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Raising the Canes

Lyle Richardson
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Raising the Canes

Chad LaRose, Aaron Ward and the Carolina Hurricanes are stuck at the bototm of the NHL standings. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Raising the Canes

Lyle Richardson
By:

The continuing struggles of the Carolina Hurricanes are further stoking speculation of roster changes in the near future.

Mired in the midst of another losing streak and buried at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, GM Jim Rutherford might have to face some hard decisions soon, but the question is which moves can he make?

The Hurricanes are currently the oldest team in the league and it’s believed Rutherford would like to get younger and faster.

Trades could be a possibility. On Sunday the Ottawa Sun reported Rutherford would like to shop some players on the final year of their current contracts, such as impending unrestricted free agents, Aaron Ward, Joe Corvo, Niclas Wallin and perhaps Ray Whitney.

Whitney and Wallin have no-trade clauses and would have to approve any attempt to move them. Wallin has scuttled potential trades twice in the past by invoking his clause.

However, at this time of the season trades are very difficult to pull off because of the salary cap. Rutherford might be able to move someone by the Dec. 19 holiday trade freeze, but the earliest he will be able to find a partner is likely during the period from mid-January to the Olympic break in mid-February.

For now, a more likely scenario could be placing a player or two on waivers as suggested by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who recently wrote he wouldn’t be surprised if that happened as early as this week, although he didn’t single out anyone.

Ignore the silly Internet rumors claiming Rutherford could ship franchise player Eric Staal to Edmonton. Staal is the last player the Hurricanes will move. If they did want to, it would have to be by his request, which he hasn’t made and isn’t expected to.

• The recently improved performance of Toronto Maple Leafs left winger Niklas Hagman has reportedly attracted interest from some rival GMs, but the Leafs don’t appear to be in any hurry to move him.

Leading Toronto with 13 goals, Hagman, who turns 30 in December, has been on a mini-tear of late, with points in five of the Leafs’ past six games, including a highlight-reel goal in Toronto’s 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay last week.

Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis admitted they’ve fielded some inquiries about Hagman, but said there’s a difference between listening to offers and talking trade.

Hagman is currently signed through the 2011-12 season at $3 million per and given he’s among the few Leafs forwards who can find the net on a reasonably consistent basis, they’re unlikely to move him now.

If the Leafs were to consider shopping him it would likely be near the trade deadline when they would get a better return.

• Washington Capitals center Michael Nylander remains in hockey limbo as Capitals management continues to hold out hope he’ll be signed by a Kontinental League team.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun recently interviewed Capitals GM George McPhee, who said sending Nylander to the KHL remains the main option, but called it a difficult and delicate situation.

That’s likely due to Nylander’s agent reportedly seeking an “out” clause, allowing his client to sign with another KHL team if he received a better offer later in the season.

If so, Nylander can expect to spend the rest of the season on the sidelines.

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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Raising the Canes