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Lyle Richardson
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Scott Niedermayer hasn't decided if he'll return next year or not, but rumors swirl he's considering Vancouver. (Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Northern exposure

Lyle Richardson
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• A report out of Vancouver last week suggesting Scott and Rob Niedermayer would be interested in playing for the Canucks had the NHL world buzzing for several days.

In an interview with the TEAM 1040, Kevin Epp, who represents the Niedermayers, claimed prior to signing with Anaheim in 2005, Scott seriously considered playing with Vancouver or Calgary. Epp appeared to suggest the two would consider the Canucks as an option this time around, too.

While that led to many Canucks fans debating the pros and cons of such a move, the Vancouver Province pointed out Scott’s family enjoys living in Southern California and that he told Ducks GM Bob Murray if he does play next season, it will be in Anaheim.

Pundit Al Strachan dismissed the notion entirely during a recent Hockey Night in Canada telecast, claiming the story was entirely a media creation and the Canucks hadn’t lifted a fingernail toward signing the brothers.

The Canucks are likely focusing on signing a pair of brothers, but it’ll be the Sedin twins, not the Niedermayers. The Sedins make up two-thirds of the Canucks’ top line, they’ve been the team’s top scorers over the past three years and would be very difficult to replace should they depart this summer via free agency.

• Speaking of the Ducks, it appears Bret Hedican is headed for retirement due to a chronic bad back, while management hopes to return veteran forwards Todd Marchant and Rob Niedermayer.

Chris Pronger acknowledged the possibility he could be traded, but much will depend on whether Scott Niedermayer returns, retires or signs elsewhere. If Niedermayer chooses one of the latter two options, the Ducks could afford to retain Pronger and re-sign several key players, but if Niedermayer returns, Pronger could be shopped in order to free up salary cap space.

Another Duck who could end up playing elsewhere is Francois Beauchemin, who was told by Murray he wouldn’t receive a contract offer until Scott Niedermayer’s situation is resolved.

Beauchemin suggested if he hits the free agent market he’d be willing to consider returning to the Montreal Canadiens – the team that drafted him, but lost the blueliner via waivers several years ago.

If the Canadiens lose Mike Komisarek to free agency they’ll certainly be in the market for a physical shutdown defenseman and Beauchemin fits the bill nicely.

J-S Giguere, meanwhile, is dismissing talk he’ll request a trade, telling the Orange County Register he intends on returning next season to battle Jonas Hiller for the starting goaltender role in Anaheim.

Those writing off Giguere should remember he faced a similar challenge from Ilya Bryzgalov three years ago. Giguere would subsequently backstop the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup and later that year Bryzgalov wound up playing for the Phoenix Coyotes.

• The hiring of Chuck Fletcher as the Minnesota Wild’s new GM gave rise to suggestions he might have more success re-signing winger Marian Gaborik than his predecessor.

Attempting to re-sign Gaborik is likely Fletcher’s top priority, but the odds of keeping the talented Slovak in the fold are long.

Fletcher will likely contact the Gaborik camp, but at this point it’s probably too late to convince him to return. Despite his injury history he’ll attract considerable attention in this summer’s free agent market and Gaborik is likely thinking a change would do him good.

• Pierre LeBrun reported during a recent Hockey Night in Canada broadcast that Atlanta Thrashers superstar Ilya Kovalchuk had a good meeting last Thursday with GM Don Waddell, which will set the stage for a possible contract extension for the Russian superstar later this summer.

Kovalchuk is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2010 and has been the subject of trade rumors for months. But as LeBrun noted, the club has surrounded the skilled Russian with good young talent that will be an incentive for Kovalchuk to stay.

Waddell has insisted he won’t trade Kovalchuk even if he doesn’t re-sign him, but that won’t stop the speculation. Signing him this summer would be a promising message to the club’s shrinking fan base.

• Don’t expect Washington Capitals GM George McPhee to make a big splash in this summer’s free agent market.

McPhee recently told the Washington Post he’s not a fan of chasing big name free agents, given the expensive and lengthy contracts they prefer. That would rule out Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, whom McPhee was interested in prior to the trade deadline.

McPhee would prefer either signing bargain players or making trades to address his roster needs. He also doesn’t think he’ll buy out the remainder of Michael Nylander’s contract as it wouldn’t make financial sense.

If McPhee doesn’t buy out Nylander, he’ll have a $4.875 million per season drag on his cap space for the next two years, plus he cannot waive or demote the veteran center, who has a no-movement clause for next season.

• Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli will have about $8-10 million in available cap space this summer, leaving him little room to re-sign top forwards David Krejci and Phil Kessel and still fill out the rest of the roster.

The Boston Globe, however, pointed out NHL teams are allowed to spend up to 10 percent above the salary cap during the off-season, provided they’re back beneath the cap by the start of next season. That would give Chiarelli time to re-sign both players and free up sufficient dollars to get under the cap.

That might prove easier said than done, though. Conservative estimates suggest it could cost between $6-7 million to re-sign Krejci and Kessel.

Chiarelli would still have to dump some salary, which could put more costly players like Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder, who lack no-trade clauses, into play.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays 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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