It's been a question circulating around the New Jersey Devils' locker room since the beginning of January - will Jason Arnott be traded?
It seemed all but likely during the doldrums of December and January, when the team sat last in the league. But with the team's recent surge towards the playoffs, the picture became muddy.
As the clock slowly dwindles toward today's 3 p.m. deadline, a deal still has yet to be reached. It makes any fan wonder if the Devils will hold onto the center and really push towards the playoffs.
The road ahead of New Jersey became a bit easier today. The Florida Panthers, only one point ahead of the Devils, continued their fire sale today, trading Radek Dvorak to the Atlanta Thrashers. That move signals a waving of the flag and the possibility for them to drop a bit in the standings.
But other teams are bolstering their lineups as well, making trading Arnott a complicated situation. The Devils' center admitted it was a tough situation.
"We're still a long ways off from making the playoffs," Arnott told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "It would be a huge gamble to stay, but I've got to weigh both options, talk it over with Lou and go from there."
For the Devils, moving Arnott may be best at this point. Being nine points out a playoff spot doesn't seem insurmountable. But when you look at their position in the conference (13th), they need to leapfrog five teams to make it to the postseason. Two of those teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs, are playing great hockey right now. It can be done, but it's still a long shot.
Getting rid of Arnott's contract clears cap space for any future moves (like re-signing restricted free agent Zach Parise). New Jersey probably won't get back a player, but the team needs draft picks. Last season's trade for Ilya Kovalchuk and the league's fine of the Devils depleted the Devils of several draft picks. Obtaining picks is in the best interest of the organization.
Clearly, it's all speculation until a trade actually happens. Until then, Arnott will remain a Devil and help the team toward a playoff spot.