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Lyle Richardson
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Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks has been mentioned in the rumor mill for months now. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Hawk eyes

Lyle Richardson
By:

The willingness of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke to make a trade and the Chicago Blackhawks’ need to clear sufficient cap space to officially re-sign three key players had the two clubs linked for several days in the NHL rumor mill.

It was reported the Blackhawks were scouting the American League’s Marlies (the Maple Leafs’ farm team) over the weekend while Chicago assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff took in Saturday’s Leafs-Capitals game.

TSN’s Darren Dreger claimed the Blackhawks had sent the Leafs and several other clubs some trade options with defenseman Brent Sopel as the centerpiece.

The Toronto Star reported Burke was believed to be seeking draft picks to compensate for those he gave up to the Boston Bruins in the Phil Kessel trade, but the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons claimed it appeared by Monday that any potential trades Burke had in the works were all but dead.

While there’s been speculation the Blackhawks could trade more notable players like Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp or Cam Barker, it’s apparent they’d prefer to move a lesser-light like Sopel to avoid ruining team chemistry this season.

If Burke is seeking draft picks, it might have been his asking price which killed any potential deals with the Blackhawks as he could have been seeking a second round pick in order to take Sopel off their hands.

With the Leafs now apparently out of the running, the Hawks will have to look elsewhere to move Sopel. But with his $2.33 million cap hit per season they won’t find many takers unless they sweeten the pot with a promising prospect or high draft pick.

• Reports from Anaheim saying contract talks between the Ducks and sophomore winger Bobby Ryan had fallen through gave rise to suggestions his days with the club could be numbered.

Ryan’s agent Mark Guy confirmed talks were finished for the time being, but didn’t rule out the possibility they could start up again in the near future.

Still, a report in the Orange County Register suggested Ryan, who rejected an earlier offer from the Ducks, could become trade bait if the team doesn’t improve soon.

The Ducks would probably have an easier time drumming up interest in Ryan than they would expensive goaltender J-S Giguere at this point, but it’s unlikely they’ll be in a rush to ship out Ryan despite his offensive struggles.

Ryan, who will become a restricted free agent this summer if an extension is not reached, is thought to be seeking a salary similar to Chicago’s Versteeg ($3.083 million per season).

• The injury-ravaged Detroit Red Wings suffered another blow over the weekend when defenseman Niklas Kronwall was sidelined for at least a month with a knee injury.

Don’t expect that to force GM Ken Holland to look outside his organization for help, like bringing back former Wings blueliner Chris Chelios.

Holland recently told the Sporting News he expects his young defensemen like Jonathan Ericsson and Derek Meech to step up in Kronwall’s absence.

The Wings GM has been saying for weeks he won’t shop around for help yet, but that hasn’t stopped some folks from dreaming up trade rumors.

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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