The significant injury that Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin suffered on Friday night sent many fans -- particularly in Pittsburgh -- into high speculation mode. How would general manager Ray Shero seek to fill this massive hole before the Feb. 28 trade deadline?
Well, for starters, you simply can't fill that kind of hole with one trade. You don't replace guys like Malkin.
In the short term, the best you can do is to patch things around the edges. That's pretty much what you're always trying to do at the trade deadline. After all, in a salary-cap league, you don't build a champion at the deadline. Rather, GMs are seeking that missing piece -- which is often not a big piece, either -- that can make a difference in April, May and June.
Shero and his management team -- armed with the cap room provided by the collective bargaining agreement's long-term-injury provision -- certainly will do their due diligence. They'll try to plot out the return of their captain, Sidney Crosby, who's missed more than a month thanks to a concussion, and that of rookie pivot Mark Letestu, who will be out four to six weeks. Clearly, those medical reports will have an impact on any trade decision they make.
Still, Shero will make the phone calls. Maybe he'll even be able to pry potential unrestricted free agent Brad Richards from the Dallas Stars. (I don't see that happening, but I don't think I can rule it out, either.)
The problem, of course, is pretty simple. In this crazy playoff chase, there aren't too many teams that we can confidently peg as "sellers." Right now, three weeks before the deadline, I'd say just six franchises fall into that category: the Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
That group could grow by one or two before the end of the month, but not many more.
That would seem to make it a sellers' market, meaning the price of a rental player just might be too high in terms of having to give up good draft picks and top prospects.
At this time of the season, buyers seem to be most drawn to players with expiring contracts. Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, for one, didn't disagree with that premise, but he said that decisions to take on additional contract years are made on a "case-by-case" basis.
Certainly, acquiring a player whose contract will run out in the summer allows the buyer the flexibility to make an effort to re-sign the player or allow him to leave via free agency.
For today's edition of the Monday 10, instead of trying to figure out who the Penguins or any other team will try to get at the deadline (sorry, I'm not mind reader), I figured I'd take a look at 10 players with expiring deals who are currently toiling for one of my sellers, using contract facts and figures from our friends at Capgeek.com. I suspect that several of the guys listed below will change teams before the end of February.
To read the rest of E.J.'s list of potential trade targets, including a couple of players whom Pittsburgh might target, become an ESPN Insider today.