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Trade rumors heat up close to deadline

With the NHL's March trade deadline set for 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, here's a look at the top trade rumors.

For the past three weeks it's been widely reported the Florida Panthers could engage in a trade deadline fire sale, but GM Randy Sexton insists that's not the case. Sexton told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he'd spoken with several general managers to explore various trade options and didn't rule out making a trade or two but insists he's not gutting his roster.

Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been the subject of recent trade rumors but Sexton said he hasn't asked Vokoun to submit a list of trade destinations nor asked the goalie to waive his movement clause.

The Boston Bruins continue to shop around for a scoring forward and a defenseman and could offer up some of their depth in draft picks in the next two drafts as trade bait. Don't, however, expect them to part with the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round pick in 2010, which they acquired as part of the trade which sent Phil Kessel to Toronto.

The Philadelphia Flyers have been oft-mentioned in trade rumors since Christmas. They were linked to Ilya Kovalchuk prior to his trade to the New Jersey Devils and of late were rumored to be interested in Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun and Columbus winger Raffi Torres.

Unfortunately they're lacking salary-cap space, as well as their first- and second-round picks in this year's draft. Unless they're willing to move a significant player or two in return the Flyers are unlikely to make a major deadline move.

Speaking of Torres, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson met with his agent during the Olympic break to discuss a contract extension but was unable to reach an agreement, leading the Columbus Dispatch to suggest the winger could be moved by the trade deadline.

It's believed the Toronto Maple Leafs will trade forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak, but the name still being bandied about on the Internet as trade bait is veteran blueliner Tomas Kaberle.

A report claimed Kaberle had told relatives he was willing to waive his "no-trade" clause but there's been no confirmation of this from the defenseman or the Leafs. Kaberle denied earlier this season he would seek a trade and GM Brian Burke has repeatedly said he won't ask the defenseman to waive his clause but that hasn't put an end to the rumors and probably won't until March 3.

Speculation persists Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray might trade veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer, but with the Ducks only two points out of a playoff berth in the Western Conference don't expect Murray to ship out any veterans.

Having given up goaltender Alex Auld to the New York Rangers on re-entry waivers, the Dallas Stars won't be trading veteran goalie Marty Turco, who'll finish the season paired with Kari Lehtonen, whom the Stars acquired from Atlanta before the Olympic break.

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray continues to work the phones in search of a veteran defenseman. Possibilities could include Florida's Dennis Seidenberg or Carolina's Aaron Ward.

The Denver Post reported Sunday the Colorado Avalanche aren't likely to be major players at this year's deadline but didn't rule out the possibility of a move. They could shop veteran blueliners John-Michael Liles and Ruslan Salei. The latter would be easier to move as he's an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Rumors persist the Chicago Blackhawks could shop forward Kris Versteeg, perhaps as part of a package for a goaltending upgrade. Versteeg, who has struggled in his sophomore campaign, hopes he'll still be a Blackhawk after March 3.

The strong performance of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak for Slovakia in the Vancouver Winter Olympics continues to fuel speculation he could be shopped by the deadline but that doesn't appear likely.

Halak has been instrumental in keeping the injury-ravaged Canadiens in the playoff race so they're unlikely to part with him now. If they were the asking price would likely be more than most would be willing to pay.

Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter recently told the Calgary media he didn't anticipate making any moves by the trade deadline, although it wouldn't be the first time Sutter denied trade speculation only to turn around and make a deal.

He does, however, have considerable depth at forward now thanks to a couple of big trades with Toronto and the New York Rangers a month ago, leading the Calgary Herald to suggest he might try to move one or two to reel in some draft picks.