Ales Hemsky is in the final year of his deal with the Edmonton Oilers and will be a hot topic in the rumor mill as long as he remains unsigned. (Getty Images)
With NHL training camps set to open in a month and the 2011-12 season about seven weeks away, here's a look at 10 Western Conference players we expect to figure prominently in the rumor mill in the coming months.
Weber's one-year, $7.5 million, arbiter-awarded contract raised questions about the Predators willingness to pay what it takes to retain their best players. Weber is a restricted free agent again next summer, while defenseman Ryan Suter and goalie Pekka Rinne will be unrestricted free agents.
Predators management will of course attempt to re-sign the trio, but already there's speculation Weber will be shopped, either by the trade deadline or the June 2012 draft, if talks on a long-term deal stall in order to invest in Suter and Rinne. Whatever happens, it's a good bet Weber, and to a lesser extent, Suter and Rinne, will be frequently mentioned in trade rumors this season.
It's highly unlikely the Flames would trade Iginla, or that he would even agree to be dealt, but that didn't keep his name out of the rumor mill last season when the Flames struggled through the first three months. Management appears intent on retaining ‘Iggy’ and he's expressed no desire to play anywhere else, but if the Flames stumble out of the gate again, expect the Iginla trade scenarios to re-appear.
An unrestricted free agent next summer, Hemsky was a target of trade talk throughout last season and this summer, being linked to the L.A. Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. The longer he goes without an extension, the more he'll be mentioned as a likely candidate to be moved by the trade deadline, especially if the Oilers are once again out of the playoff race.
Another potential UFA next summer, Umberger appears to be interested in remaining with the Jackets. That will depend on his contract demands, the Jackets ability to pay, and where they are in the standings as the trade deadline nears. There would be considerable interest in the physical, versatile Umberger should he become available at the deadline.
Stastny’s name was linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this year as they searched for a first line center. Nothing came of it, but with young Matt Duchene establishing himself as a star in Colorado, Stastny's status as the Avs top forward was thrown into question, especially given his expensive ($6.6 million per season) contract. If he continues to be overshadowed by Duchene, the trade speculation will grow.
Acquired from Edmonton at last season's trade deadline, Penner's short tenure as a King has been disappointing. Should that carry over into 2011-12, expect his name to re-appear as a trade candidate.
The 39-year-old Whitney continues to defy time, netting 57 points in 75 games last season. This will be his final season on his current contract and if the Coyotes find themselves outside the playoff picture by February, they’ll be looking to swap Whitney to playoff contenders, provided he's willing to waive his no-movement clause.
A year ago, the Red Wings were looking forward to Hudler's return from the Kontinental League, anticipating a possible career-best performance. Instead, he put up the worst numbers of his NHL career since 2006-07, with only 37 points. Hudler will be expected to rebound from that poor performance, but a recent report out of Detroit suggested if he struggles early, he’ll end up on the trade block.
Heading into last season, Oshie was considered an invaluable part of the rebuilding Blues. Unfortunately, he was sidelined for three months with an ankle injury and his maturity was called into question after the club suspended him two games in March for missing a practice. Factor in how he signed only a one-year extension with the Blues and you've got fuel for trade rumors. Of course, if he bounces back with a strong performance this season, they'll likely retain him, but if not, Oshie will continue as a trade candidate.
Although some unhappy Canucks fans would prefer Roberto Luongo being dealt, his hefty contract will keep him in Vancouver for a long time. Schneider, on the other hand, is a promising, affordable young goalie itching to become a starter. He's entering the final year of his contract and Canucks management isn't in any hurry to move him. Still, he's their most valuable trade chip, especially if they need to bolster their depth elsewhere for another run at the Cup. Expect the Schneider trade rumors to flash up whenever the Canucks go through a winless skid this season.
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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