This summer’s free agent spending frenzy may be in full swing, but that hasn’t put a stop to trade rumors. In fact, the unusually high number of trades at this point in the off-season has fueled further speculation of more deals in the offing, particularly involving defensemen.
• Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray is believed to be in the market for an experienced blueliner to replace the departed Wade Redden, with the Ottawa media suggesting Anaheim’s Mathieu Schneider or San Jose’s Kyle McLaren as potential targets.
The Ducks would like to move Schneider to free up cap space after re-signing Corey Perry to a long-term contract extension, while the Sharks’ recent acquisitions of Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and Brad Lukowich could make McLaren expendable.
Another potentially available blueliner for the Senators or other teams seeking defensive depth (such as the Boston Bruins) is Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis needs to shore up his offense, particularly with the departures of Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison via free agency. Bieksa is one of the few defensemen on the Canucks blueline with decent trade value who doesn’t hold a movement clause.
• Speaking of the Senators, uncertainty over the future of restricted free agent blueliner Andrej Meszaros has made him a frequent subject of recent trade rumors.
Meszaros isn’t eligible for salary arbitration and the longer he remains unsigned the more tempting a target for an offer sheet he becomes.
• Keep an eye on the Tampa Bay Lightning as they could get into the market for defensive depth, too.
Having loaded up at forward in recent weeks via trades and free agency and adding veteran Olaf Kolzig to their goaltending stable, the Lightning are thin on the blueline after shipping out Boyle and Lukowich to the Sharks last week.
Two Lightning forwards who could be trade bait include winger Jussi Jokinen, who struggled to fit into the Bolts roster after being acquired from the Stars in the Brad Richards trade in February, and energetic right winger Michel Ouellet.
• Maple Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher once again denied speculation he was shopping Bryan McCabe or entertaining offers.
Fletcher intends to meet with McCabe later this summer to discuss his future with the club, which has led to media speculation Fletcher will again try to convince the blueliner to waive his movement clause and accept a trade.
McCabe and his agent insist he isn’t interested in a trade, but that won’t stop the media from dreaming up potential scenarios.
What must be remembered, however, is even if McCabe does finally agree to be shopped, Fletcher might find him to be a tough sell around the league, as the market value for expensive ($5.75 million cap hit per season) one-dimensional blueliners isn’t great.
With Mark Streit recently signing a multi-year deal with the Islanders it’s safe to rule that club out as a potential destination for McCabe.
• The Carolina Hurricanes are overstocked with defensemen in the wake of their recent acquisitions of Joni Pitkanen and Anton Babchuk and could look to move a blueliner in the coming weeks.
A recent report in the Raleigh News and Observer suggested Frantisek Kaberle or Niclas Wallin as possibilities, although the latter has a no-trade clause which he exercised last June to prevent a potential move.
• Buffalo Sabres forward Maxim Afinogenov’s poor performance this past season appears to have had an adverse impact on his trade value.
The Sabres had been reportedly shopping the talented but inconsistent winger for some time in hopes of landing a defenseman, but attracted little interest.
Another factor hurting Afinogenov’s value is his eligibility for unrestricted free agency next summer, making teams less keen to deal for a player they could lose for nothing next July.
Considering the Canucks, a team desperate for scorers, passed on Afinogenov last week to acquire an unproven Steve Bernier from Buffalo, it’s likely Afinogenov will be back with the Sabres next season.
• With the Chicago Blackhawks signing goaltender Cristobal Huet last week, speculation is rampant the club could peddle Nikolai Khabibulin, who’s been a bust as a starting goalie since signing a grossly expensive $6.75 million per season contract with the club three years ago.
GM Dale Tallon said Khabibulin and Huet will split the goaltending duties in Chicago this coming season, but that hasn’t silenced the trade chatter.
With one season remaining on his contract, it’s possible Khabibulin could be moved, but his big salary might not attract many suitors.
If the crumbling ‘Bulin Wall’ has a decent performance next season, the earliest the Blackhawks could move him would be by mid-season, when half of his salary would be paid out thus making him more affordable to other clubs.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.
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