The latest on Ales Hemsky and Eric Staal, wondering if the Bruins should make a move, what the Lightning must do to improve, trade storylines to watch, and more.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports winger Ales Hemsky’s future with the Oilers is murky as the trade deadline approaches, suggesting Hemsky hasn’t done himself any favours with his responses to media questions over his performance so far this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hemsky’s performance and injury history could hurt his trade value, but I still believe the Oilers will move him by the trade deadline. They just won’t get as good a return as they might’ve had they dealt him at last year’s deadline.

Staal wasn't bothered by trade rumors.

TORONTO SUN: Mike Zeisberger reports Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal didn’t take seriously the recent trade rumors linking him with the Toronto Maple Leafs, praising Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford for quickly dismissing that report.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, Staal would make a good fit on the Maple Leafs first line. You know where else he’d make a good fit? The Hurricanes, where he remains their franchise player, and judging by his comments, isn’t in any hurry to seek a trade. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rutherford received some inquiries about Staal, but I don’t believe he wants to move his  first line center just because of one bad year, especially when the entire team has performed poorly.

NESN.COM: Their staff wondered if the Boston Bruins should consider making a big-time acquisition this season, suggesting on the one hand if someone like Columbus’ Rick Nash were available, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli should make due diligence in trying to land him, while on the other hand suggesting if the team continues playing as well as it has since early November, there’s no need to make a major move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarelli will consider all options if it’ll help his team’s chances to repeat as Cup champions, but I don’t see him making a major acquisition if it means parting with a key player or two, which is what it would take to land a player like Nash.The Blue Jackets wouldn’t just give him away. They’d want more than just draft picks and prospects.

TAMPABAY.COM: Tom Jones suggested five ways to improve the struggling Lightning, which included getting a starting goalie, like perhaps Evgeni Nabokov of the Islanders, and shoring up their defense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thanks in part to the salary cap, there’s not a lot GM Steve Yzerman can do to adequately address the situation right now. Yzerman got lucky with Dwayne Roloson last season, but the odds of lightning striking twice are long.

TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski listed the trade deadline among six storylines to watch in 2012, suggesting the Philadelphia Flyers could be the team to watch leading up to that date.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All the anticipation now is the Flyers pursuing a big name defenseman in the new year to replace the sidelined Chris Pronger, but such a move requires shipping out significant salary to make it happen, and that could mean trading away one or two significant players. I know Matt Carle’s been mentioned in trade rumors, but for me that doesn’t make sense if the need is to bolster their blueline depth.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports trades are coming for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but GM Scott Howson won’t be dealing Rick Nash, and has no intention of trading Jeff Carter “at this point”. LeBrun assumes Derick Brassard and pending UFAs Kristian Huselius, Vinny Prospal and Sammy Pahlson will be in play…The LA Kings and Detroit Red Wings could have some interest in Oilers winger Ales Hemsky…Shea Weber’s contract talks with the Predators could start soon. The Predators current priority is re-signing Ryan Suter, who’s a UFA this summer, while Weber will be a restricted free agent…The Bruins have six UFAs to re-sign, and LeBrun guesses Chris Kelly could be the next one to be re-signed…The Carolina Hurricanes can’t afford to be sellers in January because such salary dumping would put them under the salary cap minimum. It would be better for them to wait until the February 27th trade deadline, as the cap hit and payroll hit should be minimized.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect Howson’s “at this point” remark regarding Carter will be seized upon by rumormongers to suggest he’s available. While I won’t fully dismiss the possibility, I believe it would take a significant offer for Howson to move Carter, who has a no-movement clause which would limit potential trade destinations. Unless Carter demands a trade, I believe he remains in Columbus…The Kings could sniff around Hemsky, as could the Wings, but his trade value is down because of his injury history and declining production…Weber and/or Suter won’t be dealt as long as the Predators remain in playoff contention. I believe GM David Poile wants to re-sign both and will do all he can to make that happen…I think Kelly is the most likely of the Bruins UFAs to be re-signed…Interesting point about the Hurricanes. Unless they do a straight hockey trade virtually dollar-for-dollar, they cannot make any salary dumping deals until the trade deadline.