both of the Weight and Recchi deals had throw in players like Boulerice and Nordgren, players who were soon to be free agents that the Blues and Pens probably didn't care of they got or not. That's how Letowski and Hutch may come into the picture. They might be throw in type players which JR moves just to clear room on the roster. But they end up being more of a liability than an asset though because they are both signed through next year. I told you this gets complicated! Minor league players could also be included like Bayda and Aucoin. The Canes also have multiple goalie prospects which could be fodder. I doubt they want to trade Justin Peters, but Kowalski and Nastiuk could certainly be in the mix.

Now let's take a look at the players Rutherford could be interested in. The rumors say that negotiations have begun with St. Louis. There's no way Doug Weight would be a possibility this year. He's under contract again next year for 3 million and the Canes won't take on that salary. Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuk are both candidates though. Guerin leads the team with 20 goals and 35 points. Tkachuk is in 2nd with 33 points. Guerin is cheaper though and faster, he will certainly be sought after by many teams. Both players would be true rentals and are free agents next year.

Peter Forsberg is at the top of most team's wish lists. The Flyers will want a lot in return though and his health is in question. If the Penguins slide out of the playoff picture, Recchi would be a good acquisition. He already knows the team and the area. But the Pens look good enough to keep close to that 8th spot and if that's the case, there's no way they deal Mark.

There are several "B" level type players who aren't tearing the league up, but who might be attained pretty cheaply and would probably be good additions. Gary Roberts, Marty Gelinas, Marco Sturm, Mike York, Shawn Bates, Geoff Sanderson, Bryan Smolinski, and Jozef Stumpel could all be handy additions. The conventional wisdom is that the Canes need another center, so that need could come into play as well. Within the next couple of weeks, some team will make the first move which will probably open up the flood gates. We'll keep an eye open and discuss whatever comes up. Last year, Rutherford won the World Series of Poker when he landed two players at the top of every playoff team's want list! I doubt he can do it again this year but the executive of the year could still have some tricks up his sleeve!

Just briefly, Staal and Williams both represented well in the All Star game. Each had a goal last night. In the skill competition, Staal tied for tops in the accuracy shoot. He also scored during the "In the Zone" competition. He missed in his shootout chance and was in the middle of the pack with the speed skating. Williams buried his only chance in the shootout number 2. Good job boys! One little rant. Why did Staal and Williams have the lowest number of shifts and play the fewest minutes of any All Star forwards? Staal and Willie both had 14 shifts while Briere had 17 and the other lines had 16. Staal only played 11 minutes. Thanks Lindy, hopefully the boys will remember this in the playoffs.

The Canes have an unusual late practice tonight at 5PM. Then it's back to the grindstone with home and home games with the Caps. More about that tomorrow. Go Canes!

Kenny Rogers