RALEIGH — Bryan Allen at least has some control over his situation. He had to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline in 2011 and he'll have to waive it again if the Hurricanes try to trade him at the trade deadline in 2012.
Still, Allen knows, with each passing loss, that it becomes more likely he'll be asked.
"I don't think anyone likes to be traded, or wants to be traded, or even be in a situation where a team is talking about who might be traded," Allen said. "When you're winning, when you're in a playoff spot, those things don't happen. When you're not where you want to be as a team, of course it's going to happen."
The veteran defenseman is one of several Carolina players whose contracts expire in the offseason, which makes them attractive to contending teams looking for late-season reinforcements. Tim Gleason is perhaps the most marketable defenseman on the market. Tuomo Ruutu ranks among the top forwards available. There may be interest in Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jaroslav Spacek as well.
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 27, a date that may seem like a long time away, but with each passing loss, comes closer and closer. Shrewd contenders already have made their shopping lists, as the Hurricanes did in 2006 when they beat the rest of the NHL to Doug Weight on Jan. 30.
Teams have been sniffing around the Hurricanes for some time now. A deal could happen at any moment. The Hurricanes haven't openly admitted they have given up on the playoffs, but they're last in the Eastern Conference, 11 points out of a playoff spot at the halfway mark of the season. The first trade of a veteran will make it official.
Ruutu has been through this before; in 2008, the rebuilding Blackhawks traded him at the deadline for the younger Andrew Ladd. The Hurricanes are in the same position now the Blackhawks were in then. (And a mere two years later, Ladd helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.)
"It's part of the business," Ruutu said. "It's got to go day by day. If something happens, something happens. If it doesn't happen, great, we'll move on. If it does, too bad, I'll move on as well. There's nothing I can do about it."
Dumping salary isn't the Hurricanes' only option. Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray has been a bit of a tease, dangling stars Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan earlier this season before yanking them off the market. Now, they're available again, but presumably at a heavy cost. Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford hasn't shown any interest in making that kind of franchise-shaking trade yet, but it may be an option now.
Another consideration is the salary-cap floor of $48.3 million. The Hurricanes could shed $5.8 million in payroll today, a figure that rises each day. Ruutu, Gleason and Allen make $9.45 million combined, so the Hurricanes would need to take at least one NHL salary back to trade them today. At the deadline, it wouldn't be an issue to add only picks and prospects.
Whether today or next month, the Hurricanes will have to look to the future soon. Gleason has been here long enough to know that as well as anyone. After five full seasons with the Hurricanes, he's aware he may not finish his sixth.
"We're still trying to make the playoffs here, but at the same time, teams above us are trying to get better," Gleason said. "That's the way the system works. It's something you can't control. You just have to move on."
The moment hasn't come yet, but it will soon. The Hurricanes set this season aside, cut ties with some long-serving players, add help for the future and move on.