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Inside the NHL: As deadline approaches, big deals may wait until June

DENVER -- The trade deadline is always busy but recent years have left us wanting a lot more. There's plenty of hot rumors but the cap seemingly gets in the way and most major transactions seem to take place in June heading into the draft. That might be particularly true this year, as teams make their moves in advance of the expansion draft.

Still, there's no question lots of players will be moved by the time the bell rings Wednesday at 3. Here's a quick look at what's brewing in several locales:

St. Louis: The No. 1 story approaching the deadline is what happens to veteran defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He could be traded as a rental, with the scuttle being the Blues are making wild demands, or he could be the focus of an NBA-style sign and trade.

Both TSN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that Shattenkirk failed to come to such an agreement a couple of times recently, the latest being a seven-year, $42-million deal with Tampa Bay. Yahoo! made a reasonable leap of faith to wonder if Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was involved in the deal, since it was reportedly a few weeks ago when Jake Allen was at the height of his struggles in the St. Louis net.

With the clock now ticking, the most likely scenario is Shattenkirk is dealt as a rental and tries to strike it rich July 1. Whoever makes the move now will pay up, but will have a big addition on its blueline.

Colorado: It seems hard to believe Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog could get moved now, with the June window far more likely for such a big move. Veteran Jarome Iginla, who has seen better days, is likely going to be on the move as the word is that he's willing to waive a no-trade clause for another Stanley Cup shot.

Buffalo: Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov could likely fetch the Sabres mid-round draft picks while captain Brian Gionta has made it clear he wants to stay and has a list of only five unknown teams he would accept a deal to. The Sabres had to take note of the return Carolina got from Pittsburgh for veteran blueliner Ron Hainsey: A second-round pick and veteran AHL forward Danny Kristo.

Sabres' Gionta says he wants to stay

Detroit: UFAs Thomas Vanek and Brendan Smith are the Wings' biggest chips and fellow former Sabre Steve Ott might also get some interest. The price on Vanek, who has 15 goals and 38 points in 47 games, will be interesting to watch. The Wings seem to be looking for a high pick or picks or a top prospect, but who gives that up for a 33-year-old? Especially one who seems interested in re-signing with Detroit come summer time.

A headline in the Detroit Free Press discussing the Wings' situation certainly ran afoul of this corner. Its words: "Best bet for Detroit Red Wings? Start selling, then start losing."

Ugh. This is one of the league's great franchises, on a 25-year playoff streak. The tanking flu certainly overpowering more rational thought.

Top teams: A move by any of them could make a big difference down the line. The Capitals need to do better than last year's move for Mike Weber. The Blackhawks have acquired Detroit's Tomas Jurco for depth up front. What can Montreal and Columbus do to help their inconsistency? Minnesota and San Jose look good but do the Sharks, in particular, need to respond to Anaheim's stealth pickup of Dallas scorer Patrick Eaves?

Fixing the bye

The NHL has noticed the disparity in the results of teams coming off their bye weeks -- only four of 20 had won the first game entering Saturday night -- so the league is going to tweak the new schedule addition.

“We intend to schedule the bye weeks differently next year,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Toronto Star. “Two discrete weeks in which roughly half of the teams will get their byes.”

That's a much better way of doing it, rather than having byes sprinkled through an eight-week stretch of January and February. Aside from the competitive issues of a rusty team playing one fully engaged in its schedule, this year's byes created wild swings in the standings as teams often had five or six games in hand at a time on others.

The league needed to make points percentage an official column so fans could figure out who was really in charge.

Inside the NHL: Coaches fuming over bye week's impact on schedule

Player Safety stays inconsistent

The folks in Winnipeg were understandably miffed last week, when defenseman Jacob Trouba got a two-game suspension for a high hit on Ottawa's Mark Stone in the wake of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin getting nothing for launching himself into Jets forward Blake Wheeler.

Wheeler had plenty to say.

"You like to see consistency throughout," he told the Winnipeg Sun. "We respect the fact that they have a lot of hits they sort through every day and there were two glaring examples back to back. It begs the question: Why one way and not the other way?

"...Even Jacob would say that his hit wasn't ideal, wishes he could have it back. You can't even speculate about why they didn't do the same to Malkin because it sure didn't feel good. I would know first hand.

"The whole job is player safety and when you start getting hit without the puck, when you're not even looking at a guy and he hits you in the head, that doesn't seem like a part of the game to me."

Suspensions continue to be rife with inconsistency, and this situation makes you wonder about the star system being in order, with the league not interested in sitting one of its big names.

In the name of transparency, the league did give the Sun a full explanation of the no-suspension ruling -- something that needs to be done much more often. The NHL ruled that Malkin left his feet in the act of making the hit and did not launch himself at Wheeler, making more principal contact with the body than the head.

Concussion conniving?

Echoing comments made earlier this season by Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith ripped the NHL's concussion protocol last week after he was removed from the game by a spotter early in the third period after a collision with Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg knocked Smith's mask off.

Smith went one step further, pointing out an ugly scenario that could develop come playoff time. He was removed with 15 1/2 minutes left in the game -- and wasn't cleared to return until there were 90 seconds left.

"What stops a fourth liner from going and bumping into a goalie?" Smith asked in an interview with Azcentral.com. "It’s just a two-minute penalty to get your starting goalie out? I don’t think it’s happened in a playoff game yet, but I’m sure it will.”

Smith even went on to explain a particularly sinister plot.

"It’s never gotten fixed. Like I said, it’s a flaw in the system," he said. "If that’s an important game and your starting goalie goes out of the game, what makes it say the goalie that goes into the game doesn’t get run over and he has to come out of the game? Now what do you do for a goalie?”

Around the rinks

---Hard to find something that happened for the first time in the Patrick Kane-Jonathan Toews era in Chicago but we got one last week after Toews collected a hat trick Tuesday in Minnesota and Kane lit up Arizona thrice on Thursday. It marked the first time Chicago players have posted hat tricks in consecutive games since Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze did so on April 11 and April 13, 1997.

And almost out of nowhere, that pushed Kane within five points of Connor McDavid in his quest to repeat as scoring champion.

Mike Harrington: Lots of 'Showtime' as Hawks dominate

---Look out for the Oilers to pile up points in the Pacific starting this week. After finishing a six-game road trip Tuesday in St. Louis, they play eight straight games at home and 11 of their next 13 in Rogers Place. They go from Feb. 28-March 22 without leaving town and five of the eight games are against Eastern Conference teams.

---The Predators will bring a scorching hot scorer to town here for Tuesday's game against the Sabres. Filip Forsberg racked up hat tricks Tuesday aginst Calgary and Thursday against Colorado, becoming the first Nashville player ever to do that in consecutive games and the first NHLer to turn that double trick since Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows on Jan. 5-7, 2010.

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