While Dustin Penner leads the Oilers in scoring with 39 points, Shawn Horcoff is struggling with just 18. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
With the Edmonton Oilers currently floundering in the bottom of the Western Conference, the local media has begun speculating over which players might be dealt later in the season.
The talk isn’t about potential season-saving trades, but rather cost-cutting deals for draft picks and prospects.
Edmonton Journal columnist Dan Barnes suggested veteran defenseman Steve Staios could be a prime trade candidate, noting his experience and solid performance this season could make him attractive to playoff-bound teams.
Jim Matheson, meanwhile, responded to a reader’s question about Shawn Horcoff’s trade value by pointing out the center’s struggles this season – he’s currently on pace for 35 points – combined with his high salary will deter most clubs.
For all the calls from Oilers fans to move players like Horcoff, Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and even Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner, remember that in today’s salary cap world players carrying expensive, multi-year contracts don’t get moved during the season.
Should the Oilers attempt to shed salary by the March trade deadline, it’ll likely be Staios, Andrew Cogliano (a restricted free agent at season’s end) or Ethan Moreau – who carry affordable salaries in addition to the skills they can provide to other clubs – who get moved.
• The longer Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract talks with the Atlanta Thrashers drag on, the more rumors spread he’ll be moved by the trade deadline.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported this weekend Kovalchuk’s agent was expected to meet with Thrashers GM Don Waddell in Saskatoon (they’re attending the World Junior Hockey Championship), suggesting if the Kovalchuk camp didn’t accept the rumored 10-to-12-year offer currently on the table it could force Waddell to start shopping the sniper.
LeBrun also reported an executive from a Western Conference team suggested the Chicago Blackhawks might get into the bidding, the idea being they’d move some salaried players to free up cap space for next season whilst acquiring Kovalchuk as a playoff rental to bolster their Stanley Cup chances.
Not a bad idea, but as LeBrun points out it’s merely a theory at this point.
It must be remembered the Blackhawks don’t have to make any salary-dumping deals now and given how well they’ve performed thus far, management might not risk upsetting team chemistry.
• The Minnesota Wild currently have nine players eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that could force management to make some hard decisions by the March trade deadline.
Kim Johnsson, Marek Zidlicky, Owen Nolan, Eric Belanger, Derek Boogaard, Petr Sykora, Shane Hnidy, Andrew Ebbett and John Scott are all slated to become UFAs this summer.
While the Wild could have around $20 million in available cap space after this season, management also has to re-up restricted free agents Cal Clutterbuck, Guillaume Latendresse, Josh Harding and James Sheppard, further complicating its cap situation.
It’s true some of those pending UFAs could attract interest from rival clubs by the trade deadline, but the Wild’s status in the playoff chase by that point will determine if any of them get shopped.
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.