Jordan Staal was shipped to Carolina on Friday. He is scheduled to become a UFA in July of 2013. (Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Penguins shook the hockey world Friday by trading center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes and uniting him with older brother Eric. And it appears the Pens are poised to shake it some more when the NHL’s unrestricted free agent period opens July 1.
By trading Staal to Carolina and defenseman Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix, GM Ray Shero cleared more than $6 million from the Penguins’ cap for 2012-13. If his rumored efforts to trade defenseman Paul Martin – who has three years left on his contract – are successful, he would free up another $5 million, which is Martin’s cap hit.
That would leave the Penguins with roughly $20 million in cap space (under the projected cap of $70.3 million), more than enough to make a play for one of the top free agents available in this summer’s thin market.
It was initially believed the Penguins would target New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise. However, rumors swirled that Shero tried to acquire the negotiating rights to defenseman Ryan Suter from Nashville, which suggests the Predators defenseman is his real target.
ASKING PRICE FOR NASH STILL TOO HEAVY
Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson made little progress over draft weekend towards trading right winger Rick Nash.
While several teams (New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes) are said to be pursuing Nash, Howson’s steep asking price – two or three established players plus two top prospects or a prospect and first round pick – has been a sticking point.
The Sharks reportedly offered a package that included forwards Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski, defenseman Jason Demers and a first round pick, while the Senators are rumored to have pitched left winger Nick Foligno, one of their promising goalies (Robin Lehner or Ben Bishop) and prospect center Mika Zibanejad.
No word on what the Rangers offer is, though center Brandon Dubinsky is likely a part of it.
Howson, however, is apparently asking for Logan Couture from the Sharks and defenseman Ryan McDonagh plus rookie left winger Chris Kreider from the Rangers; players neither club is willing to give up.
It’s now believed Howson will wait for the opening days of free agency to pass in the hopes that once the best free agent forwards are snapped up, interest in Nash will rise.
The danger with that is if one or two of the teams currently interested in Nash acquires scoring through free agency (Parise, Alexander Semin), interest could actually wane.
BOBBY RYAN IMPACTS RICK NASH MARKET
Another development factoring into the Nash trade discussions is the status of Anaheim Ducks right winger Bobby Ryan, who vented his frustration at Ducks management about his name being constantly floated in the rumor mill.
Ducks GM Bob Murray vowed to speak to Ryan following the draft to “clear the air a little bit.”
Prior to Ryan’s blowup, it was reported the Ducks were listening to offers, but not actively shopping him. Now that the 25-year-old right winger has said he wants out, it will have a significant impact on the off-season market.
Teams growing frustrated with Columbus’ unwillingness to lower its asking price for Nash can now focus on Ryan, who is three years younger, has only three years left on his contract (compared to Nash’s six) and carries a cheaper cap hit ($5.1 million) than Nash’s $7.8 million.
If Ryan is available, Murray will seek affordable young assets in return, but his asking price should be more affordable than what the Blue Jackets want for Nash.
COYOTES NOT LOOKING TO MOVE YANDLE, BUT LISTENING
Keith Yandle’s name appeared in weekend trade rumors that heated up after the Coyotes reacquired blueliner Zbynek Michalek from the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday evening.
Coyotes GM Don Maloney confirmed he received offers for Yandle, but insisted he wasn’t shopping the blueliner, calling him a “very important player for us.”
Maloney was at least “listening” to offers, but he didn’t hear anything that would convince him to move Yandle. It would likely take a first-line forward, preferably a center, to change his mind.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.