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NHL trade market sizzles as deadline looms

James Duthie, who will host TSN’s coverage of the trade deadline Monday, has watched this week’s flurry of NHL transactions with keen interest. That’s because by the time his show comes on, the trading might be over and there won’t be any interest.

“Karaoke?” he tweeted as a possible way to fill space for seven hours. He also joked about booking celebrity llamas and said he’ll wear blue and black so viewers can debate whether he’s really wearing white and gold.

What’s not a joke is how serious the general managers are about making moves. There were nine trades between Tuesday and Friday, and the transactions took some of the biggest names off the market:

• Florida acquired Jaromir Jagr from New Jersey and expects to have him in the lineup for Saturday afternoon’s home game against Buffalo.

“He should help out Florida a lot,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “His early days, he was by far one of my favorite players I liked to watch. To see him still have that touch and see a team like the Florida Panthers, who are a young team and need some proper leadership and direction to get them over that next hump, I think it’s a great move.”

• Los Angeles picked up Andrej Sekera from Carolina for a first-round pick and a prospect.

“I was sitting on my couch watching TV, and I got a phone call that I was traded,” the defenseman told Kings reporters. “You pay attention to it a little bit, but you never know where you’re going to end up.”

• Pittsburgh picked up forward Daniel Winnik from Toronto, while Carolina sent Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg.

• In a deal that didn’t involve pending unrestricted free agents, Columbus traded injured Nathan Horton and his $37.1 million contract to Toronto for much-maligned David Clarkson and his $36.75 million deal.

“If there’s a deal there for any of our players, whether it’s a UFA or a player who has term left, we would look to do it,” Maple Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis said in Toronto. “Right now I would tell you that we’re not close on anything else. But Monday’s still a ways away.”

Nonis’ last line is what deadline fans like Duthie are afraid of. Players such as Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, Andrej Meszaros and Michal Neuvirth of Buffalo, Antoine Vermette of Arizona, Erik Cole of Dallas and Antti Niemi of San Jose might head elsewhere during the weekend.

“These guys are staying by their phones, reading articles and watching sports shows,” Nolan said. “They’re a little bit on edge, but it’s a good edge.”

“Trades are going to be happening,” Meszaros said. “Some are interesting, some are not.”

The defenseman, who has points in his last two games, was dealt from Philadelphia to Boston for a third-round pick at last year’s deadline. He said it’s easier for players to handle the deadline when they expect trades. Guys on the last-place Sabres certainly won’t be blindsided.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Meszaros said. “It’s a business. If it happens, it happens. I’m just going to enjoy my time here while I can.”

For Sabres players, it’s almost a cruel twist of fate that the trade deadline is coinciding with their hottest stretch since December. They’re finally winning and enjoying themselves, and the roster is likely to disintegrate.

“That’s a sad part of it,” Meszaros said. “You’re kind of bonding with the guys and playing well. Everybody’s happy. We win games and then you have to leave. It’s kind of tough.

“No matter what situation you’re in, whether you’re battling for playoffs or not, winning is so fun.”

The Sabres, who are 3-1-2 in their last six games, have won two straight for the first time since Dec. 15. If Stewart, Mitchell and Meszaros move on, as expected, at least they’ll leave with a smile.

“We’ve seen some deals made,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told CSN Chicago. “I think there are some other ones out there.”

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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