John-Michael Liles has been mentioned in trade rumors all season. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Wednesday to snap a five-game losing streak that had stoked speculation Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur would be shopped to bolster the team’s playoff hopes.
GM Dave Nonis dismissed this notion, telling Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt of Prime Time Sports there's more value in retaining those players – despite their free agent status this summer – than in moving them at the deadline.
Nonis also suggested he could be both a buyer and a seller by the deadline. “We could be moving players out, we could move some picks to bring players in,” he said on the show. “It’s going to be determined on what’s available to us.”
Though unwilling to dangle his pending free agents as trade bait, Nonis could move some players under contract beyond this season.
Little-used defenseman John-Michael Liles has been mentioned as a trade candidate, though his modified no-trade clause and $3.875-million annual salary are significant sticking points.
Mike Komisarek was placed on waivers Wednesday, an indication of his low value on the trade market.
Nikolai Kulemin's offensive woes have carried over from last season, which has sparked rumors about his availability. The 26-year-old has one year and $2.8 million remaining on his contract.
While Nonis remains pleased with the performance from young goalies James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, their inexperience will likely keep him in the market for a veteran netminder.
The Detroit Red Wings’ offensive struggles this season prompted MLive.com's Ansar Khan to suggest Buffalo’s Drew Stafford as a potential trade target.
Khan acknowledged Stafford's offensive inconsistency throughout his career, but believes his size (6-foot-2, 214 pounds), skills and right-handed shot would interest the Red Wings. He feels it would take a young roster player along with a draft pick or prospect to land Stafford.
Such a move would be risky. The Wings have $45.9 million committed to 16 players for next season, with pending free agents such as Jimmy Howard, Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner still to be re-signed. The two years (at $4 million per season) remaining on Stafford's contract would take a significant chunk out of next season's cap space.
The Wings are expected to be active by the trade deadline, but their targets will likely be affordable rental players rather than those carrying significant salary into next season.
The Minnesota Wild's mid-February struggles prompted speculation pending free agents Niklas Backstrom and Matt Cullen would be shopped by the trade deadline.
A month later, however, the Wild sit first in the Northwest Division. GM Chuck Fletcher dismissed the notion Backstrom and Cullen would be moved, preferring to wait until season's end to begin contract negotiations.
Fletcher also sounded reluctant about shopping for veteran depth by the deadline, saying he'd rather allow his young players the opportunity to gain experience down the stretch.
Given the Wild's strong performance since mid-February (10-4-0 since Feb. 17), it's no wonder Fletcher is unwilling to shake things up. He'll continue to monitor the market, but any moves he makes could be minor.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).