Cody Franson (Abelimages/Getty Images)
The Dallas Stars are starting to make a push for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, and, among others, they're eying a pair of Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen. Meanwhile, the surprising Winnipeg Jets are looking to bolster their bottom-six as they continue to push for the playoffs.
In recent days there's been some buzz claiming the Dallas Stars could be interested in Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen Dion Phaneuf or Cody Franson. The basis for this was a report on the Stars needs by Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
Heika, however, didn't say the Stars were actively interested in the pair, only that the club's focus “seems to be on minute-munching defenders with size.” He merely listed Phaneuf and Franson among several blueline options (Arizona's Zbynek Michalek and Ottawa's Marc Methot being the others) who might be available leading up to the March trade deadline.
Unquestionably the Stars need defensive help. They're among this season's worst defensive teams and enter this week five points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen, however, if GM Jim Nill intends to pursue some experienced help for his struggling blue line.
Of the defensemen listed by Heika, all but Phaneuf would be solid and affordable playoff rentals for the Stars. Phaneuf (currently in the first year of a seven-year, $49-million deal) could prove an expensive acquisition in terms of salary and return. If Nill is interested in the Leafs captain, he's better off waiting until the off-season to consider that option.
FRANSON'S FUTURE WITH LEAFS IN QUESTION
Speaking of Franson, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman cites colleague Damien Cox reporting the Leafs began contract talks with the 27-year-old blueliner, as well as center and fellow pending UFA Mike Santorelli.
Uncertainty over Franson's future, however, is keeping his name in the trade rumor mill. Friedman claims the Leafs' blueliner could interest the Detroit Red Wings, who seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. That opinion is echoed by Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, who included Franson with Edmonton's Jeff Petry, Buffalo's Tyler Myers and Carolina's Justin Faulk on her list of suggested trade targets.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports Franson is among several players rival teams have contacted the Leafs about, but for now he doesn't expect the club to make any significant moves. If the Leafs go shopping in the trade market, Dreger speculates they'll seek young players with term on their contracts.
JETS BOLSTERING BOTTOM-SIX HEADING INTO PLAYOFFS
For the first time since arriving in Winnipeg from Atlanta, the Jets find themselves heading into February with a solid grip on a playoff berth. The Jets are currently perched in fifth overall in the Western Conference. Their 60 points are just two behind the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, plus they hold a seven-point cushion above the eighth-overall Calgary Flames.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is well known for his seemingly infinite patience with his roster. His club's lofty perch in the Western Conference, however, prompted the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe to speculate this could be the year Cheveldayoff becomes a buyer before the trade deadline.
Wiebe doesn't anticipate Cheveldayoff will pursue a big-ticket player, suggesting the priority could be bolstering the Jets' bottom-six forwards for a reasonable price. He lists Columbus' Matt Calvert, Edmonton's Matt Hendricks, Buffalo's Torrey Mitchell and Toronto's Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik as possible trade targets.
Cheveldayoff should find a suitable option without giving up much in return. With the Jets now carrying nine healthy defensemen, he could draw upon his blueline depth for trade bait.
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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