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Ruffled feathers

Kris Versteeg has had his name pop up in the rumor mill as a player who could find his way out of Chicago. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Kris Versteeg has had his name pop up in the rumor mill as a player who could find his way out of Chicago. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks surprised the hockey world last week by demoting GM Dale Tallon to senior advisor and replacing him with former assistant GM Stan Bowman, son of legendary NHL coach and Blackhawks advisor Scotty Bowman.

Among the questions raised following the move was whether or not Bowman would pursue an experienced defenseman by shopping a forward, as Tallon was reportedly doing prior to his demotion.

Bowman suggested he wasn’t planning to make a splash with a major move, but that hasn’t silenced speculation he might pick up where Tallon left off. The Blackhawks had been linked for some time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have nine defensemen under contract and are in the market for a scoring forward.

One forward the Blackhawks are believed to be shopping is Patrick Sharp, as a team source told the Chicago Daily Herald the club had spoken to the Maple Leafs, among other teams, about him. Other trades could include Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien.

Bowman likely isn’t in any real hurry to make a deal this summer.  The Blackhawks head into this season as potential Stanley Cup contenders in the Western Conference and their young roster should only get better.

The problem will be next summer when Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith are restricted free agents and targets for offer sheets.

In order to give those three the raises they’ll command, Bowman will have to dump salary elsewhere, which is why Sharp and his $3.9 million per season contract keep popping up in recent trade rumors.

• Nothing new to report regarding Boston’s Phil Kessel or Ottawa’s Dany Heatley.

The Boston Globe reported Sunday there was little change in the status of Kessel’s contract talks with the Bruins, citing a trade as one of several options facing the winger.

Reports out of Ottawa, meanwhile, suggest the Heatley situation remains uncertain, with reportedly no new teams lining up to pitch offers to the Senators for the disgruntled winger while the clock is ticking on a possible deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

Get the feeling the GMs of those respective clubs are on summer vacation or making plans to go on vacation?  The real reason, of course, is the limited number of teams with the cap space and willingness to meet the asking prices to land Kessel and Heatley. Not to mention the latter is very picky over where he’d be willing to go, as is his right with this no-movement clause. 

Don’t be surprised if things remain unchanged for these two during the course of the summer.  

• The New York Post continues to suggest the money problems of Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks could force the club into peddling center Brad Richards and his $7.8 million per season salary, which Rangers GM Glen Sather might be interested in picking up.

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Problem is the Post is the only media source making the suggestion. The Dallas Morning News reported nearly two weeks ago Richards isn’t going anywhere unless Sather made a ridiculous offer.

With currently less than $2.5 million in available cap space, Sather would have to send considerable salary to Dallas to afford Richards’ huge salary, which would defeat the purpose of the Stars dumping his salary in the first place.

• The Minnesota Wild’s recent signing of free agent backup Wade Dubielewicz raised the possibility of Josh Harding being dealt at some point this summer.

A restricted free agent, Harding is keen to prove himself as a starting goaltender, something that’s not going to happen with Niklas Backstrom under long-term contract to the Wild.

GM Chuck Fletcher is believed to be in the market for more offensive depth and Harding might be a valuable trade chip, although there is a very limited market for goaltenders this summer.

The Los Angeles Kings is a possibility, but their management seems committed to Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg as their tandem.

• San Jose Sharks fans are still awaiting the significant roster shakeup promised this spring by GM Doug Wilson following yet another disappointing early playoff exit, but thus far Wilson’s moves have been minor ones.

The San Jose Mercury News recently reported team captain Patrick Marleau spoke with Wilson several weeks ago about continuing as the club’s captain. Marleau has been a frequent fixture in the rumor mill over the past two seasons, but it doesn’t sound as though he’ll be waiving his no-trade clause anytime soon.

The most notable news was goalie Evgeni Nabokov saying he’d waive his no-trade clause if he were asked, but thus far no one in the organization has done so. Nabokov isn’t hinting for a trade, just saying he’d be willing to waive the clause if the club didn’t want to keep him.

It’d be surprising if Wilson made that request of Nabokov. There’s nobody in the Sharks system capable of replacing him as a starting goalie and, despite an off year in 2008-09, Nabokov remains among the league’s elite netminders.

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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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