Rumor Roundup: Panthers purge put on pause?

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Earlier this season there was speculation the Florida Panthers might dump as many of their veterans as possible near the March 5 trade deadline. That talk died down following the Panthers’ improvement after hiring Peter Horachek as interim coach, as well as the new ownership’s willingness to spend to the salary cap next season.

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was believed among those on the trade block, based partly on rumors suggesting he could return to Russia this summer as a free agent. Kulikov strongly denies this, telling the George Richards of the Miami Herald of his intent is to play in the NHL. He adds he has no idea where those rumors came from. Panthers assistant GM Mike Santos said the club’s intent is to re-sign the 23-year-old blueliner.

Though Panthers GM Dale Tallon isn’t expected to engage in a massive trade deadline sell-off, he could move a couple of his pending unrestricted free agents. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa believes Tallon’s priority is getting good returns for winger Brad Boyes and defenseman Tom Gilbert.

Boyes is on pace for more than 20 goals and would interest playoff contenders seeking a scoring winger. Gilbert is among the Panthers’ leading scorers and would be attractive to teams in need of a puck-moving defenseman. Their affordable one-year deals (Boyes for $1 million, Gilbert for $900,000) only enhance their value.

Veteran goaltender Tim Thomas should also garner attention, but it’s no certainty he’ll be shopped. Thomas recently told the SunSentinel’s Craig Davis he wouldn’t rule out returning with the Panthers if management wanted him back.

WHAT SHOULD THE MAPLE LEAFS DO WITH BOLLAND?
Center Dave Bolland hasn’t been with the Toronto Maple Leafs for long, but his name has popped up in the rumor mill. Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade last summer, he had a promising start (10 points in 15 games) until sidelined on Nov. 2 by a left ankle injury.

Bolland is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. He’s in the final season of a five-year deal with a cap hit of $3.4 million. TSN’s Darren Dreger says GM Dave Nonis must figure out what to do with the 27-year-old center.

The options include re-signing Bolland before season’s end, keeping him for the remainder of the season and risk losing him to free agency in July or move him at the deadline.

Bolland is currently working on returning to the Leafs lineup, which could occur before the upcoming Olympic break. Odds are the Leafs retain him and attempt to get his name on an extension before his UFA eligibility on July 1.

SENATORS STILL LOOKING FOR WINGER HELP
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray continues his search for a scoring winger. The Ottawa Citizen’s reports Murray believed he had “a smaller-type deal” over the weekend to add a forward, but the rival GM withdrew the offer.

Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun reports Murray is rumored to have interest in Buffalo Sabres left winger Matt Moulson, who’s currently sidelined with an arm injury until after the Olympics. Murray doubts he’ll make any moves before this Friday’s Olympic roster freeze.

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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