It's been an up-and-down season for Phil Kessel in Toronto this season. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun reported that an unnamed NHL scout claimed Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was “testing the waters” to see if there was any interest in struggling winger Phil Kessel.
Burke vehemently denied shopping his troubled scorer, but given Kessel's streaky performance the past two seasons, combined with his $5.4 million cap hit (for three more seasons), Burke probably wouldn't find many takers even if he were floating the winger's name - and certainly not at this point in the season.
Remember, the Boston Bruins had to be creative to shed salary to take on defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who is a free agent at season's end. It would be much tougher to find a fit for Kessel's contract.
Stevenson also reported unnamed scouts who said Washington Capitals GM George McPhee “has been dangling” winger Alexander Semin in hopes of landing a return to help his team.
That seems unlikely, however, since the team only weeks ago re-signed Semin to a one-year, $6.7 million contract extension.
If teams were leery about taking on the streaky scoring winger when he was earning $6 million for this season, it's doubtful they'll take him on with a higher price tag next year.
With notable defensemen such as Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson now unavailable, the market for quality blueliners has thinned considerably leading up to the trade deadline.
That's heightened expectations the struggling Atlanta Thrashers will shop promising youngster Zach Bogosian to bolster their offensive depth. According to Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, however, he's not shopping Bogosian nor does he expect to.
Bogosian isn't an untouchable and if someone offered Dudley a quality first line scoring forward he might seriously consider it. Having recently acquired winger Blake Wheeler from Boston, however, Dudley might not feel as much pressure to add more depth to his forward lines, let alone sacrifice a promising young defenseman for a quick fix.
New York Rangers GM Glen Sather has been shopping for a hard-shooting defenseman to anchor his power play for some time and remains very much in the market.
Sather told Andrew Gross of northjersey.com it didn't matter what the asking price was, but rather what he's willing to pay. Unfortunately, it seems his rivals want him to pay either a good young player such as Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan Callahan, or one of his high draft picks.
The availability of an offensive blueliner is also a growing concern. The Rangers were linked to Ottawa's Filip Kuba and Florida's Bryan McCabe, but the former has another year at $3.7 million while the latter appears reluctant to waive his no-movement clause.
McCabe might not be the only Florida Panthers veteran defenseman potentially available by the trade deadline.
Harvey Fialkov of sun-sentinel.com reported Saturday that Dennis Wideman could become a trade candidate and suggested that while Wideman is solid on the power play and blocks shots, his penchant for turnovers could be getting on the nerves of management and the coaching staff.
Wideman lacks any trade/movement clause, but also has another season at $4 million remaining on his contract, which at this time of year could be as effective as a clause.
The Colorado Avalanche were a very busy team during this past Friday's trading frenzy, first shipping out starting goalie Craig Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott then trading away right winger Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the St. Louis Blues for blueliner Erik Johnson and center Jay McClement.
Those moves fuelled speculation management will try to move pending UFA winger Milan Hejduk, but GM Greg Sherman told ESPN.com he's not shopping the long-time Avalanche winger.
Prior to Sherman's statement, Hejduk told the Denver Post he hadn't considered waiving his no-trade clause, stated his preference to remain with Colorado and called the possibility of accepting a trade only to return with the Avs this summer via free agency as “kind of cheesy.”
No one knows if Sherman intends to re-sign Hejduk after this season, but by refusing to trade him it could signal an intent to talk contract.
The Buffalo News' John Vogl reported Sunday the Sabres four games at home this week will determine if management becomes buyers or sellers by the trade deadline.
The Sabres haven't inked any impending UFAs, such as Tim Connolly and Steve Montador, to contract extensions, meaning they could be dealt if the Sabres decide to sell. However, if the team decides to buy, they reportedly won't bring on any rental players.
Should the Sabres become sellers, Vogl suggested the most likely trade candidate is defenseman Craig Rivet, who hasn't played since mid-January and only has around $940,000 remaining on his $3.5 million salary for this season.
One would certainly have to believe Connolly and Montador would have the most trade value of the potential Sabres UFA players, especially as the deadline nears.
24 Hour Super Sale of The Hockey News (only $23), go to www.livingsocial.com
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.