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Beantown banter

Lyle Richardson
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Could Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk end up in Boston near the trade deadline? (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Beantown banter

Lyle Richardson
By:

• Now that the Boston Bruins have finally dealt Phil Kessel, there’s speculation they might be on the lookout for an experienced scoring winger later in the season, perhaps at the March trade deadline.

WEEI.com suggested the B’s might keep an eye on the contract talks between superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers in hopes of landing him through a late-season trade, should the two sides reach an impasse.

Two years ago the Thrashers faced a similar situation with Marian Hossa and were forced to move him at the deadline to Pittsburgh for two young players, a prospect and a draft pick. One shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Thrashers management having to shop Kovalchuk this season.

It’s by no means a certainty Kovalchuk will be available, especially if the Thrashers improve this season. And while the Bruins are, as the WEEI report suggested, deep in young talent and high 2010 draft picks, one shouldn’t be quick to assume GM Peter Chiarelli will be willing to overpay for a guy who’ll likely be a playoff rental.

Kovalchuk is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer and the Bruins already have more than $37 million committed to their 2010-11 payroll.

Chiarelli could try to acquire Kovalchuk in hopes of re-signing him long term, but he also has to consider re-signing skilled center Marc Savard, the linchpin of the Bruins offense who is also eligible for UFA status next summer.

Popular power forward Milan Lucic will be a restricted free agent next summer, too, and will seek a significant raise.

Chiarelli attempted to land Hossa at the ‘08 deadline, but ultimately backed out because the asking price was too steep. He could face a similar problem pursuing Kovalchuk next March.

• An internet-based rumor surfaced early last week claiming the Kings and Blackhawks were working on a potential trade which would ship forward Alexander Frolov to the Blackhawks in exchange for sophomore winger Kris Versteeg and defenseman Cam Barker.

Frolov is a good scoring forward, but he’s not worth Versteeg and Barker, plus the Blackhawks already bolstered their forward lines this summer with Hossa, John Madden and Tomas Kopecky.

Wild speculation like that sometimes gains traction in the mainstream media and gets blown out of proportion.

Fortunately, player agent Alan Walsh quickly addressed this particular rumor via his Twitter account, calling it “pure fantasy” and adding, “people should really be questioning ‘sources’ and wonder how this BS gets started.”

Amen to that, sir!

• The performance of young Senators center Peter Regin and defenseman Erik Karlsson had GM Bryan Murray beating the bushes last week hoping to move one or two players via trade to make room for the pair.

Those considered potential trade bait included defensemen Christoph Schubert and Alex Picard and forwards Chris Kelly and Shean Donovan. Unfortunately for Murray, he was unable to find any takers.

Murray had tried unsuccessfully before to move Schubert and Picard, so it isn’t surprising he couldn’t find a deal this time around. Kelly undoubtedly has trade value, but his current contract (paying him more than $2 million per season for the next three years) makes him almost impossible to move.

If Murray hopes to fit Regin and Karlsson into his roster and under his cap he’ll likely have to consider demoting Schubert, Picard and/or Donovan. Kelly, however, is likely to stay put.

• Lack of scoring depth at forward remains a concern for the Predators, something GM David Poile is keenly aware of.

Having lost out to the Maple Leafs in the bidding war for Phil Kessel, Poile recently told The Tennessean his “Plan B” was to evaluate his current roster, but will also keep an eye on the league’s waiver wire.

He also suggested struggling teams often look to make trades at the 10-game mark.

Poile needs to bolster the Predators offense if they’re to make the playoffs, but the best he’s likely to find on the waiver wire or via early trades are overpriced under-achievers, which won’t address his problem.

The Predators GM will have to shop around some draft picks, prospects and perhaps a defenseman to find what he wants. He was willing to offer up picks and prospects for Kessel, so don’t rule out a similar offer if another scorer becomes available, provided their salary fits under the Predators’ self-imposed cap.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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Beantown banter