RFA Phil Kessel had 36 goals and 60 points in 70 games for Boston last year. (Getty Images)
• The San Jose Sharks shipping of defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to the Vancouver Canucks last week has some observers believing GM Doug Wilson is clearing cap space for the addition of a scoring forward.
According to the San Jose Mercury News the deal was an obvious salary dump clearing more than $4.6 million in cap space, which would leave room for future additions.
That sparked anticipation the Sharks might be gearing up to make a pitch for Ottawa’s Dany Heatley or Boston’s Phil Kessel.
However, to comfortably absorb Heatley’s $7.5-million salary and leave enough room under the cap for next season, Wilson would need to move at least another $4 million to Ottawa.
The Ottawa Sun suggested the Sharks trading Ehrhoff – rumored to have been part of a package offer for Heatley – to Vancouver indicates they’re looking in another direction, possibly towards the Bruins and Kessel.
CapGeek.com indicated the Sharks had nearly $3 million in available cap space following the trade with Vancouver and only 18 players signed to NHL contracts for the upcoming season.
David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News confirmed to THN.com via email the Sharks still own their first and second round picks for 2010. That would be part of the Bruins’ compensation if Wilson were to successfully sign the RFA Kessel (notably a first- and second-rounder in 2010), but with Kessel rumored to be seeking more than $4 million per season, the Sharks’ limited cap space means signing him is unlikely.
That leaves the trade route, but the problem is return. The Bruins are pressed against the $56.8 million cap – one of the reasons they’ve yet to re-sign Kessel – so if they trade him they cannot afford to take on any significant salary in return.
If Wilson wants to add another forward he might have to either sign an unrestricted free agent or trade with clubs other than Ottawa or Boston.
The Minnesota Wild reportedly has interest in Sharks right winger Jonathan Cheechoo, whose $3 million salary Wilson would love to move.
• If the Sharks are interested in Kessel, they’re not the only ones.
The New York Post reported the Rangers are believed to have talked seriously to the Bruins about Kessel – although not recently – while the New Jersey Devils might be in the market for a scoring center.
The article suggested if Kessel is unsigned after October 1 the Bruins, given their current cap situation, wouldn’t be able to match an offer sheet.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, they have just more than $2.4 million in cap space available, which doesn’t give them any room to make Kessel a palatable offer. The Devils have more than $5 million in available space, but one has to wonder if Kessel, who’s been criticized over his defensive play, would be a good fit with New Jersey’s defense-first mindset.
• As for the Canucks, the additions of Ehrhoff and Lukowich plus the signing of UFA blueliner Mathieu Schneider to a one-year, bonus-laden contract pushes them over the cap by nearly $2 million.
That has naturally spurred talk GM Mike Gillis might not be done dealing, but according to the Vancouver Province that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d have to trade away a significant player like Kevin Bieksa.
The paper suggested lesser lights, such as Lawrence Nycholat and Aaron Rome, were long shots to make the club this season and it’s also possible another forward, such as Jannik Hansen, might end up demoted should prospect Cody Hodgson make the roster this season.
Further clouding the issue is the possibility of a Mats Sundin return.
Gillis recently appeared on Bill Watters’ radio show in Toronto and admitted having some discussions with the Sundin camp this summer, adding if Sundin wanted to return for a full season he’d love to have him back.
Demotions or minor trades might help the Canucks get under the cap, but if Gillis wanted to add Sundin he’d have no choice but to make a trade to move more salary before the end of September.
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.