- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

So far, the days leading up to the NHL’s Thursday 3 p.m. trading deadline have been very quiet, and there could be a variety of reasons:

• Each team could be waiting for another to make the first move.

• Teams on the contender-pretender bubble could be undecided whether to buy or sell.

• And some of the better teams wanting or needing to make moves could be unable to do so because of salary cap restrictions.

This means one of two things are likely to happen: Either the trading deadline will pass with hardly a whimper, or it will turn into a blockbuster with teams anxious to retain certain players and forced to auction off others to stay within the salary cap.

A good case in point is the Florida Panthers. Goalie Roberto Luongo would be a prized catch for any team, as would team captain and first-line center Olli Jokinen.

But both will become unrestricted free agents July 1 unless they re-sign with the Panthers. Both are extremely valuable players, but Florida may lose one or both in July and receive nothing in return.

So if the Panthers can’t sign them by 3 p.m. Thursday, there is a chance Florida will trade them to get something in return. Luongo already has turned down multi-million dollar deals, including one for six years.

If he and the Panthers don’t come to terms, Luongo is one of many goaltenders who might dominate the market.

With Dominik Hasek always a question mark for one reason or another, Ottawa is probably looking for a quality backup as is Edmonton. Minnesota’s Dwayne Roloson and Phoenix’s Curtis Joseph are available. If Toronto continues on a crash-and-burn course, Ed Belfour might go on the block.

The Montreal Canadiens, with new management and a new coach coming in next season, probably will clean house if they don’t think they can make the playoffs. The Canadiens are on the inside for the moment, but if they falter, expect to see former Capitals players Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis moved.

As for Washington, defenseman Brendan Witt’s name has been bandied about since preseason, and he is still a Cap. But that should change by Thursday with general manager George McPhee holding out as long as possible, waiting for the best offer.

The injury situation to Jamie Heward, the best free agent move the Caps made last summer, won’t change the Witt situation. The playoffs are out of the question — and have been for some time — so youngsters can fill Witt’s and Heward’s spots if necessary as the club plays for experience and positioning in the draft.

Meanwhile, the New York Islanders will be at the Verizon (formerly MCI) Center tonight along with right wing Miroslav Satan. The former Buffalo Sabres standout had a good Olympics for Slovakia, then came home when things really got interesting.

On March 1, Satan was practicing with the Islanders on Long Island when his wife called to say she had gone into labor in their Buffalo home and was ready to deliver their first child. He bolted for the other end of New York state and was present when his wife gave birth to Miroslav Jr. on March 2.

He had permission to miss that night’s game in New Jersey but took the team up on the offer of a charter flight to the game site. He showed up for the game with two hours sleep during the previous two days and scored the game-deciding goal in a 3-2 shootout victory against the Devils.

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