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Winter freeze

Lyle Richardson
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Ilya Kovalchuk has 33 points in 32 games for the Thrashers this season and is mired in trade rumors. (Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

Winter freeze

Lyle Richardson
By:

The NHL Christmas trade freeze is currently in effect until midnight on Dec. 27, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning…

- Attracting considerable attention in the days leading up to the imposition of the freeze were reports claiming the Minnesota Wild and Atlanta Thrashers were talking trade.

This has led to speculation the two might be planning a blockbuster deal once the freeze is lifted involving Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Gaborik.

The GMs of the Wild and Thrashers – Doug Risebrough and Don Waddell - may indeed be talking trade, but a Kovalchuk-for-Gaborik deal appears far-fetched.

Kovalchuk is under contract for another season so the Thrashers aren’t in any hurry to move him. He’s also had a healthier NHL career than Gaborik and has better offensive stats, so this move wouldn’t be an improvement for the Thrashers. 

Gaborik not only has a lengthy injury history, but also is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and is believed to have spurned a lucrative eight-year contract offer worth $8.5 million per season from the Wild.

Those two factors, along with the Wild’s supposed asking price of a player, prospect and high draft pick would currently make him unpalatable for most NHL clubs, including the Thrashers. 

What would be more likely is a smaller deal between the two clubs. The Wild are seeking depth at forward – they recently pressed defenseman Brent Burns into service as a winger prior to Gaborik’s return from injury – while the Thrashers are believed to be looking for more defensive depth.

- The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont recently suggested if he were the Bruins GM he’d try to re-sign goaltenders Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez to three-year extensions at $3 million per season.

Nice idea, but considering Thomas and Fernandez currently rank among the league leaders in goals-against average and save percentage they’ll be seeking much more than $3 million per season.

A more realistic deal would be worth $5 million per season each, since they’ll both get at least that amount on next summer’s UFA market. And yes, they’ll get that much even with the current economic concerns and fears the salary cap may decline. Never underestimate the greed of some NHL owners and GMs.

- Speaking of goaltending tandems, with Nikolai Khabibulin playing so well there’s actually talk the Chicago Blackhawks could keep him for the rest of the season and instead trade Cristobal Huet.

However, given how well the Blackhawks are currently playing, along with Huet’s improvement in recent weeks, they’re unlikely to shop either goalie if the team continues its strong run up to the trade deadline.

An expensive salary is what prevented Khabibulin from being dealt during the off-season and that’ll also keep Huet ($5.6 million per season) in Chicago from now until his contract expires in 2012.

- Now that the Vancouver Canucks have signed Mats Sundin, we can finally put to rest the rumors of the club shopping defenseman Mattias Ohlund for a scoring center.

Ohlund is a UFA next summer and it remains to be seen if the Canucks will re-sign him, but with Sundin soon to join the fold they’ll have little reason to move Ohlund by the trade deadline, if in fact that was their plan had they lost out in the Sundin sweepstakes.

Ohlund also has a no-trade clause so even if Canucks GM Mike Gillis wanted to move him, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

- It’s believed Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke could make the first of what’s expected to be several trades soon after the trade freeze is lifted, with one report suggesting the only “untouchable” player is young defenseman Luke Schenn.

Start the guessing game now, Leafs fans, as to which current member of the team will be the first to go.

- In a refreshing change of pace the latest rumors concerning the Florida Panthers aren’t centered on defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

With backup goaltender Craig Anderson having supplanted Tomas Vokoun as the starting goalie, there’s talk the Panthers could try to move the veteran netminder.

There are two problems with that: Anderson is in his contract year and eligible for UFA status in July, while Vokoun has two years at $5.75 million per season remaining on his current contract, which also contains a “no-trade” clause.

It’s possible the Panthers could feel Anderson is the better deal and convince Vokoun to waive his no-trade, but that’s not likely to happen soon. If they’re still in the playoff race by late February, they could opt to keep both.

I’ll be taking next week off so as this is my last column for 2008 I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Rumor Roundup will return Jan. 5.

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.

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Winter freeze