Chris Pronger's future in Anaheim will likely be decided by whether or not Scott Niedermayer decides to return. (Getty Images)
MONTREAL – The long-term future of the Anaheim Ducks will be decided in the next 24 hours and could include trading star defenseman Chris Pronger.
Veteran defenseman Scott Niedermayer is expected to tell the Ducks what his intentions are by the time the draft gets underway Friday night and if he intends to return to Anaheim, as expected, that would open the door for the Ducks to deal Pronger at the draft.
Niedermayer’s agent, Kevin Epp, said he hasn’t spoken to Niedermayer since Tuesday, but confirmed the player still hadn’t made up his mind as of Thursday afternoon.
“He would definitely like to make a decision prior to the draft,” Epp said, “but so far he hasn’t done so. He’s basically in the same predicament he has been in the past two seasons.”
Epp said if Niedermayer decides to play in the NHL next season, returning to Anaheim would be, “the natural, logical selection,” but said signing with Ducks is not a slam-dunk.
The San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks would be the most likely destinations for Niedermayer should he not stay in Anaheim. Epp said Niedermayer has told him that his next move will likely be where he settles after his career.
“He has a lot to figure out,” Epp said.
Should Niedermayer return to Anaheim, it’s almost certain the Ducks would then deal Pronger to make room for Niedermayer’s salary, which could be done on the draft floor Friday.
But Pronger isn’t the only prominent player who is being strongly mentioned in trade talk at the draft. The most likely player to be dealt is Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators, with the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild emerging as the front-runners. The Kings would likely have to give up a package that would include Jack Johnson and Alexander Frolov, while the Wild might surrender a package that would include second-year forward James Sheppard.
The jewel of the weekend, however, would be Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning, although there seem to be mixed signals concerning whether he’ll be dealt. It’s doubtful it will happen, but it is possible.
The Lightning is in disarray and battling co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Tuesday to iron out some of their problems. It’s believed the NHL gave final say in transactions to Koules, but ordered that both men would have to agree to any major deals, which any Lecavalier deal undoubtedly would be.
It’s believed Koules is in favor of dealing Lecavalier and his 11-year, $85 million contract in an effort to pare down the team’s payroll. Barrie, however, is adamant about keeping Lecavalier and unless Koules can convince Barrie to agree to a Lecavalier deal, he’ll stay in Tampa Bay…for this weekend, at least.
From the road in Montreal, host Ken Campbell, writer Ryan Kennedy and web specialist Rory Boylen discuss...
Which player beyond the top three of Tavares, Hedman and Duchene stands out…
The number of quality players available in this years draft…
And offer their predictions on who will go first overall and which prospect will have the most prosperous NHL career.
Producer: Ted Cooper.
Ryan Kennedy, Ken Campbell and Rory Boylen are at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal and each will be filing regular reports throughout the weekend.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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