Rumor Roundup: Red Wings still searching for missing blueline piece

Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings are linked to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers in the rumor mill, but he’s not the only blueliner they could be pursuing. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports the Florida Panthers want to move blueliner Brian Campbell and the Red Wings are interested.

Kypreos claims the Wings hope to move rearguard Jakub Kindl, but the Panthers prefer one of their blueline prospects like Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen. It’s unclear if other clubs are interested in the 35-year-old Campbell, who is signed through 2015-16 at an annual salary of over $7.142 million.

The Wings only have roughly $2.720 million in cap space. They have little room for Campbell’s contract unless the Panthers agree to pick up half of his remaining salary, plus take on a salaried player from the Wings.

An obvious assumption would be shipping former Panthers center Stephen Weiss ($4.9-million annual cap hit) back to Florida, but he has a modified no-trade clause and must agree to such a move. It’s unlikely the Panthers want him back.

A bigger issue, however, is Campbell is a left-handed shot, which doesn’t suit the Wings need for a top-four blueliner with a right-handed shot. Unless the Wings get desperate, they’ll likely pursue a more affordable defenseman who suits their needs.

COULD CANES MOVE SEKERA?

The rumor mill was abuzz with excitement last week over speculation teams could have interest in Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal. It appears, however, he’s not the only member of the Hurricanes generating some trade chatter.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports defenseman Andrej Sekera is also a sought-after trade option. He notes the 28-year-old blueliner is coming off a 44-point performance and is eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end. Johnston feels Sekera would be a good fit in a number of NHL cities.

The Hurricanes, however, could be reluctant to move Sekera, who blossomed into a solid top-two pairing defenseman following his acquisition from Buffalo last year. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Hurricanes hope to re-sign Sekera, who’s making $2.75 million this season.

It’s up to Sekera to decide if he wants to stay with the team which gave him the opportunity to shine, or test the free-agent market for a more profitable contract.

BRUINS SEARCHING FOR A TOP LINE ANSWER

The Boston Bruins are still struggling to adjust to Jarome Iginla‘s off-season departure via free agency. Iginla was their first-line right wing and his absence this season has left a big hole on their top line.

Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe believes the Bruins will keep searching for a potential replacement throughout this season, seeking a sizable winger with a right-hand shot. He feels they can use the assets received from the New York Islanders in the Johnny Boychuk deal as bargaining chips, notably the Philadelphia Flyer second-round pick in 2015.

Shinzawa also notes the Bruins must re-sign restricted free agents Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith next summer, speculating they could prefer a winger in the final year of his current contract.

Perhaps Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart could fit the bill. He’s young (turning 27 on October 30), physical, has two 28-goal seasons under his belt and is eligible for UFA status in July. The only sticking point right now is his $4.15-million cap hit, while the Bruins only have over $2.240 million in cap space.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).

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Huberdeau dazzles in shootout with homage to Swedish legend

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Huberdeau (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In a game that involves the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals going to a shootout, you’d expect the highlight of the night to be something off the stick of Alex Ovechkin. Not tonight.

The former Southeast Division rivals battled to a tightly contested 1-1 draw through regulation and overtime. Both teams saved their scoring touches for the shootout.

After Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead in the shootout with a quick flick of the wrists, Jonathan Huberdeau evened the score by paying homage to one of the most iconic goals of all-time: Peter Forsberg’s one-handed goal from the 1994 Olympics. It was an absolutely beautiful goal from the 2012-13 Calder Trophy recipient.

Originally used by Kent Nilsson, Forsberg made the goal famous when he slipped it past Canadian goaltender Corey Hirsch in the ’94 Olympics Gold Medal game in Lillehammer. It would prove to be the winning tally in the shootout.

Unfortunately for Huberdeau and the Panthers, his marker couldn’t do the same. Ovechkin got the last laugh for the Capitals as he outwaited Florida goaltender Al Montoya for the shootout winner.

All may not be lost for Huberdeau, though. If he waits long enough, he might get on a stamp. Read more

Roberto Luongo interviews Zach Fucale, and it’s awesome

Adam Proteau
Interviewing Zach Fucale was one of Roberto Luongo's many responsibilities as THN's guest editor in chief.

Roberto Luongo and Zach Fucale were born 16 years apart, but they do have several things in common: they’re both Quebec-born goalies and Quebec League stars born to Italian families, and they’ve each represented their country in high-stakes international competitions.

Fucale, 19, has yet to play an NHL game after his hometown Canadiens drafted him 36th overall in 2013, but he attended Canadiens camp this year and had just returned to his Halifax Mooseheads team to start the season. That’s where special guest editor-in-chief Luongo caught up with him for an exclusive, insightful talk, under the supervision of yours truly, that was more conversation than straight-ahead question-and-answer.

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Panthers’ attendance woes shouldn’t be a shocker

Adam Proteau
BB&T Center (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

When I was in Sunrise, Fla., a few weeks back to work with Roberto Luongo on our current magazine edition, I attended the pre-season game between Luongo’s Panthers and the visiting Dallas Stars. And as I said at the time, I was more surprised to see bare white rink boards than I was the minuscule crowd in attendance. Given the failures of the many Panthers teams that came before the current one, I didn’t think a Standing Room Only ticket policy would be in effect.

So I have to say, it feels like as if everyone was getting worked up a little too much Monday when next to nobody showed up at the BB&T Center to see the Ottawa Senators come to town. Sure, the optics of seeing row upon row of empty seats has to be sobering to Panthers fans worried about the future of their team in South Florida. But it wasn’t as if there was all sorts of optimism abounding before new owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu bought the team last season. The reality is, anyone who has seen this team struggle on and off the ice for the grand majority of the past two decades understands just what a long road to respectability there is ahead for the organization.

When I met with Cifu for the story, he gave me the distinct impression they were under no illusions as to the challenges of the market. It’s very likely he and Viola expect there will be a string of games attended this poorly. But if the team can’t do anything on the ice to begin with, it’s not about blaming the fans in Florida for staying away. They have every right to not support a perennially mismanaged team. Read more

Radko Gudas on Scottie Upshall – should be suspended, but probably won’t

Ken Campbell
Radko Gudas. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s interesting how the same event, particularly in a game of contact that goes a hundred miles an hour, can be perceived so differently. Take the Radek Gudas hit on Scottie Upshall Thursday night as an example.

On its website, Rogers Sportsnet described the hit this way: “Florida’s Scottie Upshall gets caught with his head down as he accelerated into the arm of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas.” Perhaps whoever wrote that really felt that way about the hit. Or perhaps this was the first test of Rogers’ new cozy relationship with the NHL and it failed miserably. Read more

No more mystery: THN’s guest editor-in-chief is…

Adam Proteau
Roberto Luongo's unofficial Twitter account (courtesy of Luongo)

It’s not every day The Hockey News makes an NHL player our special guest Editor-in-Chief for an issue of the magazine. In fact, in the 67-year-history of our esteemed publication, we’ve never done anything of the sort. And when we initially batted around the idea of asking an NHLer to take on the task this summer, there was really only one man we wanted for the job.

Ladies and gentlemen, THN’s staff presents to you our boss for the next edition (on newsstands and online in mid-October): Roberto Luongo.

That’s right – in addition to training and preparing for the start of his first full season as Panthers goalie since the 2005-06 campaign, Luongo has been hard at work with THN the past couple weeks crafting our next issue. We can’t give you all the details, of course, but the star goalie (a) set the agenda for the issue by choosing stories for our staff to work on; (b) wrote an editor’s notebook (sorry, regular Editor-in-Chief Jason Kay, you’re out of the mix this time) offered greater insight into the end of his time in Vancouver and the trade back to Florida; (c) conducted an excellent interview with another Quebec-born goalie of Italian heritage, Canadiens draft pick Zach Fucale; (d) answered reader questions in a special “Ask Roberto” mailbag; and (e) posed for an out-of-the-ordinary photo for the cover.

To say Luongo was thrilled for the opportunity was an understatement. Sure, he’s been spectacularly successful with his unofficial Twitter account, but this was something different and he embraced it fully. And maybe that’s because the Luongo of September, 2014 is a man at peace with himself after surviving an emotional rollercoaster late in his Canucks career. Read more

Jonathan Huberdeau: the Panther you’d be a fool to forget

Adam Proteau
Jonathan Huberdeau (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. – Jonathan Huberdeau’s first NHL season ended with him winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s most outstanding rookie. But, like many second-year pros, he discovered consistency over the longer term is more difficult to achieve.

The 21-year-old left winger scored 14 goals and 31 points in the lockout-shortened 48-game NHL campaign of 2012-13, but last year those numbers dwindled to nine goals and 28 points in 69 games. However, the so-called sophomore jinx wasn’t to blame. Instead, the origins of Huberdeau’s struggles can be traced back to the hip surgery he underwent in May of 2013; while the procedure dealt with a nagging ailment, it also set him back in terms of working on all aspects of his game.

“It was hard mentally with the season I had,” Huberdeau said. “It was hard physically, too, but hey, no excuses. I could’ve done better.”

When he finally got his feet under him late in the season (and just before a concussion cost him 11 games toward the end of the campaign), former Panthers interim head coach Peter Horacek inexplicably sheared down Huberdeau’s minutes to what you’d expect to see given to a fourth-liner, not the reigning rookie-of-the-year. Read more

Is Aaron Ekblad the next Nicklas Lidstrom?

Ken Campbell
Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Funny how Aaron Ekblad looks neither particularly dangerous nor lonely the afternoon before the 2014 draft. He’s sitting in his designated spot at the National Constitution Center, wearing an NHL-issued golf shirt, khakis and casual footwear (no socks), swatting aside questions with the same ease he does 16-year-old lightweights in the Ontario League. His hair has a blond streak and he’s well tanned, the result of having a little downtime after the season to spend on his family’s new Sea-Doo 21-foot Challenger boat on Lake St. Clair near Windsor. There’s a certain irony that Ekblad, the day before he’ll be consigned to an NHL team over which he has absolutely no choice, is doing this in the same city where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.

Ekblad’s emancipation from junior hockey, though, is almost complete. He’ll soon be a part of the Barrie Colts alumni. At 6-foot-4 with a cannon from the blueline, NHL hockey sense and the makeup to log big-time minutes, he’ll be playing in the best league in the world this coming season. On this afternoon, the only question is where. The Florida Panthers are dangling the first-overall pick and they’re getting some action, particularly from the Flyers, who want to make a splash in front of their fans. They also want the player who’s the most NHL-ready among all the prospects. “He’s a man,” says Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who stays up all night stewing over trade offers before deciding to take Ekblad. “He’s 18 going on 30.”
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