(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHL)
Toronto and Los Angeles could make a potential Phaneuf for Richards swap, but only if the numbers work for both sides. In Ottawa and Edmonton, there are two big goaltending questions. Meanwhile, the sliding Sabres are going to have to start making moves soon.
Talk of the the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings swapping toxic contracts by exchanging defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Mike Richards persists in the rumor mill. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes it could make sense for both clubs. He thinks the Kings might go for it but not the Leafs at this point.
Phaneuf, 29, is in the first year of a seven-year, $49-million contract with an annual cap hit of $7 million. Richards, 29, is in the seventh-season of a 12-year, $69-million deal worth $5.75-million per season.
It's hard to see how such a deal helps either club. Richards' performance is in steady decline. The Leafs would receive a player who's a shadow of the two-way beast he once was. The only good thing about Richards at this stage in his career is he carries a cheaper cap hit than Phaneuf.
With Slava Voynov suspended pending the outcome of his upcoming domestic violence trial, the Kings could use another top-two defenseman. While Phaneuf could address that issue, he's not a short-term fit.
His contract is more expensive than Richards, eating up valuable cap space the Kings need to re-sign key free agents like Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and perhaps Justin Williams this summer. It could also hamper efforts to re-sign superstar Anze Kopitar before his eligibility for UFA status in July 2016.
If the Leafs and Kings want to move Phaneuf and Richards, they'll have to find suitable trade partners elsewhere. Swapping them doesn't make sense.
CHRIS STEWART FINALLY ON THE GO?
It seems scarcely a month passes this season without Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart popping up in the rumor mill. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators could have interest in the 27-year-old Stewart, who's an unrestricted free agent in July.
One reason Stewart hasn't moved is his stats, tallying only 15 points in 45 games. That's well off his two 28-goal seasons earlier in his career. Another could be the asking price. On Dec. 27, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch claimed Sabres GM Tim Murray sought a “high-end prospect and a top pick” for the veteran winger. Unless Murray lowers lower his asking price, Stewart isn't going anywhere.
Sabres winger Drew Stafford is also eligible for UFA status in July and could be available at the trade deadline. The 29-year-old has better stats than Stewart (22 points in 42 games) and is on pace for a respectable 40-point season.
According to Garrioch, however, the Sabres haven't received any trade inquiries yet for Stafford. Perhaps that'll change in a month's time when the March trade deadline draws near.
OTTAWA READY TO MAKE DEALS
The Ottawa Senators have made some waves recently in the rumor pool. GM Bryan Murray dismissed the notion veteran goalie Craig Anderson was available, as well as stating his intent to trade or demote winger Colin Greening soon.
Murray remains in the market for a top-six winger and could consider moving one of his long-time veterans. The Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan reports Murray received some interest in defenseman Chris Phillips and physical winger Chris Neil.
Given Phillips' and Neil's length of service with the Senators, Murray said he'd have a long discussion with them before entertaining serious trade offers. The 36-year-old Phillips has a year remaining on his contract worth $2.5-million per season. Neil, 35, is signed through 2015-16 at an annual cap hit of $1.9 million.
Murray is reportedly willing to talk contract with defenseman Marc Methot, who's eligible for UFA status in July, but hasn't ruled out trading the 29-year-old if he's still unsigned at the deadline.
Don't expect Murray to make a pitch for Colorado Avalanche winger Ryan O'Reilly. While the Senators GM loves O'Reilly, Scanlan reports Murray believes the Avalanche are looking elsewhere if they move the 23-year-old.
EXPECT UPGRADE IN GOAL FOR EDMONTON
When the Edmonton Oilers acquired goaltender Viktor Fasth from the Anaheim Ducks last season it was expected he and Ben Scrivens would form a solid tandem between the pipes. Sadly, it hasn't worked out as the Oilers are once again among the NHL's worst teams for goals-against average.
Fasth, 32, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes the Swedish netminder has reached a crossroads in his efforts to prove himself a reliable NHL goalie. Matheson speculates the Oilers could pursue Carolina's Cam Ward via trade or San Jose's Antti Niemi this summer.
If the Oilers decide to pursue an upgrade in goal this summer, Fasth could be dealt by the March 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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