The Anaheim Ducks are hoping 41-year-old right winger Teemu Selanne will return next season, but they'll have to wait a little while longer for his decision.
At an age when most stars are retired or incapable of playing at an elite level, Selanne continues to defy time and netted 31 goals and 80 points in 73 games last season.
But this summer he's recovering from off-season knee surgery and recently told a Finnish paper he was pushing a decision on his future back to September to allow himself more time to heal and test his knee.
Ducks GM Bob Murray said there was no time frame for Selanne's return, nor would he push the winger for one.
If Selanne decides to retire, Murray said he's got a “Plan B” in place, though he wouldn't elaborate on what is was.
Murray may consider signing an unrestricted free agent winger, but the market is pretty much tapped out.
The Orange County Register suggested Cory Stillman, Trent Hunter, Kyle Wellwood and J-P Dumont as options.
Stillman (37) and Dumont (33) have seen their production steadily decline in recent years, while Hunter (31) missed most of last season to a torn MCL in his left knee.
Wellwood, 28, had consecutive seasons of 40-plus points with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the last came in 2006-07 and he has a reputation for inconsistent play.
Other available forwards include Chris Drury, Mike Comrie and Mike Modano, though these three are facing the possibility of retirement.
Drury has been plagued with a degenerative knee injury the past two seasons, while Comrie recently released a statement saying he wouldn't play until he's made a full recovery from hip surgery.
Modano has hinted at retirement if he's unable to land a contract. Given the steady decline of his performance in recent years, he probably wouldn't be a good option for the Ducks.
J.P. Hoornstra of Insidesocal.com wondered if Murray would consider making a trade for a top-six winger, even though he'd likely have to sacrifice someone from the current Ducks roster.
Landing a good scoring winger won't come cheap. Perhaps a first round pick and/or a promising prospect would be tempting for some teams, but they'd most likely want something else, such as an established player off the Ducks roster.
Obviously they won't part with 2011 league MVP and goal-scoring champ Corey Perry. Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan also aren't going anywhere, while Jason Blake and Saku Koivu are now at the point in their respective careers where their combined value wouldn't net a good scoring forward.
Anaheim’s top-scoring blueliner last season was Lubomir Visnovsky, who still has two years at $5.6 million per remaining on his contract, plus a full no-movement clause for the coming season.
Francois Beauchemin was re-acquired from Toronto last season and it's unlikely he'll be shopped. Even if he were available, his trade value is considerably less than it was three years ago and certainly not enough to land a second-line winger.
Sophomore blueliner Cam Fowler would garner plenty of interest around the league, but the Ducks won't be shopping him. Veteran Toni Lydman would be marketable, given his team-best plus-minus of plus-32, but he also wouldn't land a top-six forward.
Don't expect Murray to shop a goalie, either. Jonas Hiller remains the team’s established starter, despite lingering concerns over his vertigo, and backup Dan Ellis has little trade value.
Murray would need to target clubs that need to dump salary before the new season begins in October.
The Buffalo Sabres are the obvious target, sitting roughly $3.5 million above the $64.3 million salary cap prior to the recent re-signing of defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.
It's expected Buffalo will get cap relief by burying the combined salaries of Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn ($5.075 million) in the minors or loaning them to European teams. Interestingly, Kotalik is also a right winger who has second line experience, but his stats have been in a free-fall since his career-high 62-point performance in 2005-06, plus he also has a no-trade clause.
The Washington Capitals currently sit about $890,000 above the cap and Alex Semin has long been a fixture in the rumor mill, but Capitals management insist he's not available.
To become cap compliant, they'll likely place defenseman Tom Poti ($2.875 million) on long-term injury reserve if he fails to pass the team medical next month. Should Poti be healthy, they would have to either make a trade or demote someone, but don't expect Semin to move.
The Philadelphia Flyers have only $175,000 in available cap space for 2011-12, but they also don't have any forwards they're willing to part with who would suit the Ducks needs.
Ditto for the Calgary Flames ($1.309 million in cap room), NY Rangers ($1.364 million) and Pittsburgh Penguins ($1.562 million). In fact, the Flames and Penguins would prefer to add scoring depth to their wings rather than trade it away.
Murray may also look to his farm team for help, but it's unlikely he’d find someone who would immediately be able to jump into a top-six role.
Replacing Selanne is almost impossible and undoubtedly the Ducks will be crossing their fingers that the ‘Finnish Flash’ feels well enough for one more season. Failing that, Murray will likely look toward a thin free agent market for a short-term fix.
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 Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.
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