Okay, here we are with part two of where I think Marian Gaborik could be traded to. Before we did the Western Conference teams (see below). This is the Eastern Conference segment.
As a reminder, I'm merely analyzing trade possibilities based off teams' NHL rosters and salary cap space.
Ilya Kovalchuk is in the fold already, and why trade him for Gaborik? Plenty of cap space for Gaborik but apart from Kovalchuk, the cupboard is pretty bare. Ondrej Pavelec is a promising goaltending prospect, and Toby Enstrom has the makings of being a good defenseman, but a team that's basically been rebuilding since entering the league won't give up either of those two. Plus the Wild has (have?) Josh Harding as its potential goalie of the future. No chance Gaborik ends up here.
Things get interesting with the next few teams. The Bruins have been rumored to be wanting to move Phil Kessel for a season or more. Gaborik would have his choice of centers to play with - Marc Savard or Patrice Bergeron, who appears rejuvenated coming back from his concussion. Problem is Boston is already up against the cap after signing Michael Ryder in the offseason. They won't be players in the Gaby market unless the Wild takes back some salary, and surely they can do better than that.
I posted this on Michael Russo's blog a couple days ago but I think it went overlooked and/or ignored. The Sabres' recent history of free agents isn't totally good - losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury in one offseason. But they gave Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek some nice contracts. Do they have room for Gaborik? They can. What about sending Maxim Afinogenov - a good player who's been in Lindy Ruff's doghouse for ages - and Tim Connolly to Minnesota? Afinogenov gets a fresh start and Connolly could become one of the Wild's top two centers. Mikko Koivu could center Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Connolly and Afinogenov form the second line.
But there are several problems here. First, Buffalo's willingness to spend on another winger. Second, whether they want to get rid of Connolly. Third, Afinogenov and Connolly are both UFAs and who knows, maybe Afinogenov wants to return to Russia. I think a scenario like this is possible but not likely.
Now we're talking. Justin Williams is out for several months with another leg injury. That creates a spot alongside Eric Staal or Rod Brind'Amour. Trading chips: Tuomo Ruutu, Patrick Eaves? Maybe Matt Cullen, who's 31. If the Hurricanes are battling for a playoff spot or positioning near the trade deadline, maybe they make a move. I'm sure they're still stinging from last year's collapse down the stretch. Keep an eye on Carolina. In fact, if Williams hadn't gotten hurt he could've been the centerpiece of a deal.
Another team that could work. But will they part with Nathan Horton, who's signed through 2013 at a cap hit of $4 million? Even Stephen Weiss is signed through 2013 at $3.1M. If a miracle happens and they're close to the playoffs, they'd have pieces to pull off a deal, but that'd be mortgaging the future for the present and a step backwards. Jay Bouwmeester? Nah. Why trade one problem for another for the Wild? David Booth could be a centerpiece. Small chance Florida will be in it.
I've heard some Minnesota fans wanting Tomas Plekanec. He's good. Also has great chemistry with Alexei Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn. Will Montreal want to break up that line? Well, they've got Robert Lang who could fill in easily for Plekanec, and who knows, he could rekindle the magic he had with Kovalev when the two were in Pittsburgh. This one's got possibilities, but I wouldn't be ordering those "Plekanec 14" sweaters just yet, Wild fans.
The Devils already poached one Wild player in Brian Rolston. Will they go after another? Possibly. Zach Parise would have to be involved, but maybe they send Brian Gionta. I think that could work for the Wild as well. Travis Zajac? We'll keep an eye on the Devils.
New York Islanders
They won't be players. They'd have to give up Kyle Okposo (Gopher fans rejoice) but there's no reason to. They're in one of the toughest divisions in the NHL and they need a lot more work than Gaborik will fix. No chance he'll be on Long Island.
New York Rangers
Normally I'd say here's the favorite, but that was in the pre-salary cap era. Maybe, maaaybe, they'd part with Nikolai Zherdev, especially if he's struggling and they're in the thick of a playoff chase, or center Brandon Dubinsky. Chris Drury has a no-trade clause and Scott Gomez has a limited one, but the Rangers don't have the cap space for Gaborik without giving up one of those.
Updated slightly: There's rumors that maybe the Rangers want to move Petr Prucha. He'd fit the Afinogenov mold of desperately needing a change of scenery.
Very little cap space here which immediately puts them behind the 8-ball. Dany Heatley and Mr. Senator Daniel Alfredsson aren't going anywhere, but will they really trade Jason Spezza? Boy, I can't imagine so, at least not for Gaborik. Mike Fisher's a nice player, but who else will play center on that team? I don't think Ottawa will be in the race.
It pains me to say it, but here's a maybe. The untouchables are Mike Richards and probably Jeff Carter. Maybe Daniel Briere, but if it nets them Gaborik? Possibly. Will they tire of Simon Gagne's concussion problems? Would the Wild want to risk it? Scott Hartnell's an option. He'd also bring some toughness to the Wild. I'm not sure if the cap space would work, but Paul Holmgren hasn't been shy about making trades so the Flyers would not surprise me.
I'll try and be clear on this: No, no, no. Granted the Penguins need a winger to play with Sidney Crosby. But unless they're trading Evgeni Malkin (they shouldn't) there's just no way the cap space will work. Often I see, instead of Gaborik for Malkin, Gaborik for Jordan Staal. The reasoning behind this makes absolutely no sense. People say the Penguins won't be able to afford Staal, so trade him for Gaborik. Uh, what? If Gaborik demands even $7.5M from the Penguins, that's still more than what Staal will make. I'll be shocked (as shocked, possibly more so, as I was when the Penguins traded for Hossa last season) if Gaborik ends up a Penguin. You can't do the rent-a-player every year.
Would they trade Radim Vrbata and another player or two for Gaborik? The Lightning's owners seem hell-bent on collecting forwards and the way they're throwing money around, I wouldn't be surprised at anything they do. So let's not count them out, but they'd be a darkhorse.
Except for the Jeff Finger contract, the Maple Leafs have been shedding some serious money as they try to right their horridly wrecked ship. They're really in rebuilding mode and Gaborik won't help them. However, Nik Antropov, Alex Steen or Matt Stajan could be attractive to the Wild. But I don't see Gaborik playing in Canada's capital (note: watch "Canadian Bacon" before you correct me.)
You want to talk about scary lines? Let me give you this. Gaborik-Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Ovechkin. Yikes. Brooks Laich broke out with 21 goals, including eight on the power play, but apart from those four guys, the Capitals are leaning towards the old side. Except for Alexander Semin, who's almost a Gaborik clone (lots of talent but oft-injured). Would a swap of these two happen? Well, it would surely help the Capitals but not so much the Wild. Not to mention Washington's got an albatross of a contract in Michael Nylander hanging over their heads (he's 35, signed through 2011 at $4.875.) We'll consider the Caps a darkhorse, but a very dark horse.
So did I actually offer anything of value? Probably not. The teams I think would make a move for Gaborik, in no particular order: New Jersey, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Montreal, Philadelphia, and we'll go ahead and include the Rangers.
I will say I do not expect Gaborik to be in a Wild uniform in April. And again, this is analysis based primarily on NHL-caliber players that I think the Wild should look to get in return for Gaborik. One of the other teams could have a super prospect or two that a team might trade if they think Gaborik is that missing link.