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Lyle Richardson
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Florida\'s Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton have been at the center of trade rumors for a few months now. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Wildcat formation

Lyle Richardson
By:

The Florida Panthers’ hiring of former Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon as their new GM has sparked some guessing over the possible moves he’ll make to shake up the roster.

Eric Duhatschek of The Globe & Mail believes Tallon’s fresh eye will allow him to better see what changes are needed to rebuild the Panthers into a playoff team, which they haven’t been since 2000.

Duhatschek observed Tallon had no problem shaking up the Blackhawks core by shipping out Tyler Arnason, Mark Bell and Kyle Calder and suggested he might do something similar in Florida by trading forwards Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton rather than trying to build around them.

If Tallon’s comments to the Miami media are anything to go by, however, Weiss and Horton will be staying in Florida at least for next season. Tallon believes one of the roster needs is to bring in a center to complement Weiss and he expressed confidence Horton will fulfill his potential.

Don’t expect Tallon to move defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who had an impressive debut in 2009-10. Tallon considers him “the real deal…a real good player.”

One move Tallon might have to make is entertaining offers for goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who doesn’t intend on re-signing with the Panthers after next season and is willing to waive his no-movement clause for the right deal.

• Two months ago the Philadelphia Flyers appeared in danger of falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, prompting GM Paul Holmgren to suggest some players weren’t performing as well as they should, which in turn means some might not be back next season.

Naturally, that led to speculation Holmgren would try to move forwards Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell and Simon Gagne plus blueliner Braydon Coburn in the summer, in part to free up cap space to finally land a quality starting goaltender.

But as Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News observed earlier this week, the Flyers’ amazing playoff run makes it difficult for Holmgren to justify “blowing up” his roster. Briere and Gagne are post-season heroes, while Hartnell and Coburn have steadily improved in recent weeks.

Even if Briere, Gagne and Hartnell weren’t playing well and still considered as trade candidates by their critics, their hefty salaries and respective movement clauses would’ve likely ensured they’d stay in Philadelphia. Coburn, a restricted free agent at season’s end, would’ve been the more realistic choice for trade bait.

The strong play of goaltender Michael Leighton both in the post-season and during the regular season will make things interesting this summer and next season.

Given the rumors the Flyers may be in the market for a more qualified starter, ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside recently suggested the possibility Leighton’s tenure with the Flyers will be short.

Boucher is signed through next season, so barring a trade or demotion he’ll return as the backup. And if Holmgren can’t or won’t move one or two of his high-salaried stars to free up cap space, he won’t have any room to pursue a veteran goalie like Marty Turco via free agency or Tomas Vokoun via trade.

That would leave Leighton as an affordable option, one that would look considerably more attractive if he backstops the Flyers into the Stanley Cup final.

• Adrian Dater of the Denver Post recently noted the Colorado Avalanche will have plenty of cap space to pursue a notable free agent or two this summer, provided ownership approves such a move.

The Avalanche currently have more than $28 million committed to 12 players for next season and their “must signs” include restricted free agents Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller and Kyle Quincey. Assuming the re-signings push the Avs payroll to $40 million – and if the salary cap remains close to this season’s $56.7 million – that would, as Dater suggests, leave plenty of room to bring in a couple of free agent stars.

Dater’s suggested targets are New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk, Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis and Calgary enforcer Brian McGrattan.

It remains to be seen if the Avalanche spend close to next season’s cap ceiling, but they appear committed to rebuilding with youth. 

If there is more money available it would be worthwhile to make a pitch for Hamhuis. The Avs are set in goal with Craig Anderson and have plenty of promising young scorers, but they need more experienced skill on their blueline.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays 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.

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Wildcat formation