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Carolina Hurricanes: 2nd in the Southeast, 1st to throw in the towel

Well, we can truly say the NHL's Trade Deadline extravaganza is now underway, as the Carolina Hurricanes have sent defenseman Mike Commodore and winger Cory Stillman to Ottawa, in exchange for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves. While Corvo should make a nice fixture on the Carolina blue line for quite some time, Eaves, Commodore and Stillman all have contracts expiring this summer, a clear case of Ottawa loading up on short-term present value (a scorer and steady defense) at the expense of giving up a good young defenseman who's still signed for two more seasons.

"The board is set... the pieces are moving..."

The question now is whether other general managers around the league will start making deals as well, since the "Top Six Forward" market just got a little bit smaller. For someone like Nashville Predators GM David Poile, who is presumably shopping at the lower end of that market (as opposed to swinging for the home runs like Marian Hossa), Stillman would have made a sensible acquisition; a veteran sniper who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, and has scored consistently for four different NHL teams (which reduces the risk that he's a product of a given coach or set of teammates, and can produce on a new team quickly). As the number of such available players declines, the cost for the remaining GM's who are shopping will only rise.

So who's left to fill that kind of profile? My prime candidate is (and has been for a few weeks now) Vaclav Prospal of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Preds fans might recall him as the guy who scored an overtime winner for the Lightning here in Nashville last week. There's Michael Ryder in Montreal, but the fact that his goal-scoring has fallen off a cliff this year can't make a GM feel good about swapping much of value in return. Now that the Islanders are slipping beneath the waves in the East, perhaps Miro Satan might become available; he's been dinged up, but if healthy, could really bolster the Predators up front. Poile has already mentioned that he's not interested with trading away any of his upcoming Restricted Free Agents, so don't look for any "Ryan Suter for [insert All-Star caliber winger]" deals.

So now we've seen the first move in what should be a wild swap meet between NHL general managers. Despite all the nay-saying about salary caps and parity in the standings, when the pressure builds and the deadline approaches, these guys inevitably loosen their collars and start peddling the flesh like crazed addicts. And we get to watch!