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Is Kulemin part of Toronto's plan?

Nik Kulemin topped out at 30 goals and 57 points in 2010-11, but hasn't reached 20 goals or 40 points since. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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Nik Kulemin topped out at 30 goals and 57 points in 2010-11, but hasn't reached 20 goals or 40 points since. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

On the eve of training camp, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally re-signed center Nazem Kadri, agreeing to terms on a two-year, $5.8-million deal.

The $2.9-million cap hit on Kadri's new contract gives the Maple Leafs less than $2 million in cap space, which isn't much room to sign defenseman Cody Franson (who’s believed to be seeking a two-year, $4 million deal) and training camp invitee Mason Raymond.

Prior to the Kadri deal, Sean Gentille of The Sporting News suggested that shopping right winger Nikolai Kulemin could resolve the situation.

Kulemin, 27, has one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $2.8 million. Though an inconsistent scorer, he tallied 30 goals in 2010-11, which could make him attractive to clubs seeking an affordable scoring winger.

Shedding Kulemin's salary would provide the Leafs with nearly $4.79 million of cap space, more than enough to sign Franson and Raymond. It remains to be seen, however, if Kulemin hits the trade block.

STEPAN-RANGERS BATTLE ALL ABOUT LEVERAGE

The stalemate between the New York Rangers and center Derek Stepan is showing no signs of ending soon.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported Stepan's agent Matt Oates said a deal wasn't imminent and his client wouldn't attend training camp without a contract.

Stepan is reportedly seeking “a five- or six-year deal in the neighbourhood of $5-million per” while the Rangers countered with a two-year contract between $2.75- and $3-million.

Brooks claimed the Rangers have “about $3 million” in cap space. He suggested they could get some short-term relief by placing “Carl Hagelin and/or Ryan Callahan” on long-term injury reserve to open the season, but noted anything over $3.5 million for Stepan would limit their cap manoeuvrability in the event of further injuries.

Brooks also worried about a rival club (such as the NY Islanders) pitching Stepan a $5-million offer sheet, forcing the Rangers to dump salary in order to match it.

However, the reduction of the salary cap limits that threat and ensures the Rangers will maintain their leverage in this standoff with Stepan.

PHILADELPHIA FLYING TOO CLOSE TO SALARY CAP

The Philadelphia Flyers have reportedly agreed to terms with former Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary on a three-year, $8.25-million contract.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, however, claimed Cleary would attend training camp on a tryout basis before agreeing to sign off on the new contract.

The reason is the Flyers are already $2 million over the salary cap and cannot officially announce Cleary's signing without first shedding some salary.

It's expected the Flyers will start the season by placing defensemen Chris Pronger ($4.91 million) and Marc-Andre Bourdon ($612,000) on long-term injured reserve, which would provide salary cap relief as well as room to officially announce Cleary's new contract.

The problem, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, is the Flyers “must carry both Pronger and Bourdon on the opening day salary cap” before receiving their cap relief, starting on Day Two.

That's increased speculation defenseman Andrej Meszaros ($4 million) will be shopped before the season opener.

Another option is briefly demoting one or two players to the minors. A Flyers source told CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio they could send Sean Couturier and/or Brayden Schenn (both are on two-way contracts and waiver-exempt) to the minors at month's end, then recall them once Pronger goes on LTIR.

PANTHERS LOOKING FOR VETERAN BACKUP GOALIE

Florida Panthers backup goalie Scott Clemmensen underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and will be sidelined for three weeks.  

Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he'll be in the market for a veteran backup for the pre-season.

Free agent options include Tim Thomas, Rick DiPietro, Ilya Bryzgalov, Johan Hedberg and former Panthers starter Jose Theodore.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported the Panthers extended a professional tryout offer (PTO) to Thomas. His agent, Markus Lehto, said he's had discussions with several teams, but added his client wants to be a starting goaltender. The Panthers have already pencilled in Jacob Markstrom for that role.

The Panthers also extended a PTO to Theodore, which he declined, as he's awaiting a contract.

SI.com's Allan Muir wondered if DiPietro might get a call from the Panthers. The former NY Islander would seize any chance to get his once-promising NHL career back on track.

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.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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