NHL Trade Deadline: Deal or no deal?

With hours remaining before the NHL’s trading deadline at 3 PM (ET) today, hockey fans want to know…

Who’s buying?

Who’s selling?

Who’s going to be traded?

Rumors are running rampant, and it’s very hard to distinguish fact from fiction. 25 of 30 teams in the league have a realistic shot of making the playoffs, and nine of them are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. You can expect a number of trades today, as a combined 50 deals were executed at the trade deadline in the past two years.

Here are six likely candidates:

Chris Pronger – D, Anaheim Ducks
His immediate impact as an offensive defenseman could be very beneficial to any team that would acquire him. The Ducks are looking to make a major roster overhaul this off-season, and cannot afford to keep Pronger’s large contract ($6.25 million) on the cap next season. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2009-10 season.


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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS


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Ron Wilson set to become coach of Team USA in 2010

Brian Burke, Executive Director and General Manager of USA Hockey, admitted this weekend that Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is the leading candidate to coach Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Many in the hockey community feel this duo’s drive and fire for the game could lead the Americans to a gold medal.

The connection between Burke and Wilson began as teammates at Providence College 35 years ago and their bond and mutual respect for one another is still strong today. Privately, both men have long wanted to work together to rebuild a NHL franchise.

Burke is a leader with drive and purpose, and he has a vision for how an organization is to court success. Wilson is an old school coach in terms of his stern and demanding style, but he brings a sense of levity to the locker room that keeps the players at ease. There is no retreat in either’s character, so you can expect constructive arguments between the two on the structure of the U.S. team roster.

Each professes that a team must have quality play from the backline, but they also understand tough, physical players are just as important as skilled, crowd-pleasing scorers. In his initial press conference, Burke mentioned that this is the deepest talent pool that has ever been available to USA Hockey.

Wilson is equipped to handle the media pressure associated with the Olympics, as he coached the Americans to a victory in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He still points to that championship as one of his greatest thrills in his professional career, and he recently became the 11th coach in league history to win 500 games.

If this duo does indeed collaborate for the Vancouver Games, expect good things from Team USA.

Brian Burke: Goodbye Anaheim, Hello Toronto?

The arrival of Anaheim Ducks general manger Brian Burke in Toronto this week fueled speculation that he in line to become the next general manger of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His situation is unique; Burke is completing the final year of a four-year contract and can become a free agent at the end of the season.

Duck ownership has offered a contract extension and Burke hopes to have a decision for them by Christmas. The hold-up is all on Burke’s end, as he has some family concerns that need to be addressed before accepting any job offer in the NHL.

The media has speculated that Burke is pondering a move back to the East Coast to be closer to his four children from a previous marriage. Burke’s other concern is his current wife’s broadcast career. They live in Southern California with their children and are trying to find balance between their respective careers.

Toronto’s reaction is “no comment” to all of the rumors. They will interview everyone that is available next spring and hope to hire the best candidate to lead them back to the playoffs. Veteran NHL executive Cliff Fletcher is the current interim head of hockey operations for the Maple Leafs until a permanent replacement can be found.

When asked if his situation is a distraction to the Ducks, Burke responded that his situation is no different than a player playing out their contract to become an unrestricted free agent and it shouldn’t be a distraction because he has communicated the team on all issues pertaining to his contract.

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