This is a fun time of year for many hockey fans. With less than two weeks to go before the trade deadline, rumors, innuendo, and outright propaganda will be flooding most hockey media outlets on a daily basis.
Unlike last season, when the Carolina Hurricanes were selling off almost any player with an expiring contract to the highest bidder, this year Jim Rutherford is in the catbird seat. The Canes could be buyers, they could be sellers, they could do both, or they could do absolutely nothing at all.
But Rutherford is not in the situation where he has to do something, and that's a very good position to be in.
So, how could a team be both buyers and sellers? That all depends upon the players involved and the deals offered.
For example, take a look at Joni Pitkanen. Here's a player who is a very valuable asset and a player who could help most teams who are looking to improve down the stretch. His contract expires at the end of this season and there is a question if the Canes would want to, or be able to, re-sign him again next season.
There are several rumors out there about teams who are interested in this defenseman, but he is also a player who could help the Hurricanes make it to the postseason. Do you trade him or not?
I think it depends upon the deal.
If you're Jim Rutherford, you certainly don't give him away for a second rounder or less. But if you are offered a Joe Corvo -like return from last year: a high draft pick, good prospect, and serviceable player in return, you probably give strong consideration to that type of deal.
In this scenario, you are a seller, even if you aren't necessarily looking to sell.
There was also a rumor out there that the Hurricanes submitted a solid offer for Mike Fisher. The center has two more years on his contract after this one which pays him $4 million next season and $3 million the next. If that rumor is true, that certainly makes the Canes buyers, if they see a specific player out there who fills a perceived need.
So indeed, the team could be both buyers and sellers, if number one, they see a player out there who is available and who fills a need, and/or number two, they get an offer for one of their current players that they can not turn down.
While Pitkanen has been a name bantered around a lot lately, there are a couple of other Canes who could very well be traded, whose names you have not seen much out in rumor land: Ian White and Sergei Samsonov.
Both players have expiring contracts and both could be looked upon as being expendable, if the right deal came up.
White has been solid, but not necessarily spectacular in his own end. He was originally touted as being a perfect partner for Pitkanen, but that pairing never seemed to mesh and he's found himself paired with Jay Harrison as much as anyone else lately.
Samsonov still brings value to the powerplay, has undeniable puck handling abilities, and is chipping in points, but he's had a hard time finding a consistent spot within the Carolina line structure. One game he's on the first line, the next he's on the fourth. From one game to the next, you don't know where he'll be.
Again, these are two players you don't necessarily have to trade, but if the right offer came up, you probably pull the trigger.
Getting back to the Pitkanen talk, Larry Brooks would like to see the big defenseman in New York, but why would Rutherford help out a team he is in direct competition with, to make the playoffs? Brooks also feels that, due to budget concerns, Rutherford almost has to do something with the Finn.
There are no shortage of teams on the prowl for a skilled defenseman. Vancouver keeps losing blueliners and the franchise took another hit this week when former Cane, Andrew Alberts was diagnosed with a broken wrist. San Jose has also been rumored to be in the market, as well as Boston.
Now that the Fisher talk is out there, could the Canes be legitimate buyers and who might they be after?
The Fourth Period.com has them interested in Tomas Kaberle, Dustin Penner, Jason Arnott, and Jim Vandermeer on the site's listing of top 25 trade targets.
I could see Vandermeer happening if the Canes indeed traded Pitkanen and needed another warm body to fill in the rest of the season.
Speaking of Jason Arnott, this is a player whom Matt Karash of Hockeybuzz named in one of his recent articles. I had lunch with Matt a week or so ago and he made some valid arguments. He feels that the Canes would be better served with Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen playing at wing. While Jeff Skinner could be the long term solution for third line or second line center, Arnott would be a nice short term fit and a true rental.
But while Arnott would make the team better, the Canes would still need to deal a roster player to make room for him and that acquisition would make it even tougher to play the talented propects currently waiting in Charlotte.
Karash also is high on Mike Komisarek and thinks the Canes should make a play for him. That deal would not come cheap, but the defenseman looked better in Montreal than he has so far in Toronto. It's an interesting thought.
My thoughts? I don't think the Hurricanes will stray too far from their "rebuilding" mode and go crazy looking for a player in the market. It's not Jim Rutherford's style to be overly aggressive and overpay, especially when the Canes could very well make the postseason without making a single move.
On the other hand, if a player becomes available who has been on management's radar for awhile, watch out. Anything could happen.
We will continue looking closely at these interesting days ahead.
(Mark your calendars. As in the past, we will have an all day Open Thread on trade deadline day, 2/28. The Canes Country crew will be chiming in with our thoughts as the day unfolds.)