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End of the line?

Lyle Richardson
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End of the line?

Keith Tkachuk has 537 goals and 1,061 points in 1,194 career NHL games. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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End of the line?

Lyle Richardson
By:

Blues veteran left winger Keith Tkachuk could be playing out his final NHL season.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch late last week reported Tkachuk, 37, hasn’t decided if he’ll retire following this season, but appears to be leaning toward it, noting he didn’t request a trade to a playoff contender at the deadline.

Tkachuk didn’t want to leave St. Louis this season and given the Blues youth movement there might not be room on their roster for him next season. If he decides he doesn’t want to uproot his family by signing elsewhere as a UFA this summer, he could bring his 18-year NHL career to an end.

• It was also expected the Blues would part ways this summer with Paul Kariya, who, like Tkachuk, is an unrestricted free agent whose performance has been slowed in recent years by age and injury.

The Post-Dispatch, however, reported management would be open to re-signing Kariya if unable to land a goal-scorer in this summer’s free agent market.

Kariya, 35, refused to comment on his future plans in a recent interview, but said he enjoys working and living in St. Louis.  He’s currently on pace for 42 points this season.

If the Blues opt to re-sign him it’ll have to be for considerably less than the $6 million per season Kariya is earning on his current deal. He certainly won’t find a similar deal elsewhere as a free agent and his declining production will have an adverse effect upon his market value.

• Tomas Plekanec might not be the only notable player the Montreal Canadiens attempt to re-sign this summer.

La Presse reported last week Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier had been in touch with agent Don Meehan, who represents all-star defenseman Andrei Markov, about the possibility of opening contract negotiations later this spring.

Markov, 31, has another season remaining on his current contract paying him $5.75 million and it’s believed Gauthier would like to re-sign the talented blueliner this summer and avoid the possibility of contract talks dragging on throughout next season.

Re-signing Markov, however, won’t be cheap as he could command between $7- and $8-million per season on the open market, leading La Presse to wonder if Gauthier might try to ink Markov to a lengthy, heavily front-loaded contract extension similar to those signed in recent years by Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger and Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg.

That’s what it might take to make Markov’s cap hit more affordable for the Canadiens. Some of Gauthier’s peers – notably Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke – wouldn’t be pleased, but as long as that loophole exists expect more GMs to take advantage of it.

• All but guaranteed to finish with the worst record in the NHL this season, the Edmonton Oilers stand a great chance of landing the first overall pick in the 2010 draft in next month’s draft lottery.

The Oilers will do no worse than second overall in the lottery, giving them a shot at prospect forwards Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.

But Oilers management might also be in the market to land another top three pick. A report in Sunday’s Boston Globe claimed the Oilers offered up left winger Dustin Penner and defenseman Tom Gilbert to the Bruins at this year’s trade deadline in hopes of securing the Toronto Maple Leafs 2010 first round pick, which the Bruins acquired last fall as part of the Phil Kessel trade.

The Globe suggested the Oilers will be aggressive traders leading up to June’s draft – willing to move any combination of roster players in hopes of securing either the first and second or second and third overall picks – and could come calling again offering Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner or Andrew Cogliano. 

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli stated repeatedly prior to the trade deadline the Leafs pick was not for sale, so it’s unlikely he’ll change his mind in 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.

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End of the line?