Rumor Roundup: Can the Avalanche trade for the Rangers’ Del Zotto?

Michael Del Zotto (Getty Images)
Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers skates with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 7, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Reports persist the Colorado Avalanche are in the market for a defenseman. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claimed they have interest in New York Rangers blueliner Michael Del Zotto but can’t afford the asking price of a top-four defenseman in return.

Adrian Dater of The Denver Post confirmed the Avs are shopping for blueline depth, but doubted Del Zotto was their target. For some time they’ve been linked to Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. The two clubs were recently believed to be close to a deal until it fell through at the last minute.

The Avalanche could draw from their forward depth for trade bait. Earlier this month it was reported left winger Jamie McGinn was available, but the Avs must sweeten the pot to land Kulikov or Del Zotto.

PANTHERS TO GO FREE AGENT HUNTING THIS SUMMER
Expect the Florida Panthers to be busy in the July unrestricted free agent market. New owner Vinnie Viola recently told the sun-sentinel.com if the opportunity arises to sign a premier free agent, the club wouldn’t hesitate to act.

It won’t be the first time in recent years the Panthers have pursued free agent talent. During the summer of 2011, GM Dale Tallon made a series of acquisitions, including Tomas Fleischmann, Ed Jovanovski, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Scottie Upshall and Jose Theodore. Those moves were made as much to reach the salary cap floor as to improve the roster.

Those additions helped the Panthers end a decade-long playoff drought the following season. Since then, however, they’ve been mired in mediocrity and are planning yet another rebuild, this time around youngsters Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Erik Gudbranson.

Tallon has Viola’s approval to pursue free agent talent, but there’s no guarantee he’ll land any. Given the Panthers’ history of futility since 2001, it will be difficult to attract players willing to buy into their rebuilding process. They must avoid ageing stars who see Florida as a warm, quiet market to play out their final years. Quality over quantity must be Tallon’s motto.

The Panthers have $39.4 million invested in 11 players for 2014-15 and must re-sign or replace Gudbranson, Goc, Brad Boyes, Dmitry Kulikov, Mike Weaver and Tom Gilbert. Several players – including Fleischmann, Upshall, Kulikov, Boyes, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias – have been mentioned in trade rumors this season. Moving those still under contract would free up considerable cap space, which could be put toward the pursuit of free agent talent in July.

WILL A TRADE SPARK THE FLYERS?
The Philadelphia Flyers overcame their poor start to move within striking distance of a playoff berth, but a recent losing skid (five losses in their last eight games) threatens to undo that progress.

Flyers owner Ed Snider recently expressed concern about his club’s performance and hinted changes could be coming. That prompted csnphilly.com’s Tim Panaccio to speculate a trade is among their options.

While starting goalie Steve Mason has struggled of late, the real culprit remains their poor defensive play. Earlier in the season the Flyers were believed to have been shopping for blueline help and those rumors will resurface if they don’t turn things around soon.

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.).

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