Trade deadline day -- and the days leading up to it -- are unsettling for NHL unrestricted free agents, especially those on teams with scant hope of making the playoffs. Players talk of having an overnight bag packed with essentials for a quick trip to another city.
But around the league, dozens of players likely will be on the move -- Sunday and before Monday's 3 p.m. deadline. Wojtek Wolski made that sudden trip Saturday, from New York to Raleigh, to play for his new team, the Florida Panthers, Saturday night. The Blueshirts sent the left wing and the remainder of his $3.8-million contract to the Panthers for a third-round draft pick in 2013 and minor-league defenseman Michael Vernace.
The Rangers, who have been struck in neutral for several games, are buyers, not sellers, with the target being Columbus power forward Rick Nash (the sides were said to be talking Saturday afternoon), and with a defenseman on the radar as well. The cost for Nash might be high -- Brandon Dubinsky, one or two top prospects and a No. 1 draft pick. The prospects could include a combination of forwards J.T. Miller (last June's No. 1 pick) and Christian Thomas and defensemen Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath.
If some reports are correct that Columbus wants center Derek Stepan to be included in the package, the Rangers will make a counteroffer or walk away.
Nash, 27, carries an annual salary-cap hit of $7.8 million, but the Rangers' front office believes it can maneuver around it. Shipping Wolski out was a start and including Dubinsky ($4.2 million annually for the next three years) covers Nash next season.
Regardless of where Nash, who has 279 goals, 251 assists, 81 power-play goals and 43 game-winners in 653 games with the Blue Jackets, ends up, the Rangers assuredly will make some moves.
There was some uncertainty about whether Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown might be available, with the Kings having acquired winger Jeff Carter from the Jackets on Thursday. Numerous teams are intrigued by the forward from Ithaca, a rugged, north-south, go-to-the-net player who is signed for the next two seasons, with a reasonable cap hit of $3.175 million.
As always, one or two trades will trigger a chain reaction as players come off the market. Among the forwards who will be unrestricted free agents are Brad Boyes and Paul Gaustad (Buffalo); Samuel Pahlsson (Columbus); Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen (Montreal); David Jones, (Colorado); Jarret Stoll (Los Angeles); and Mike Knuble (Washington).
The defensemen include Shaone Morrisonn (Buffalo); Brett Clark (Tampa); Chris Campoli (Montreal); Shane O'Brien (Colorado); Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek (Carolina); Sheldon Souray (Dallas); and Dennis Wideman (Washington).