Jiri Hudler (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)
The Calgary Flames hit on all cylinders last season despite poor underlying numbers. Early-season regression is leading to speculation the Pacific Division team is considering a trade to shake its fortunes.
The rebuilding Calgary Flames confounded the experts in 2014-15, reaching the playoffs and advancing to the second round. Expectations were high entering this season, but a 2-6-0 start has GM Brad Treliving reportedly seeking help for his flickering Flames.
Sportsnet's Mark Spector stirred up the rumor mill last week claiming Treliving sought a major deal, suggesting the Flames GM had interest in Tampa Bay Lightning star (and pending free agent) Steven Stamkos. TSN's Bob McKenzie doesn't doubt Treliving contacted Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, but doesn't believe they spoke about Stamkos.
SI.com's Allan Muir believes Treliving was sending a message to his players last week by demoting goaltender Karri Ramo to their AHL affiliate in Stockton. That's $3.8 million riding the buses in the minors, with the Flames receiving only $950,000 in cap relief.
So, who are the Flames' rumored trade candidates? Spector suggested Treliving might part with a promising forward like center Sam Bennett, but parting with the 19-year-old now is a hasty decision. Instead, Treliving can draw on his blueline depth for trade bait.
The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reports there's talk of trading veteran defenseman Dennis Wideman to free up cap room to re-sign pending UFA blueliner Kris Russell. He also thinks winger Jiri Hudler, who's a UFA in July, could become a hot topic for trade chatter leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Hudler could raise immediate interest in the trade market. The 31-year-old is coming off a career-best 76-point season and is in the final year of his contract. He lacks a no-trade clause, giving Treliving a wide number of potential trade partners. However, Hudler's carrying a $4-million cap hit, which could be difficult to move this early in the season.
Wideman, 32, is a more difficult option. He has another season left on his contract at a hefty $5.25-million cap hit, plus a full no-movement clause. Russell, with his $2.6-million cap hit, is easier to move. The 28-year-old blueliner could fetch a decent second-line winger, provided the Flames GM is willing to part with him.
Treliving would surely love to move Mason Raymond, but there won't be much interest in a fading 30-year-old winger carrying a $3.15-million cap hit. He recently passed through the waiver wire unclaimed. Like Wideman, Raymond has another season remaining on his contract.
Muir believes Treliving won't find many trading partners right now, as most of his peers are still evaluating their rosters. He notes the Anaheim Ducks are also struggling, but suggests it could be awkward for Treliving to deal with the division-rival that knocked his team out of last spring's playoffs.
The stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets are seeking a top-four defenseman and winger Cam Atkinson is thought to be available, but Muir doubts Atkinson's the right player to help turn around the Flames. Calgary has long talked about a desire to get bigger, not smaller. Atkinson is 5-foot-8, 174 pounds.
ATKINSON ON THE MOVE?
Speaking of Cam Atkinson, The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline last week claimed a source suggested the Blue Jackets could ship him to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.
That rumor was shot down by Devils GM Ray Shero, telling Ottawa's TSN 1200 radio he has no plans to move the 22-year-old Larsson, who was recently re-signed to a six-year contract extension.
Shero also weighs in on recent rumor linking Devils center Travis Zajac to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He states he's had no discussions with Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello since late-July, when Lamoriello took up his new position in Toronto.
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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