The trade deadline is only weeks away with a handful of players likely to get moved. Let’s take a look at a few players who would benefit from a change in scenery.
Tuomo Ruutu, Left Wing, Carolina Hurricanes
Imagine what Ruutu could do with real linemates and a solid team around him. Even though GM Jim Rutherford claims he isn’t actively shopping the Finnish forward and that he may re-sign him, many teams view the possibility of adding a scoring winger as a priority. Furthermore, this guy can play a physical game and really grind out the opposition. And while Ruutu already plays on the top line in Carolina in addition to seeing ample power play time, playing with a proper supporting cast should boost his peripherals.
Ruutu played out of position for multiple games at center but would likely be tasked with his natural position of wing while with a contender. In addition, his even plus/minus and 11 assists would get an uptick if playing with real competition. We understand leagues that count hits already consider Ruutu a must have but a trade could make him universally owned.
Evgeni Nabokov, Starting Goalie, New York Islanders
Surprisingly, Nabokov is having one of the best seasons of his career. Despite playing on a hapless Islanders squad, the long-time Shark is certainly playing well enough to garner attention around the league. And with the rental options looking slim — Josh Harding and current Islander Al Montoya look like the only other decent ‘tenders out there — GM Garth Snow could fetch a bounty for his once-tolled starting goalie.
A team like the Tampa Bay Lightning could definitely use the services of the former Calder Trophy Winner. In fact, if the Dwayne Roloson surge of last year was an indication, any capable starting goalie would probably win games down in the Sunshine State. In 25 appearances this season with the Isles, Nabokov has only managed to win 11 games despite allowing three goals or less in nine of his 12 losses. Imagine what he could do on a contender.
Ray Whitney, Left Wing, Phoenix Coyotes
Whitney represents one of the best rental options with the Phoenix Coyotes fighting for their lives out West. The 40-year-old veteran still has some life in his legs as he is on pace for 25 goals and 48 assists despite playing with only a few offensive weapons and in a heavily defensive system. Whitney moving to an uptempo system would probably fit his skillset better as he’s shown the ability to play at an elite level in the past.
Rumors circulated that Whitney could be headed East to Pittsburgh to help fill their offensive needs. However, the waiver claim on Cal O’Reilly could be a cheaper move in terms of cash and assets. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of teams that need help on the power play. Moreover, most teams could benefit from the veteran leadership Whitney could provide in the room.
Right now, he’s close to a point-per-game average. Should he play with a truly elite center, he could eclipse that total for only the second time in his career.
Andrei Kostitsyn, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens
Since coming into the NHL, Kostitsyn has been a natural goal scorer. In his rookie season he scored 26 goals in 78 games playing alongside Alexei Kovalev in what looked like an unstoppable top line. However, the pressure in Montreal seemingly got to the Bellarussian at some point, turning a potential 30-goal, 70-point winger into a 20-goal, 40 point third liner.
As an unrestricted free agent on a middling Habs team, the 27-year-old could be moved to a contender looking to get stronger on the wings. Last season, his brother — a winger with less pedigree and arguably less skill — managed to break out after moving to Nashville. Could the older Kostitsyn become a similar beneficiary? A player with his potential does nobody any good while playing on the fourth line — his usual haunt as of late. If he gets moved to a contender, and plays with a true playmaking center, Kostitsyn should light the lamp with an increased frequency.
David Jones, Right Wing, Colorado Avalanche
The buzz out of Colorado is that David Jones could be on the move. The scoring winger is currently playing on an affordable one-year, $2.5 million deal which will make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. However, Jones may have wore out his welcome in Colorado, and could, in turn, be on the move for a non-expiring asset.
After scoring 27 goals last season and adding seven markers through his first 25 games this season, the Guelph, Ont., native has been relegated to only three goals over 19 games. Considering GM Greg Sherman would be getting nothing in return for a valuable player, he may be swung to a contender out East. Would he improve with a new team? Well, he already plays with a fantastic playmaker in Paul Stastny but most of their effectiveness is a distant memory. Maybe a different system like Florida or Boston would be able to rekindle that scoring touch.