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If Brendan Shanahan follows through and goes the full teardown route, his biggest challenge will be moving out the No-Trade Five – Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson – between now and next fall.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

A combination of factors have conspired to help kill the NHL's trade deadline.

And no offence is intended to Antoine Vermette, the dependable Phoenix Coyotes centre who tops many lists of the "biggest" names on the block.

Under the league's collective agreement, most stars or near-stars are signing long-term contracts. Most long-term contracts come with high salaries and no-trade clauses. Most teams are either unable or unwilling to fit those kinds of deals into their lineups at midseason, especially when the Canadian dollar's drop is expected to keep next year's salary cap close to flat.

So the talk all around the league is that movement will be limited to rentals – players on expiring contracts. Because so many players are already signed, however, few ever make it to free agency any more, which means there aren't even many rentals from which to choose.

Last season, 20 trades were made on the deadline involving 38 players. Many were prospects or depth players, but a handful of decent names moved: Marty St. Louis for Ryan Callahan, Matt Moulson to Minnesota, Jaroslav Halak to Washington, Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles and Thomas Vanek to Montreal and David Legwand to Detroit.

Few expect anything resembling that to happen next week.

Unless the Toronto Maple Leafs start pulling the trigger.

A lot of teams are out of the playoff race already – according to sportsclubstats.com, 11 have less than a 9-per-cent chance of making the postseason with nearly 30 per cent of the season still to go – but few are looking to radically reshape their roster the way the Leafs are.

More than a dozen Toronto players are potentially available if the right deals come together, a list that includes obvious names such as rentals Dan Winnik, David Booth and Olli Jokinen, but also others with substantial dollars and term left on their deals.

One thing that makes the Leafs unique is they're not necessarily looking for a typical return. During their rebuilding process, they can take back bad contracts, retain salary or any number of other creative options if it helps dump a long-term contract or get a prospect or pick.

These are the sorts of scenarios that had them kicking tires on Kings veteran Mike Richards, who's currently toiling in the minors.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" could work as a team motto for the coming week.

If Brendan Shanahan follows through and goes the full teardown route, his biggest challenge will be moving out the No-Trade Five – Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson – between now and next fall.

In the case of Kessel and Phaneuf, their huge contracts complicate things, especially when the Leafs will want something of value in return.

In the case of Lupul, his injury history is a problem, as is Bozak's awful second half of the current season (13 points in his past 35 games). And Shanahan will need an exorcist to move Clarkson's deal out the door.

It may well be that these big pieces are easier to deal in the off-season, when contracts have expired and teams miss out on the few free agents available. But the Leafs are going to be listening intently in the next seven days on almost everyone, hoping the lack of other talent on the market works in their favour.

They're willing to be creative. They'll probably have to be.

But if they can't make anything happen, it very could be a quiet day around the league.

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