Last week, Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler, along with his agent and Canucks GM Mike Gillis, denied reports he requested a trade. Those denials, however, failed to silence speculation he will be dealt by the trade deadline.
The Vancouver Province’s Ed Willes reports Gillis’ rumored asking price for Kesler is the “proverbial roster player, prospect, first-round draft pick package.” That’s similar to what Gillis sought last season in his failed efforts to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports the Pittsburgh Penguins have interest in Kesler and considers the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets as “obvious fits.” CBC’s Elliotte Friedman also believes the Penguins have made the 29-year-old center a trade target. Despite rumors to the contrary, Freidman claims the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t pursuing Kesler. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos listed the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers among the possible suitors.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi cites sources claiming the Penguins could offer center Brandon Sutter, two 2014 draft picks (possibly a first- and a third-rounder) along with the choice of young blueliners Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin for Kesler.
Rossi’s sources also say Penguins GM Ray Shero first enquired about Kesler in January, prior to defenseman Kris Letang’s stroke. Though Kesler has a no-trade clause, Rossi states the Penguins are atop his list of preferred destinations. The Blackhawks, Red Wings and Flyers are also believed on that list. The Penguins could absorb his $5-million salary by placing Letang and injured winger Pascal Dupuis on long-term injury reserve.
The Penguins not only seem the most determined suitor for Kesler but could offer the best return before the trade deadline. The Blackhawks would have to shed salary to acquire Kesler, which could upset team chemistry. GM Stan Bowman told the Chicago Sun-Times he’s not focused on the trade deadline, claiming to be happy with his roster.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan thinks Kesler would be a good fit with the Red Wings, but they could balk at the price tag. Khan believes Wings GM Ken Holland prefers to pursue a defenseman, suggesting a better target would be Canucks’ blueliner Alexander Edler.
The Flyers’ focus appears more upon landing a top-two defenseman in the off-season than acquiring a veteran center. It’s safe to assume the Canucks would demand Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn as part of the return.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie points out the ultimate decision rests with Kesler. He speculates if the Canucks fail to move Kesler by the trade deadline, they can try again in the off-season, perhaps during the NHL draft in June.
Prior to the the Buffalo Sabres shipping Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues there was talk the Minnesota Wild would make an offer for him. GM Chuck Fletcher denied those rumors, unwilling to part with any of his promising young players or prospects. Still, the Wild have concerns between the pipes that must be addressed.
Starter Josh Harding remains sidelined with multiple sclerosis symptoms while Niklas Backstrom’s performance has noticeably declined. Call-up Darcy Kuemper is playing well, but the Wild’s playoff hopes would be threatened if he struggles or gets hurt down the stretch.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports the Sabres are trying to interest the Wild in Jaroslav Halak, who they acquired Friday in the Ryan Miller trade. Russo speculates Fletcher could consider a deal if the price is right. The Wild GM also has interest in New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Carolina’s Cam Ward. Russo also claims the Edmonton Oilers offered up Ilya Bryzgalov. Other options include Carolina’s Anton Khudobin and Florida’s Tim Thomas.
Brodeur’s status depends on Devils GM Lou Lamoriello’s willingness to move him. The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti reports the long-time Devils’ netminder hasn’t requested a trade or discussed his future with Lamoriello. Khudobin would be more affordable than Ward, but the Hurricanes might prefer retaining the latter. Bryzgalov has a reputation as a flake while the Panthers are hoping to re-sign Thomas.
Other Notable Rumors
The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater suggests the possibility of the Colorado Avalanche trading center Paul Stastny if he hasn’t re-signed a new contract by deadline day. Stastny is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. There’s no comment from Avalanche management or Stastny’s agent. Don’t be surprised if they retain Stastny and attempt to re-sign him before July.
New Jersey Devils winger Jaromir Jagr told NJ.com’s Rich Chere he believes if a rival club were interested in him, management would ask him first if he wanted to go there. He had a blunter response for Chere’s colleague Randy Miller. “I’m not going anywhere.” Jagr lacks a no-trade clause, but the Devils could retain him. They’re only three points out of a playoff berth, so they’ll need their leading scorer if they hope to clinch a berth.
There are conflicting reports out of Boston regarding the Bruins’ interest in Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips. The Boston Herald and ESPN.com claim the Bruins contacted the Senators about Phillips, but CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty cites a source saying there’s been no trade talks over the 35-year-old blueliner. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators tabled a contract offer to Phillips and could shop him if still unsigned by deadline day.
The Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports defenseman Christian Ehrhoff could be the next Sabre on the move. Ehrhoff has a modified no-trade clause, and management asked him for a list of eight teams he won’t accept a trade to. Vogl notes a possible stumbling block is that the 31-year-old falls under the new salary cap recapture plan. If Ehrhoff retires before his contract expires in 2021, the Sabres and his new team would be subject to cap recapture penalties.
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.