Chris Phillips is in the final year of his contract and will be a UFA if unsigned by July 1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
As noted earlier in the week by the Ottawa media, the rebuild is on for the Senators.
The Ottawa Sun reported changes could be coming by the trade deadline and suggested pending unrestricted free agents such as Chris Phillips, Alex Kovalev (provided they waive their no-movement clauses) and Jarkko Ruutu as possible trade candidates along with aging blueliners Sergei Gonchar (two years at $5.5 million remaining on his contract after this season) and Filip Kuba (one year left at $3.7 million).
The Sun's Chris Stevenson noted Senators GM Bryan Murray dismissed speculation team captain Daniel Alfredsson would be dealt, calling him one of only two untouchables on the team, which led Stevenson to speculate promising defenseman Erik Karlsson was the other.
That would mean notable Senators Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Chris Neil are available, though their salaries and respective no-movement/trade clauses will make them difficult to move by next month's trade deadline. However, their names will likely become fixtures in the off-season rumor mill.
With the Senators now in a rebuild mode we can expect a blizzard of rumors leading up to Feb. 28.
Of the Senators’ UFAs the only one with real trade value is Phillips, who would interest teams such as San Jose and Anaheim that are seeking to bolster their blueline depth, while Ruutu could be enticing to clubs seeking grit up front.
Forget about Kovalev, though, as his indifferent performances and recent injury history will likely ensure he’ll finish this season in Ottawa.
Injuries have also hampered Kuba's effectiveness and with another season left on his contract it’s doubtful teams will have serious interest in his services.
Gonchar may be attractive for teams seeking a skilled puck-moving defenseman, but the remaining two years and $11 million on his contract will likely scare off any potential suitors and since he was 36 when he signed his current deal, no cap space would be saved with a buyout or if Gonchar retired.
Kuba, on the other hand, is a buyout candidate, since it would save the team more than $2.5 million in cap space next season.
The New York Post speculated the New Jersey Devils recent improvement (6-3-1 in their past 10 games) may take center Jason Arnott off the trade block.
Arnott, who has a no-movement clause, was considered a trade candidate after the club shipped former captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas. The Post suggested the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, who shipped Arnott to New Jersey last summer in a cost-cutting measure, might have interest in the veteran center.
It remains to be seen if the Canadiens or Capitals have serious interest in Arnott. The Post noted Habs GM Pierre Gauthier was scouting a recent Devils-Florida Panthers game, but it’s possible he was either looking at other players or perhaps merely checking out two of the teams his club will play in the two weeks following the all-star break.
It seems unlikely the Predators would want Arnott back as they're well acquainted with his injury history and declining production, which were factors that led to him being dealt to the Devils.
The Anaheim Ducks were thought to be interested in Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa, but given the Canucks’ intent to retain the defenseman, Ducks GM Bob Murray will have to look elsewhere for blueline depth.
Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register suggested several alternatives, including Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin (a former Duck), Calgary’s Robyn Regehr, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Florida’s Bryan McCabe and Ottawa’s Chris Phillips.
If Leafs GM Brian Burke isn’t going to ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause, he’d need the veteran to request a trade. Beauchemin's been a regular fixture in the rumor mill, but it’s far from a sure thing he will be moved out of town.
With the Flames recently creeping within striking distance of a playoff berth, they're less likely to part with Regehr. Ditto for the Hurricanes with Pitkanen.
That would leave McCabe or Phillips (provided they're willing to waive their no-movement clauses) as the only real trade possibilities.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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.