Despite firm denials about Dougie Hamilton trade rumors from Brian Burke, there has been a notable increase in those reports lately.
Calgary Flames president Brian Burke voiced his displeasure over “an army of leakers” creating mischief by claiming his club could trade defenseman Dougie Hamilton. He pinned the blame upon an unnamed team, threatened to unveil said team if the rumors persisted, and added those engaging in such speculation didn't know what they were talking about.
Of course, Burke did this in his own colourful way, driving home the point that his team had no intention of trading Hamilton. For his part, the 23-year-old blueliner acknowledged hearing the rumors but didn't put any stock in them.
The trade chatter surrounding Hamilton kicked around for over a month, with most of it coming from TSN and Sportsnet. In each case, the reports stated the Flames were listening to offers for Hamilton, but weren't trying to trade him.
Of late, however, there was a notable increase in those reports. Factor in some thinking-out-loud musings from some pundits believing Hamilton could be a good fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with the Leafs visit to Calgary on Thursday to play the Flames, and it's no wonder Burke and his GM Brad Treliving publicly denied the rumors.
Still, not everyone is buying it. The Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur reports that, despite the Flames' denials, there are some around the league insisting Hamilton could be had for the right price.
This also isn't the first time Burke took to the press to deny trade speculation over one of his defensemen. In January 2012, when Burke was the Leafs GM, he said there was no truth to reports he was planning to trade blueliner Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for James van Riemsdyk. Six months later, following the 2012 NHL draft, Schenn was swapped for van Riemsdyk.
That doesn't mean the Flames intend to move Hamilton. As Burke noted, they gave up a lot of assets and money last year to acquire and sign him. Hamilton has considerable size, skills and potential. It would be hasty to ship him out simply because he's taken longer than expected to reach his full potential.
Burke's comments could put all the Hamilton trade chatter to rest for the remainder of this season. Depending upon how this season ends, and with next June's NHL expansion draft likely to have a ripple effect upon the trade market, don't be surprised if Hamilton's name resurfaces in the rumor mill.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning could be in need of depth on their defense corps. Since Anton Stralman suffered an upper-body injury on Nov. 12, they have won five of their last 10 games and dropped four of their last five.
Even when Stralman returns, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times believes the Bolts still need to bolster their blueline. He cites TSN's Craig Button observing they lack really good No. 2 and No. 4 defensemen.
Smith notes finding such blueliners won't be easy or affordable. While they could use pending free agent goaltender Ben Bishop as bait near the trade deadline, that creates the problem of finding a suitable backup for Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Earlier this season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman indicated his preference to keep Bishop and Vasilevskiy for one more run at a Stanley Cup. Considering which teams are out of playoff contention by the deadline and which blueliners are available, perhaps Yzerman can address that issue without resorting to putting Bishop on the trade block. Rental players can usually be had for one or two draft picks.
Bishop might not be the only notable goalie available by the trade deadline. Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury's been a fixture in the rumor mill since last June.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hoped to go through this season with Fleury and promising Matt Murray sharing the goaltending duties. However, Rutherford told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that carrying two No.1 goalies hasn't worked as well as expected. Fleury and Murray are used to starter's minutes but are now forced to split the workload, leading to some recent inconsistent performances from both of them.
Rutherford can only protect one goaltender in next June's NHL expansion draft. He told Molinari he's not feeling any urgency to address the issue, but admitted it's the one most on his mind of late.
Fleury has a no-movement clause, meaning the Penguins must protect him unless he agrees to waive it for the draft or to accept a trade. It's assumed the Pens will shop him at some point this season in order to protect Murray. That move could come by the trade deadline.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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