NHL hockey returns!

Now that the Olympics are over (Go Canada!), we return to the NHL right in time for the stretch drive of the regular season, not mention the drama that is the annual trade deadline. Here are some teams/individuals who might be moving in the coming days. Check in with the Hockey Firm for analysis of all the latest deals.

Sitting in 8th place with five teams within striking distance (all with games in hand), Canadiens’ new GM Pierre Gauthier has his first big opportunity to make a change to his squad. Of course, the biggest question pertains to the goaltending situation, namely whether one of the Habs’ two young tenders’ will be moved. Jaroslav Halak’s Olympic performance certainly was encouraging, but Carey Price’s enormous potential must be hanging over Gauthier’s head if he’s seriously contemplating moving him. The question of what to do with Tomas Plekanec also looms large, as the plucky center is set to become a UFA at season’s end, and the Canadiens will need to be creative managing the salary cap if they intend to keep him in the fold. On one hand, moving Plekanec, unquestionably their best skater this season, will be viewed as a sign that the Habs are throwing in the towel. By the same token, keeping him on the roster only to lose him without compensation in July is a sure fire way to lower Gauthier’s standing among Canadiens fans (think Mark Streit & Sheldon Souray). Reportedly contact talks are ongoing, but with only two days left until the deadline, decisions cannot be delayed any further.  [Montreal Gazette]

It’s time again for Ray Shero Jr.’s annual casting call for wingers to suit up alongside his trio of ultra-talented centers. After landing Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis in 2008, and Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz in 2009, Shero has proven that he has the stones to pull the trigger on a deal he feels will benefit the team. While the expiring contracts of Guerin, Ruslan Fedetenko and Matt Cooke will clear up some space for next season, the Pens have only two NHL-calibre defensemen under contract going forward and need to prioritize the signings of guys like Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang before they commit big money to any wingers. In short, expect Shero to target rental-type players as opposed to those committed to contracts of any length in the coming days.

Veteran winger Slava Kozlov, who has suited up for just two of the past ten Thrashers games, has requested a trade from Atlanta. A year after posting 76 points playing alongside Todd White and Bryan Little, Kozlov has suffered through a miserable season, recording just 24 points in 52 games and registering a career worst -16 rating. He is willing to waive his no trade clause in order to go to a contender [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TSN’s Darren Dreger has reported that the Hurricanes have a preliminary agreement in place that would see 37-year old forward Ray Whitney head to L.A. without the Kings giving up a current roster player. Reportedly the hold up is related to the length of the contract extension offered by the Californian club. Whitney will likely be on the move regardless, as the ‘Canes will be more interested in the return he will yield than they will be resigning him to the two-year contract he desires. [TSN]

GM Peter Chiarelli has announced his desire to add players to stock his Bruins for a lengthy playoff run. According to Steve Conroy they are looking for an impact forward or defender. [Boston Herald] With 9 picks in the first two rounds of this year’s entry draft, they have the tools to make a deal or two without necessarily disrupting their active roster.

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