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NHL teams start scavenging for grit and good deals

Columbus Blue Jackets' Rick Nash celebrates his game tying goal during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Alberta, December 1, 2011.

Todd Korol / Reuters/Todd Korol / Reuters

As the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline approaches and the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams play a waiting game on Columbus marksman Rick Nash, rebuilding has been taking place elsewhere as teams with Stanley Cup dreams scavenge from teams that are already looking for next season.

On Tuesday, the Detroit Red Wings acquired defenceman Kyle Quincey in a three-team deal that moved tough forward Steve Downie from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Colorado Avalanche. It was a smart move for the Lightning, who turned Downie into a first-round pick in this year's draft and the latest in a series of moves designed to revamp the non-playoff Tampa Bay team, says general manager Steve Yzerman.

The future matters and draft picks are the building blocks. There's no point in playing out the string with a lineup that's old, he says. The Lightning have two first-round picks in 2012 and a minimum of three selections in the second round.

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"Obviously, I traded three players for draft picks," said Yzerman who also dealt forward Matt Fornataro to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Brandon Segal. Earlier he traded defenceman Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia for a pair of draft picks and a minor leaguer, and obtained a 2012 second-round pick from San Jose for centre Dominic Moore and a seventh-round draft pick this year.

"Any situation that comes along from today through the trade deadline and into the off-season is something we're willing to look at. Our picks give us options. My goal is to win a Stanley Cup here, and I think we have to do some tough and difficult things along the way to do that. We need young players. We need to draft well and build that way, and this was an opportunity to take advantage of that and acquire more picks, and relatively high picks. The message to our players has been that I want to win a Stanley Cup and I'm going to do what I have to do to get us there," Yzerman said.

The Red Wings have been looking to add defensive depth to bolster their lead in the NHL's central division. Quincey was drafted by Detroit in 2003. He played in 13 playoff games, helping fill a void left by injured defenceman Mathieu Schneider.

Downie had 12 goals and 28 points, along with a team-high 121 penalty minutes in 55 games for the Lightning this season.

"Our organization believes that Steve Downie will add grit and skill to our lineup offensively," Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said in statement. "He plays the game with an edge, and we look forward to seeing the immediate and future impact he can bring to our team."

Meanwhile, the Columbus Post Dispatch quotes Blue Jacket manager Scott Howson as saying no deal for Nash is in the works – not yet, any way.

"We're waiting for the right deals," Howson said. "We're getting closer. But we're not there yet."

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Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are deemed to be the front runners in the Nash sweepstakes at this point, but sources say Toronto's GM Brian Burke hasn't stopped trying. Philadelphia Flyers also were interested but have reportedly been hesitant over what they'd have to give up.

Stanley Cup defending champions Boston Bruins are looking to upgrade their roster at the deadline, says Comcast Sports, but manager Peter Chiarelli won't spring for Nash. The Bruins also don't have their second or fourth round picks in the 2012 NHL entry draft.

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Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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