Nikolai Khabibulin is rumored to be on his way out of Chicago. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings’ need to reach this season’s salary cap minimum of $40.7 million made them a hot topic in this summer’s rumor mill.
GM Dean Lombardi’s recent re-signing of center Jarret Stoll to a four-year contract worth $3.6 million per season pushed the Kings payroll over $31 million, but he still has a long way to go to reach $40.7 million.
Forwards Patrick O’Sullivan and Brad Richardson are the only two notable restricted free agents who remain unsigned by the Kings. Currently there’s been no word on Richardson’s status, but recent reports out of Los Angeles claim Lombardi hopes to re-sign O’Sullivan to a multi-year contract.
Assuming the combined salaries of those two for next season are worth $5 million, Lombardi will still have to look toward trades or free agent signings to get over the cap minimum.
The Kings lack an experienced starting goaltender leading to speculation Lombardi will try to acquire Nikolai Khabibulin from the Chicago Blackhawks, who need to get under the cap and are believed to be shopping Khabibulin and his $6.75 million salary.
Lombardi recently dismissed that rumor, claiming he’s seeking blueline depth, preferably a left-handed defenseman, leading to suggestions Anaheim’s Mathieu Schneider would fit the bill.
The Ducks are believed to be trying to move Schneider to free up cap space so they can sign right winger Teemu Selanne. Not only would Schneider fill the Kings’ need for an experienced defenseman with a left-handed shot, but his $5.625 million cap hit for this season would push the Kings over the cap floor.
If Lombardi doesn’t go the trade route he could look at signing a free agent defenseman, although the pickings are now slim. Bret Hedican, Jassen Cullimore, Keith Carney, Marek Malik and Luke Richardson are still available and are left-handed shots.
• Right winger Marian Gaborik recently said he intends to focus on his game and leave his current contract talks with the Minnesota Wild to his agent.
Wild management hopes to re-sign Gaborik, but assistant GM Tom Lynn has suggested the club will consider trade options if talks reach an impasse.
It’s been speculated the Wild won’t let the Gaborik talks drag on throughout the year and become a distraction, which, of course, has led to Internet rumors of him being dealt by the start of the season if unsigned by then.
Don’t count on it. The Wild may not want to face the same distraction the Atlanta Thrashers did last season with Marian Hossa’s contract status, but they certainly won’t jump the gun that soon.
Best bet is the Wild starts shopping Gaborik by December at the earliest if talks are still stalled at that point.
• For those of you keeping score at home: Mats Sundin’s agent now suggests it could take until Jan. 1 for his client to decide on his future; Teemu Selanne remains in limbo waiting for the Anaheim Ducks to free up sufficient cap space to sign him; Mark Parrish and Glen Murray still await contract offers; and Brendan Shanahan is still considering his options.
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.