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Nabokov on the block?

Evgeni Nabokov returned to the NHL this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Evgeni Nabokov returned to the NHL this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The decision by New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano to start Evgeni Nabokov in Saturday's game against the New York Rangers gave rise to speculation the Isles are showcasing Nabokov for trade.

Al Montoya had started the Islanders opening three games and performed very well, sporting a 2-1-0 record with a 1.35 GAA and a .953 SP, giving up only four goals on 85 shots in those games.

Katie Strang of ESPN noted scouts from Vancouver, San Jose, Carolina, Phoenix and Columbus were slated to attend the Islanders-Rangers game.

The Canucks and Sharks will be playing the Islanders within a month, so that would account for their scouts being there. The Hurricanes don’t need a goaltender and the Coyotes won’t be looking to add salary, plus it’s early in the season to be looking for an upgrade.

That leaves the Blue Jackets, where there is concern over starting goalie Steve Mason, who has struggled to regain his Calder Trophy form from 2008-09, when he backstopped the Jackets to their sole playoff appearance in franchise history.

The problem for the Islanders at the present time is, as always, the health of Rick DiPietro, who is sidelined once again by a concussion he sustained from a Brian Rolston slapshot that rang off his mask during practice.

With DiPietro's health an uncertainty and Montoya yet to prove capable of being an NHL starter for an entire season, the Islanders won’t be in any hurry to move Nabokov.

That doesn't mean they won't consider moving him later in the season, especially if Montoya continues to play well and DiPietro finally puts his injury woes behind him.

For now, they'll stick with a Montoya-Nabokov tandem.

FLAMES FIRE SALE?

Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun recently reported Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster would love to shed a couple of expensive contracts from his books.

Garrioch listed centers Olli Jokinen and Matt Stajan, right winger David Moss and left winger Niklas Hagman as those Feaster will try to move.

The problem is those contracts won’t be easy to move, especially Stajan’s. The beleaguered pivot is currently in the second year of a four-year, $14 million contract.

Garrioch suggested Jokinen, Hagman and Moss would be trade bait by the February deadline if the Flames are out of the post-season race by that point. The three will be unrestricted free agents next summer, which will make them easier to move later in the season.

It’s worth noting Jokinen (four points in four games) and Hagman (three points in four games) have started well for the Flames, so Feaster may try to capitalize on that in hopes it will improve their value.

If no trades can be found, Feaster could also bury one of those contracts in the minors, which is what happened last season with Ales Kotalik's $3 million salary.

However, unlike recent years, the Flames aren't starting the season with limited cap space. Feaster's off-season moves gave him more than $1.7 million of room, which will prove valuable later in the season if he feels the team needs more depth.

CANUCK GOALIE SHUFFLE?

Garrioch also claimed Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis was working the phones in hopes of dealing a defenseman. He believed Gillis would like to move Keith Ballard, though that won’t be easy given Ballard has four more years at a cap hit of $4.2 million per season left on this contract.

In the meantime, the Canucks are hoping Ballard can rebound from last season's injury-shortened performance. Ballard has played with Alex Edler on Vancouver’s second defense pairing.

Ballard was a solid physical presence in the Canucks 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday, including a big hit on center Taylor Hall that shook up the young Oiler.

Some Canucks fans still consider veteran starter Roberto Luongo the scapegoat for their team's inability to defeat the Boston Bruins in last spring's Stanley Cup final.

They would prefer Gillis move Luongo and promote backup Cory Schneider, but that's not going to happen.

ESPN's Craig Custance, responding to a reader's email on the subject, cited a source who doubted the Canucks would entertain the notion of a goalie swap.

There's also the little matter of Luongo's 12-year contract, which has 10 more seasons remaining at an average cap hit of $5.3 million - as well as his no-trade clause.

Get used to it, Luongo haters: ‘Bobby Lou’ will be a Canuck for a long time.

 

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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