In the compressed NHL season following the lockout, many GMs are unwilling to cash in on their biggest trading assets until they are certain that the playoffs are out of reach.
The race is especially tight in the Western Conference, where five teams sit one win out of the playoffs and the last place team in the conference, the Colorado Avalanche, is only three wins behind the eighth-place San Jose Sharks for the final playoff spot.
The Eastern Conference looks almost equally tight, with three teams only four or less points out of the playoff picture.
As a result, proven star talent is at a premium and many teams will be making last-minute decisions over the next two weeks to see if they can extract greater value
Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks)
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With the San Jose Sharks not having missed the playoffs since the 2002-03 season, GM Doug Wilson will be anxious to see how the team performs over the next few weeks as the Sharks currently sit in the last playoff spot in the Western Conference and third in the Pacific Division. With talented offensive defensemen that shoot from the right at a premium, defenseman Dan Boyle represents a lot of trade value that Wilson may cash in on.
Boyle is currently in the penultimate year of his $6.66 million per-year contract, and the Sharks may be looking towards the future with a core of players such as Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, and Brent Burns.
The 36-year old defenseman has remained a strong quarterback on the power play and continues to eat up a lot of minutes despite his age.
Derek Roy (Dallas Stars)
Derek Roy was the other half of the one-for-one swap that sent former Dallas Stars forward Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals. As a defensive-minded center that takes care of all the intangibles like winning puck battles, protecting the puck through the neutral zone, and supporting the back check, Roy will be turning quite a few heads when he hits free agency in the summer.
The Stars may want to cash in on his value while they can, especially after losing out on getting any value from Brad Richards when he left for the New York Rangers last summer.
Jay Bouwmeester (Calgary Flames)
The 29-year-old defenseman isn’t known for his offensive prowess, but he is the established number one defenseman for the Calgary Flames, eating up solid minutes while not missing a single game in the last eight seasons.
However, the Flames haven’t made the playoffs in the last three seasons after Bouwmeester came from Florida and moving his $6.68 million a year cap hit will give the Flames room to rebuild. With defensemen in demand, the Flames could get some extra value out of Bouwmeester as they look to the future.
Robert Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
After Cory Schneider displaced Robert Luongo as the Canucks’s starting goaltender, the hockey world was certain that Luongo would be traded as his $5.33 million a year salary-cap hit was a bit hefty considering his new role as backup goalie.
However, Luongo has been thriving in a backup role playing in tandem with Schneider, with the Canucks tied for the Northwest Division lead with Minnesota. Washington and Toronto are reportedly interested in a move for Luongo, but GM Mike Gillis will have to lower his asking price if he hopes to ship out Luongo before the trade deadline occurs.
Jason Pominville (Buffalo Sabres)
Right-winger Jason Pominville could be on his way out of Buffalo after GM Darcy Regier noted that he could become available. The 30-year old forward has been a solid offensive contributor and also serves as the captain of the team. However, Buffalo is all but ready to start over completely and rebuild from the ground up with players such as Cody Hodgson.
Regier is also willing to listen to offers for defenseman Jordan Leopold, forward Thomas Vanek, and goalie Ryan Miller.
Thomas Vanek (Buffalo Sabres)
In a similar situation as Pominville, forward Thomas Vanek faces the possibility of leaving Buffalo after having been drafted by the organization with their first-round pick, fifth overall, back in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
While Vanek has made huge offensive contributions to the Sabres over the years, he is currently on a contract with a $7.14 million per year cap hit due to expire at the end of the 2013-2014 season. The current trade window represents a good opportunity for Regier to cash in on his prolific forward and perhaps lure in another strong asset that could lead the Sabres back into the playoff picture in the upcoming years.