Brent Burns scored 20 points in 47 games this past season and has had concussion problems. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Philadelphia Flyers took the hockey world by surprise when they acquired the rights to pending UFA Dan Hamhuis from Nashville Saturday.
If, as expected, GM Paul Holmgren gets Hamhuis signed prior to this weekend’s draft, it’ll give the Flyers the deepest defense corps in the Eastern Conference.
Hamhuis’ new contract, however, could be worth between $3.5 million and $4 million per season, pushing the Flyers’ payroll next season to nearly $53 million for 18 players and creating a significant cap headache for Holmgren, who still has RFA Braydon Coburn to deal with and gritty forwards Dan Carcillo (RFA) and Arron Asham (UFA).
It would also complicate Holmgren’s rumored pursuit of an established goaltender.
The usual trade suspects – Daniel Briere, Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell – have again been trotted out in the rumor mill, but their strong playoff performances coupled with their respective movement clauses will likely keep them in Philadelphia.
That might mean forward Jeff Carter, who’s also frequently been cited in trade rumors over the past three years, could become expendable.
Carter will earn $5 million next season. His stats dropped this past season from the impressive 46 goals and 84 points of 2008-09 and there’s been criticism of his post-season performance, though this year he was hampered by a foot injury.
Still, Carter is only 25 years old, scored 33 goals this past season, will be a consistent offensive threat for at least the next seven years and doesn’t come with a movement clause.
Another trade possibility is defenseman Matt Carle ($3.4 million per season), but Holmgren would prefer to keep him given Carle’s considerable improvement this past season.
It’s shaping up to be an interesting week for the Flyers.
HALAK’S IMPACT ON GOALIE MARKET
The Montreal Canadiens’ stunning trade of playoff hero Jaroslav Halak late last week to the St. Louis Blues will send ripples throughout this summer’s UFA goalie market.
Prior to the trade, the Blues had opened exploratory contract talks with the agent for veteran goalie Chris Mason, who’d been their starter for the past two seasons and hoped to return.
Mason reportedly sought a three-year, $11.25-million contract, which the Blues weren’t willing to give to a 34-year-old netminder.
Barring a trade of his rights to another club prior to July 1, Mason will hit the open market, where his presence will interest several clubs seeking a good, affordable starting goalie.
The Sporting News reported Mason’s agent, Tom Laidlaw, wondered what teams like the Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks might do, suggesting it could be an interesting market for goalies this summer.
Mason has proven himself a capable starter the past two years and he could be an affordable option for the aforementioned clubs that might balk at potentially more expensive free agents like Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco.
WILL THE WILD TRADE BRENT BURNS?
The Minnesota Wild could spurn free agency this summer in favor of trades to address their roster needs.
Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune.com reported late last week Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was having half-a-dozen trade discussions per day, considering everything from moving a defenseman like Brent Burns to backup goalie Josh Harding to the Wild’s first round pick.
Fletcher needs more scoring depth at center and admits he might have to consider drawing from his blueline reserves for trade bait, where Burns, Nick Schultz or Cam Barker could attract interest around the league.
Russo suggested the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Sharp), Philadelphia Flyers (Carter) and Florida Panthers (Stephen Weiss or Nathan Horton) as potential trade targets for Fletcher.
Fletcher obviously doesn’t want to move a defenseman like Burns, but that could be what it takes to upgrade at center. Harding’s trade value is low and Fletcher’s first round pick (ninth overall) on its own won’t be enough.
CAN THE BRUINS DUMP TIM THOMAS’ SALARY?
The Boston Bruins currently have more than $54 million committed to 18 players for next season, giving GM Peter Chiarelli limited space to re-sign some key players.
That’s given rise to speculation Chiarelli may make a salary-dumping trade or two prior to July 1.
The Ottawa Sun reported the possibility of Chiarelli shopping veteran goaltender Tim Thomas, who has three years at $5 million per season remaining on his contract.
While there are several teams – Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Washington, according to the Sun – that could have interest in Thomas, the goalie also has a no-movement clause.
SAVARD TO COLUMBUS?
A wild rumor making the rounds suggests a possible deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets that would ship veteran center Marc Savard, restricted free agent winger Blake Wheeler plus the 15th overall pick to the Jackets for the fourth overall pick.
Like Thomas, Savard would have to agree to such a move and given his stated intent several months ago of finishing his career with the Bruins, that doesn’t appear likely.
The final word on this rumor goes to Columbus Dispatch hockey reporter Aaron Portzline, who called the rumor “bunk” and “a total fabrication.”
HORTON TO THE BRUINS?
An interesting rumor from NESN.com suggested the Bruins might be closing in on acquiring Florida Panthers winger Nathan Horton, who would certainly address Boston’s lack of depth on the wing, but comes with a cap hit of $4 million per season for the next three years, meaning Chiarelli would have to at least move equivalent salary to absorb Horton’s contract.
The move would also have to be done prior to July 1, when Horton’s no-trade clause kicks in, significantly limiting potential trade destinations.
Regardless of whether or not any of these rumors pan out, the Bruins are a team worth keeping an eye on between now and the end of June.
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.