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Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Senior Writer
Feb 1, 2007, 10:56 AM EST

After its far-too-long All-Star hiatus, Crashing the Net returns this week to its place in NHL.com's weekly rotation of content.

In the Opening Faceoff, CTN looks forward to the trade deadline, identifying 25 players of interest as the hockey world marches toward the Feb. 27 deadline. The rest of this week's CTN, however, spends time looking back at the All-Star Game. Working the Boards sits down with Edmonton Oiler All-Star Ryan Smyth for a discussion about his playing style and his career to date. The Breakaway mixes some final All-Star observations in with other notes from around the League. Finally, the Penalty Box handles a huge response over the CTN All-Star Team that formed the final Opening Faceoff segment before the All-Star hiatus.

It's good to back and CTN hopes it was missed in the interim. Enjoy this week's offering and get ready for what should be an amazing run to the regular-season's finish line.

Opening Faceoff

Well, February is finally upon us and that means that the 2007 NHL trade deadline is now firmly fixed on the horizon.

In fact, the trade window closes in less than three weeks time, meaning that it is finally OK to get fully excited about the possibility of your favorite team making a trade, or your favorite player being moved to a better situation.

Sure, trade rumors have been flying fast and furious since before training camp even opened back in September, but, for the most part, those proved to flights of fancy without much factual background. Now, however, teams have had more than five months to assess their personnel and understand strengths and weaknesses.

The universal optimism that greeted all 30 teams back in September has slowly given way to painful realism for some teams. For others, that initial optimism has been further bolstered by positive on-ice results.

So, now, with just 67 days left in the regular season, GMs are forced to make honest assessments of their teams and decide whether they will be buyers or sellers in the trade market. Once that is done, those same executives must look at the pieces they have – and the pieces they covet – and decide which ones are expendable.

After that groundwork is complete, the fun begins. Exploratory calls will be made to gauge interest and then serious discussion between compatible parties will commence. More often than not, these talks lead nowhere. But, occasionally, gold is found and a major trade is consummated, soon to be digested and opined upon by hockey fans across the globe.

For these reasons, the month before the trade deadline is always an exciting time for hockey fans, even those unlucky few that have given up on the exciting playoff races being contested in each division.

CTN has always loved the intrigue and speculation that builds during this time before peaking on trade-deadline day. So, in an effort to do our part, CTN uses this week’s Opening Faceoff segment to look at some of the players that are – or should be – on the radar of scouts and executives across the League.

Here, then, is a short look at 25 players, in alphabetical order, that could be in play in the days leading up to the Feb. 27 deadline.

Adrian Aucoin, D, Chicago -- A chronic groin injury this season has to be a concern. A recent flare-up, his second of the season, has cost Aucoin the past seven games -- and counting. But, when healthy, Aucoin is a veteran defenseman capable of eating up large chunks of ice. He has a modicum of skill on the power play and possesses a dressing room presence that could help a younger team in tense situations.

Brad Boyes, C, Boston -- The Bruins will have to give up some assets to gain more assets as they build their team under new GM Peter Chiarelli. Boyes, a 24-year-old versatile forward that came up as a center, is quite the asset. But he is third on Boston’s depth chart at center behind Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron, so he may well be expendable in the right deal. If he is available, a few GMs may well be interested in overpaying for a very young player who has already proven he can score at the NHL level.

Eric Brewer, D, St. Louis -- Brewer has raised his trade stock with a strong last month of play, finally hitting his stride after a dislocated left shoulder scuttled the second half of his first season in St. Louis. Brewer, 27, is already in his seventh NHL season, yet there is still room for improvement. Ideally, he could develop into a physical presence that could generate in the area of 40 points per season.

Ilja Bryzgalov, G, Anaheim -- If the Ducks sense they need one more piece to get over the hump in the West – say, perhaps, a Peter Forsberg -- they might contemplate moving one of their goalies. With J.S. Giguere playing like he did in marching Anaheim to the Cup Final in 2003, Bryzgalov would be the choice to move. He proved last year in the playoffs that he can handle a No. 1 job.

Anson Carter, RW, Columbus -- A big winger that can score goals in bunches, Carter fits the bill for a hot deadline commodity. Yes, he has struggled so far this year, but as he showed in Vancouver, he can excel with the right linemates. Teams would like to see Carter play a more physical game, but they might be willing to overlook that in exchange for his scoring potential.

Joseph Corvo, D, Ottawa -- Responsible, puck-moving defensemen are the rarest of commodities around the trade deadline, so Ottawa GM John Muckler should find a strong market if he puts Corvo up for bid. The 29-year-old has a 40-point season to his credit, but is seeing third-pairing time on a deep Ottawa blue line. He could be moved West, say to San Jose, to provide Ottawa with some additional depth on the wings.

Jassen Cullimore, D, Chicago -- The 34-year-old Cullimore is the perfect rental package. He has experience (618 regular-season games), size (6-foot-5, 244 pounds) and big-game savvy (winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003). Rumors out of Chicago have management trying to move Cullimore as part of a bigger package. That might happen, but teams could also be interested in landing just Cullimore as an insurance policy on the blue line.

Pascal Dupuis, LW, Minnesota -- It appears that Dupuis has worn out his welcome in Minnesota. Yet, there should be a fair amount of demand for a player that competes with amazing intensity night-in and night-out. Plus, Dupuis has grown up under the tutelage of Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire and, therefore, has good defensive instincts. He is the type of player that would immediately upgrade the lower lines of many playoff contenders.

Peter Forsberg, C, Philadelphia -- Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren insists that Forsberg is not on the market at the moment, but that has done little to blunt speculation around the League about Forsberg’s potential landing spots if he is put on the market. With his injury problems this year, Forsberg is a huge risk-reward proposition. But, the GM that rolls the dice and comes up lucky will find himself possessing a player that could single-handedly tip the balance of power in the postseason.

Bill Guerin, RW, St. Louis -- Enjoying a rebirth in St. Louis this year, Guerin’s name is being bandied about in more than a few NHL markets. There is very little downside to acquiring Guerin for a playoff run. He has been tested in the postseason and found more than competent. He has incredible wheels, especially for an older player. He can play with virtually any kind of linemates. And, most importantly, he has built a deserved reputation as a big-game player. So, it just becomes a question of how much St. Louis can command in return to justify moving its top scorer.

Mike Knuble, RW, Philadelphia -- Knuble’s availability will be determined by how extensively and aggressively Flyer management decides to overhaul its current roster. If the team enters into all-out, rebuilding mode, than several inquiries will be made about Knuble. He is a player whose hard-edged, workmanlike game is suited for the close-combat nature of the postseason. He loves working along the boards and close to the net. Plus, he is on pace to score 30 goals this season and those players usually exact a king’s ransom.

David Hale, D, New Jersey -- In just his third season, Hale remains a raw, but intriguing prospect. He has not been bad for the Devils in semi-regular duty this year, but has not matured at the rate many expected. He still has a bright future in New Jersey if he stays, but the Devils have very little maneuverability this year because of cap constraints. So, moving a young player like Hale might be one of the only ways for New Jersey to change the face of its team.

Ryan Malone, LW, Pittsburgh -- Interest in this player has been justifiably high, but, to date, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero has refused to be tempted. But, that could change easily in the next three weeks if Pittsburgh makes a charge into the safe zone or falls out of the playoff picture. Just 27, Malone is a versatile player that can play either the wing or center. Plus, he plays the game with a fair amount of menace and sandpaper in both the offensive and defensive zone. He could easily be viewed as an ideal energy guy for any team with serious Cup aspirations.

FULL STORY
 
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