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Insider

Identifying early-season trade candidates

10/11/2011
Zach Parise isn't on the block, but his unresolved contract may generate trade inquiries. Andy Marlin/NHLI/Getty Images

During the first few weeks of the season, most general managers will be in full evaluation mode. Once November hits, the most aggressive teams will start addressing early-season issues. Last November, Ryan O'Byrne, Ian White, Anton Babchuk, Matt Hunwick, Tomas Fleischmann and Scott Hannan were among the notable players involved in a fall trade.

In the parity-filled NHL where every point counts, some teams just can't wait until the trade deadline to make a move. With that in mind, here's a look at 10 players who might not end the season on the team with which they began it.

1. Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils -- Being named the captain is a nice first step in keeping Parise in New Jersey long term, but it doesn't guarantee anything. Parise is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and if he doesn't sign an extension before the trade deadline, Lou Lamoriello will get calls for the talented winger. That still doesn't mean a trade is probable.

"I don't think so," one NHL source said. "When was the last time a franchise player was traded? I would think New Jersey would do everything possible to keep Zach in New Jersey long term."

If the Devils can't, there will be no shortage of interested teams. Parise looks completely recovered from last year's knee injury, scoring twice on Monday in New Jersey's 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

2. Kyle Turris, Phoenix Coyotes -- GM Don Maloney doesn't want to trade Turris and maintains his stance that Turris will play only in Phoenix this season. The Turris holdout came up on CBC during "Hot Stove" on Saturday, and Mike Milbury said it could be a long wait for Turris if he's trying to force a trade. "I worked with Don Maloney on Long Island, and he could dig in," Milbury said. "I think Turris better wake up." I checked in on Monday with Turris' agent, Kurt Overhardt, and he said nothing has changed in the standoff. "Status-quo," Overhardt wrote in an e-mail. "All positive from our side." If Maloney softens his stance, CBC's Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets may be interested in acquiring Turris.

3. Cory Schneider, Vancouver Canucks -- At some point an NHL team will step up and make a strong enough offer to the Canucks to get them to move their talented backup goalie. It just hasn't happened yet. "I'm surprised teams didn't come harder [this past summer]," one NHL source said. "Everybody calls and inquires, but they're waiting for the Canucks to have a bad day and give him away. Mike Gillis and the staff know you don't give this guy away."

Last season, Schneider went 16-4-2 with a .929 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average. His two-year deal expires in the summer of 2012, when he'll be a restricted free agent. Until then, Schneider has been an outstanding team player, never complaining about his position in Roberto Luongo's shadow. "It's not something I can control," Schneider told the Vancouver Sun. "[The Canucks have] expressed that they like me a lot and that that they don't have any plans on moving me any time soon, so I'm not sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop."

4. Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators -- Gonchar wasn't a fit with Cory Clouston but is excited for a bounce-back season under Paul MacLean. If he really clicks, he may be an attractive veteran to add even though he has another year left on a healthy contract. The Senators are loaded with talented young defensemen, and Ottawa might want to keep Gonchar around to continue mentoring the group. "He's been around a long time," Erik Karlsson said. "He knows so much about the game and what you need to do right now to be good out there. Even though he got hurt last year, he still always supports you and tries to help you out. He's a really good guy and cares about what you do out there."

5. Filip Kuba, Senators -- A rough year last season (including an ugly minus-26) means Kuba is going to have to prove to contenders that he's worth the $3.7 million he's owed this season. If he shows signs that he's closer to the player who had 40 points in his first season in Ottawa, the trade rumors will heat up. He's prepared to deal with it. "I don't read any newspapers or watch any hockey news on television," Kuba said. "I get ready for every game and to be a part of this hockey team."

6. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders -- Al Montoya is getting the early action in goal for the Islanders, who have started the season with three goalies on the roster. Nabokov stopped 17 of 20 shots in his final appearance of the preseason, a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. It's going to be a battle for playing time with the Islanders. "Knowing Garth [Snow], he's going to play whoever wins games and let it sort itself out," a league source said. "He's going to have some [trade] assets. It's a team that's really transitioning with their young core."

7. Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs -- GM Brian Burke acquired David Steckel, and Matthew Lombardi has returned from injury sooner than many expected. That means the Leafs have some depth down the middle when Tim Connolly returns to health, making Bozak expendable. "I'm not thinking of it, not at all," Bozak told the Toronto Sun. He's been skating with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul and has one assist through two games. And he's a plus-3. Burke also has a surplus of defensemen he could package in a bigger deal.

8. Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers -- The Toronto Star's Damien Cox suggested on Twitter that the Leafs are interested in trading for Gagner, who is recovering from a high-ankle sprain. He started the season on the injured reserve and isn't rushing back after dealing with an ankle injury last season. Cox suggested that the Oilers are looking for a defenseman, but according to the Edmonton Sun, if the Oilers are going to add a defenseman, it's going to be someone on the high end, not a depth defenseman. "And if you're talking about a top-three defenseman, I don't see that happening at this point," GM Steve Tambellini told the Sun. "We are a little banged up right now, but by the sounds of it, it shouldn't be that far away before we get a couple of them back."

9. Ales Hemsky, Oilers -- Hemsky is in the final year of a contract that pays him $4.1 million, and according to CapGeek.com, it's one without a no-trade clause. As the trade deadline gets closer, his name will come up repeatedly in trade rumors unless a new deal gets done. First, he has to prove he can stay healthy. He sat seven months with a shoulder injury but is back and playing on a line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hemsky played 17:23 in the opener and had an assist.

10. Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators -- The goal right now in Nashville is to find a way to sign all three of its franchise players -- Suter, Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber. But if the Predators can't, trading one of them has to at least be considered. "That's not a thought process for me today," said Nashville GM David Poile. Today? "Anything can change in this situation. I'm just focused on having a real good year this year," Poile said.

Notes

• A law firm that now represents former enforcers Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson released a statement that said it is considering "further recourse" against Don Cherry following his critical comments on Oct. 6, where he called the group turncoats and hypocrites for questioning the link between drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental illness. "You guys," Cherry said that night. "You were fighters and now you don't want guys that make the same living you did." The statement, posted on Josh Cooper's blog, said Cherry showed a complete lack of decency: "Mr. Cherry's comments were more than inappropriate; they were vulgar and malicious."

• Tuesday is a big day in the potential return of Sidney Crosby. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi reports that Crosby is expected to meet with his medical team to try to gain clearance for contact. The Pittsburgh Penguins home opener is Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, and Pittsburgh may also be without Evgeni Malkin, who missed Sunday's game in Edmonton with a lower-body injury.

• It should be interesting to watch the response to Dany Heatley on Tuesday night in Ottawa. The Senators are hosting the Minnesota Wild, hoping to avoid their first 0-3 start in franchise history, and there will forever be bad blood between the fans in Ottawa and Heatley, whose trade demands drove him out of town.

"I think it will be a little easier, but I'm sure there will still be some booing," Heatley told the Ottawa Sun. "As always, I'm excited to see some old teammates and staff with the Senators."