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Fun just beginning as trade deadline nears

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The NHL trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday. No, there haven't been a lot of transactions leading up to the event, and there's no guarantee it will pick up until late Monday. That, however, hasn't stopped rumors from circulating, and has at least one general manager shaking his head.

"A lot of people like to formulate things," St. Louis Blues president and GM John Davidson said. "It's a whole new world compared to a few years ago, with the Internet and 'real-time' discussions. People hear something and run with it. There's no factual basis to a lot of this stuff."

Davidson at least got into the spirit of it with his next comment.

"But it's that time of the year when people are having fun."

That being said, the following information comes directly from people who cover their teams, who are in NHL locker rooms on a daily basis – at home and on the road – and who are in direct contact with managers, coaches and players.

There are a couple of reasons why so few trades have been struck. Because the standings are so tight – 25 teams within seven points of the Stanley Cup playoffs three quarters of the way through the season – there are fewer sellers than ever. In addition, GMs have learned from mistakes made at previous deadlines. They're using more caution and subscribing more to the theory that drafting and developing is the best way to build a team in the salary-cap era.

No-trade clauses, in the contracts of more than 100 NHL players, are a stumbling block, too. And a number of potential free agents still are negotiating with their teams, and they really haven't been offered on the trade market.

That appears to be the case with defensemen Brian Campbell of the Buffalo Sabres, Dan Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning and forward Marian Hossa of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Campbell is a big target because he's the kind of player who can help a team now and moving forward. At 28, Campbell is in the prime of his career, and he is more the new-style NHL defenseman – someone who can move the puck, skate well, add to the offense and not represent a liability in his own zone.

It's reported that his agent on Thursday turned down Buffalo's last-ditch effort to keep the potential unrestricted free agent, a three-year deal averaging $6 million per season. Campbell made an offer to the team before the season started – five years for $25 million – but that was rejected by Buffalo, which probably now wishes it had accepted that deal.

Boyle, 31, and less balanced compared to Campbell in terms of his defense being more suspect, appears to be working to a deal that will keep him with the Lightning, who are in the midst of an ownership change. The two sides are working on an extension of between four to eight years at approximately $6.5 million to $7 million per season.

The Lightning, however, will dangle forwards Chris Gratton, Jan Hlavac and Vaclav Prospal and goalie Johan Holmqvist, all potential unrestricted free agents. In addition, they are getting calls on 27-year-old forward Brad Richards, part of the Big Three that includes Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

Richards still has three years at $7.8 million each on his contract, and he would have to agree to a deal, which he says he won't even consider at present. Tampa Bay needs to find a way to clear salary and add a No. 1 goalie to the mix.

The situation in Atlanta with Hossa is dragging to the point of being a distraction. It appears inevitable the Thrashers will trade the 29-year-old, who is on almost every buyer's list. But Don Waddell is waiting for the best deal. The problem is that Waddell is trying to be both coach and GM. The Thrashers, in a fight to win the weak Southeast Division, have surrendered 41, 49 and 46 shots on goal in their previous three games before Saturday's visit to Toronto. This is why one man can't do both jobs.

"It's hard to say if it affects us this way or that way, but it's there," Atlanta forward Bobby Holik said. "We're talking about our best overall player. It's gone on for two months. I'm not saying it's a black cloud, but something is always moving with us, no matter where we go or where we are."

Waddell, meanwhile, says he is trying to practice patience.

"Things always happen when you're forced with a deadline," he said. "I think teams are cautious; we're not the only option out there."

One intriguing player who expects to move by the deadline is Columbus Blue Jackets veteran center Sergei Fedorov. He would be a classic rental. Detroit and Ottawa are the two most likely destinations for the 38-year-old once dominant player. A reunion in Detroit makes sense for obvious reasons, and Fedorov's move to Ottawa would reunite him with Senators GM Bryan Murray, who had Fedorov when he coached in Detroit.

Fedorov says he has no bitter feelings toward Detroit even though he gets booed when he returns to Joe Louis Arena as a visiting player.

"If that's the thing that happens, hopefully I would be part of something that has been here before … when we won Stanley Cups," Fedorov said of a possible trade to Detroit.

The Blue Jackets are in negotiations with veteran defenseman Adam Foote, the team captain and a player who really enjoys Columbus. But if a deal doesn't get done, he definitely will get moved. Columbus has interest in Richards and has the prospects that possibly could get a deal done, but that may be revisited in the summer rather than now.

The Detroit Red Wings are getting hit with the injury bug on defense – Nicklas Lidstrom out three weeks with Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall listed day-to-day – something that hurt them last spring. Look, too, for GM Ken Holland to offer Darren McCarty a contract before Tuesday to keep the 35-year-old forward, who is making a comeback once the playoffs start.

Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said he's interested in adding an impact player and the names of the Calgary Flames' Alex Tanguay, Toronto Maple Leafs' Mats Sundin and Hossa have surfaced.

"I think we had a pretty good experience with Alex Kovalev a few years ago," Gainey said. "We gave up two pretty good assets (Jozef Balej and a second-round draft choice), and he got to know us and we got to know him and we're still together."

Gainey has been reluctant to part with prospects, but besides two-time 30-goal scorer Michael Ryder, the list might include Mikhail Grabovski in Hamilton of the AHL, Russian defenseman Alexei Emelin and college prospects Ryan McDonagh or Max Pacioretty.

The circus continues in Toronto, where a number of veterans with no-trade clauses don't want to leave, and it is decision time for Mats Sundin.

Interim Maple Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher met on Thursday with Sundin and reportedly asked for a list of teams. He did not ask Sundin to waive his no-trade clause, something that Sundin said he doesn't want to do. He might change his mind once he sees who wants him, and because he's a good team guy, he knows it's the best thing for the Leafs going forward.

Defenseman Tomas Kaberle said he told his agent he did not want to waive a no-trade clause. There was a deal on the table from the Philadelphia Flyers. Kaberle would draw interest from other teams, too, including San Jose. Besides Sundin and Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Darcy Tucker are all vets with no-trade clauses.

The San Jose Sharks certainly have needs – an experienced backup to No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov, a power-play defenseman now that Sandis Ozolinsh is a fixture in the press box and a top-six forward. The Sharks have been up and down all season. Nabokov, the team's MVP, needs more than one game off every 30. And while the team is looking to get injured players back, the return of Ryane Clowe, Curtis Brown and Alexei Semenov probably is not enough.

"The players we want are the same players that 15, this year maybe 20, other teams want," GM Doug Wilson said. "And the teams that have them may be trying to re-sign them."

The Boston Bruins are maintaining a low profile publicly, but rumors have surfaced that while GM Peter Chiarelli doesn't want to deal young players, he might consider it now to add goal-scoring. "I've had a number of conversations. I haven't gotten to the stage of actual offers, and I know a lot of the other GMs haven't, either," Chiarelli said.

The Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild are in similar situations. Both want to add an offensive piece, but both are leery of trading prospects. The Wild need help at center ice and may be looking at the Florida Panthers' Olli Jokinen and Edmonton Oilers' Jarret Stoll.

The Oilers have a first-round pick to dangle (the one acquired as part of the Chris Pronger trade to the Anaheim Ducks), but not a lot else besides Stoll and defenseman Joni Pitkanen.

Davidson probably put it best.

"The GMs were all at the driving range the past few days," he said.

"Now they're headed to the first tee, and they're ready to get the tournament started."