John Tavares of the Ontario League\'s London Knights is expected to go No. 1 overall in the upcoming NHL draft. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Say what you will about Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, he certainly knows how to grab headlines.
On the same day the New York Islanders won the 2009 draft lottery, Burke – who holds the seventh overall pick – told Toronto media he would do what he could to move up in the draft order.
Burke’s target is London Knights center John Tavares, who is considered by many scouts to be the best prospect available in this year’s draft.
Naturally the hockey media world was abuzz following Burke’s remarks leading to speculation Burke would soon contact Islanders GM Garth Snow – if he hadn’t already – to make a pitch for that first overall pick.
It’s also been suggested Burke could try moving up in increments in the draft order in hopes of getting close enough to bolster his offer to the Islanders.
While Burke’s intentions remain to be seen, Leafs fans dreaming of Tavares in a Maple Leafs jersey could find their hopes dashed.
As savvy as Burke is, he really doesn’t have much to offer right now to the Islanders that would convince Snow to part with the pick. The best he could offer might be defenseman Tomas Kaberle, a top prospect and the seventh overall pick, which won’t be enough.
Forget about Burke including promising young defenseman Luke Schenn in the offer. He’s a “Burke player” – big, physical and talented – and considered the future cornerstone of the Leafs blueline.
As things stand now, Snow told Newsday he wasn’t inclined to move that pick, so efforts by Burke or other GMs may be for naught.
• Last week’s sudden management and coaching changes by the Minnesota Wild has some observers wondering if those moves could convince pending unrestricted free agent winger Marian Gaborik to re-sign.
Jacques Lemaire voluntarily stepped down as coach and, in a surprising move several days later, Doug Risebrough was fired as GM.
Gaborik apparently chafed under Lemaire’s defense-first system while contract extension talks with Risebrough last fall didn’t go well, leading to the skillful right winger being shopped before he was sidelined for most of the season by hip surgery.
Gaborik’s agent, Ron Salcer, is willing to listen to offers from the Wild, but says he and his client are also keeping their options open for what might come from other clubs on July 1.
What could ultimately sway the Gaborik camp is the quality of the offer from the Wild compared to those from rival clubs. His injury history could have an adverse effect upon his value in this summer’s free agent market, which might work in the Wild’s favor.
Gaborik won’t be the only Wild player whose future could be affected by Risebrough’s firing. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggested goaltender Josh Harding, defenseman Nick Schultz and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and James Sheppard might no longer be the untouchables they were under Risebrough.
Whoever takes over as the Wild’s new GM isn’t likely to make any sweeping roster changes overnight and will probably wish to take several months or perhaps most of next season to determine the club’s needs and where those players fit into the Wild’s future.
• An anemic offense contributed to the Nashville Predators missing the 2009 playoffs and is the driving factor in GM David Poile’s willingness to meet with Alexander Radulov. The wayward right winger bolted for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of Russia’s Kontinental League last summer, despite having a year remaining on his contract with the Predators.
The Tennessean reported last week that Poile is scheduled to meet face-to-face with Radulov and his agent later this month, likely in Switzerland where Radulov will be playing for Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Radulov would earn slightly more than $900,000 on his entry level contract with the Predators. He is making more than $3 million per season in the KHL.
He hasn’t ruled out a possible return to the Predators, but that could depend on the state of the KHL next season, as financial constraints are forcing cutbacks, layoffs and salary rollbacks.
Another factor could be what Poile is willing to offer Radulov as enticement to return to the Preds. They cannot renegotiate the entry level deal, but Poile could offer up a lucrative contract extension.
• Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has given no indication as to his future plans. It’s still believed he could leave the Panthers this summer via unrestricted free agency.
Rumors persist he could try to sign with Edmonton or Calgary, but unless those teams dump considerable cap space it’s not likely to happen.
• Speculation still remains that the Tampa Bay Lighting could trade Vincent Lecavalier prior to July 1 when the no-movement clause in his new contract kicks in.
The problem isn’t lack of interest in Lecavalier, but rather finding clubs not only willing to take on his 11-year, $85-million contract, but also pony up the kind of offer that would make the Lightning a better team.
• The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Thrashers superstar Ilya Kovalchuk doesn’t intend on making any future plans until after he sees the results of the club’s off-season moves this summer.
Those moves could determine if Kovalchuk, an unrestricted free agent next summer, re-signs with the Thrashers.
The paper suggests bringing in some quality teammates for Kovalchuk should be GM Don Waddell’s top priority, but it’ll take more to convince the talented Russian forward to remain in Atlanta.
If the Thrashers are still struggling next season, not only could Kovalchuk opt to test the 2010 UFA market, but his potential unwillingness to re-sign could make him trade bait for next February’s trade deadline.
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.