Evgeni Nabokov has a cap hit of $575,000 for this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
As the Columbus Blue Jackets flounder in the standings, there's growing anticipation they’ll make a trade or two to shake things up, even as early as this week.
Goaltending remains their most critical weak spot, as Steve Mason continues to struggle as the No. 1, entering this week with the worst save percentage (.875), second-worst goals-against average (3.67) and most losses (11) of all starters.
Their goalie depth took another hit when Mark Dekanich, attempting to return from a high-ankle sprain, sustained a groin injury with the Blue Jackets’ American League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, and is once again out indefinitely.
An erroneous rumor from Thursday that claimed the Jackets had dealt defenseman Fedor Tyutin to the New York Islanders for goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was quickly shot down, but Columbus GM Scott Howson subsequently confirmed he was in trade talks for a netminder, leading to further rumblings Nabokov is among the targets.
Another possibility, according to the Boston Globe, is Bruins backup Tuukka Rask. But given the Bruins recent improvement and management's probable desire to maintain the current tandem of Rask and Vezina-winner Tim Thomas, it’s doubtful the Jackets could pry the 24-year-old Finn out of Boston.
Potential trade bait for Howson could include centers Antoine Vermette or Derick Brassard. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch suggested Brassard could be moved “for the right return,” though he didn't specify what that would be.
Portzline also claimed late last week there were no trades imminent for the Jackets, but the club was in talks that could lead to other moves.
Some observers are starting to wonder how the Jackets’ funk is weighing on captain Rick Nash.
He has committed long-term to the club, but cannot be pleased with the turn of events this season, raising the suggestion he’d best be served by accepting a trade out of Columbus.
While Nash would undoubtedly fetch a strong return for the Blue Jackets to build upon, it remains to be seen if this is even a possibility. He's been loyal to the franchise and there's no indication that is coming to an end - at least not yet.
Nabokov’s name has been popping up regularly in trade gossip, but neither he nor Isles GM Garth Snow look to be in any hurry to make a move.
In addition to the Jackets, Nabokov has been tied to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes, but according to Snow, there's “nothing imminent” on the trade front.
In recent days, ESPN's Katie Strang and Newsday's Arthur Staple reported Nabokov hasn’t been asked by Snow to waive his no-trade clause, with the veteran goalie adding he didn't want to be moved if the Isles needed him.
TSN's Darren Dreger, replying to a reader's email regarding Nabokov last Friday, acknowledged there is a market for the 36-year-old veteran, but suggested it may be “a tad too early” for Snow to part with an asset that would have more trade value later in the season.
Since Nabokov has a no-trade clause, he'll ultimately decide where he gets dealt so odds are it won't be to a bottom-feeder or a rebuilding club.
As for Nabokov going to Phoenix, that’s unlikely, given Mike Smith has been outstanding thus far for the Coyotes and they already have a capable backup in Jason LaBarbera.
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.