Rumor Roundup: Kesler sweepstakes to resume in June?

RKesler

Leading up to the March trade deadline there were reports the Anaheim Ducks pursued Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said the Ducks were among six teams Kesler was believed willing to waive his no-trade clause for. Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times reported the Canucks were reluctant to ship the center to a division rival. They also felt they could get better offers from other clubs come June at the draft.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson notes Ducks GM Bob Murray has “the deepest pool of young talent in the league.” He believes Murray will revisit his interest in Kesler this summer. Except for Cam Fowler, rookie Hampus Lindholm and promising goalie John Gibson, Matheson claims it’s likely every one of the Ducks young guns is available. Murray also owns the Ottawa Senators’ first-round pick this summer, but Matheson doubts he’ll include that pick in a trade package.

If Murray pursues Kesler he could face a challenge from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who reportedly offered center Brandon Sutter, two draft picks and a choice of defense prospects Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin.  Given the Canucks’ reported reluctance to ship Kesler to a Western Conference club, it could give the Penguins the edge, especially if they’re willing to sweeten the pot.

WILL MINNESOTA PURSUE MASKED MEN?

The Minnesota Wild could have more than $22 million in salary cap space this summer, thanks to the combination of a rising cap and Dany Heatley’s $7.5-million salary coming off their books. That prompted some Wild followers to wonder how that cap space will be invested.

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune responded to readers’ questions on the matter, suggesting goaltending will be the Wild’s top priority. If management believes rookie Darcy Kuemper can handle the starter’s role next season, it could attempt to sign a free agent scorer like Thomas Vanek or a defenseman. If not, uncertainty over the health of Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) could put them Minnesota the market for a goalie.

Russo feels the future of trade deadline acquisition Matt Moulson depends upon how far the Wild advance in the playoffs, how he fits in their lineup and his contract demands. If Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner (and Minnesota native) Matt Niskanen becomes a free agent, Russo thinks he’d make a good addition to the Wild’s blueline. He also speculates Kyle Brodziak could receive a compliance buyout.

Given Vanek’s close ties to the state of Minnesota – he played his college hockey at University of Minnesota and his wife is a Minnesotan – it’s widely assumed he will sign with the Wild. That will depend upon his asking price, as well as its effect on their other roster needs.

NABOKOV MAY RETURN, BUT AS A BACKUP

The New York Islanders are expected to seek a starting goaltender this summer, but they could also bring back a familiar face for next season.

Newsday’s Arthur Staple recently took note of Evgeni Nabokov’s 41-save performance in the Isles recent 2-0 shutout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also cited Nabokov’s . 914 save percentage in even-strength situation. That ranks ahead of only Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec and the Devils goalie tandem of Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur among goalies who started most of their team’s games this season.

Staple suggested the possibility of re-signing Nabokov as a backup next season, as the lack of an experienced No. 2 could hurt as much as lack of a quality starter. Considering the cost of adding a starter via trade or free agency, retaining Nabokov for an affordable one-year deal could prove worthwhile.

Free agent options this summer for the Islanders could include Martin Brodeur, Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ray Emery, Jonas Gustavsson and Thomas Greiss.

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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