The Calgary Flames recent five-game losing skid, culminating in a humiliating 9-0 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins late last week, has once again spurred calls in the media for GM Jay Feaster to commence rebuilding by shopping veteran stars such as captain and right winger Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff by the trade deadline.
Those opinions appeared before the Flames downed the Minnesota Wild 3-1 at the Saddledome Saturday night, when Iginla netted his 500th career NHL goal. The outpouring of emotion from the Flames faithful for Iginla’s achievement wasn’t lost on Feaster, who has previously denied any plans to trade his popular captain.
Despite their recent skid, the Flames entered this week only four points out of the final playoff spot in the tightly packed Western Conference. When interviewed following Saturday’s game, Iginla maintained his belief the Flames can still make the playoffs, an opinion likely shared by his GM.
As long as the Flames remain in playoff contention, Feaster won’t be a trade deadline seller. If anything, he could become a buyer provided he’s able to find a deal that would boost Calgary’s playoff fortunes.
DUCKS IN A ROW
NHL media and bloggers are still buzzing over Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray hinting of moving some of his core players if the teams fails to improve over the remainder of this season.
Center and captain Ryan Getzlaf and left winger Bobby Ryan are among that group and on Friday they admitted their play hasn’t helped the Ducks this season, but stressed their desire to remain with the team and get it back on track.
Ryan believes Murray was sending the message that everyone, including the core players, were accountable for the club’s performance.
Murray’s comments left the impression Getzlaf, Ryan, right winger Corey Perry, defenseman Cam Fowler and goaltender Jonas Hiller were available for the right price.
That’s not the case, claimed TSN’s Darren Dreger, though one or more could be shopped if there is no improvement, either by the trade deadline, or more likely, the June draft.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun speculated Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke – the former GM of the Ducks – would love to land Getzlaf, but the huge asking price is likely to keep the center in Anaheim.
Dreger also believes Getzlaf, given his status as one of the league’s elite centers, isn’t available. He considers Ryan, the subject of trade rumors in late November, a more likely target.
The Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch cited a league executive who claimed the Ducks asking price for Getzlaf or Ryan would be two high-end prospects and two first round picks, but that runs counter to Murray’s claim last week he wasn’t interested in that kind of return.
What must be remembered is none of those aforementioned core players are free agents this summer, so Murray’s not under pressure to shop any of them by the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
It’s unlikely he’d find a quality return at that point in the season, as the only teams that would be interested are playoff contenders, who almost always deal for affordable rental players.
If Murray decides to move a core player, the most likely time frame would be around the draft weekend, as Dreger suggested, when teams have more cap space to invest in big ticket players carrying expensive contracts.
LIGHTNING IN NEED OF A GOALTENDER
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing goaltender woes continue to generate talk of GM Steve Yzerman working the phones in hope of addressing the problem.
A report in the Ottawa Sun suggested Yzerman will find the pickings slim, listing Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings and Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild as possible options, while it doesn’t appear Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks is available.
The report also claimed the San Jose Sharks “are willing to discuss either Antti Niemi or Antero Niittymaki.”
While Niittymaki will almost certainly be shopped in the near future, Niemi won’t be going anywhere. He’s among the league leaders for goalies in wins (18) and has the third-best goals-against average (2.28) and fourth-best save percentage (.919) for netminders with 30-plus games played this season.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, meanwhile, dismissed the possibility of Yzerman having interest in Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who had his best seasons with the Lightning, carrying them to the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Matheson believes the Lightning GM would prefer to acquire a young goalie and would have better luck landing Bernier or Harding.
The problem for Yzerman is that he’s not dealing from a position of strength and it would cost him more than he’s willing to pay for young goalies such as Bernier, Harding and Schneider.
Schneider has played brilliantly in regular rotation with Roberto Luongo, so the Canucks – who are hoping for another return to the Stanley Cup final – won’t move him now.
The Kings would prefer to retain Bernier for at least the rest of this season as insurance in case starter Jonathan Quick slumps or gets injured down the stretch. Niklas Backstrom has struggled of late, so Wild management is leery of moving Harding.
Yzerman will likely have little choice but to look elsewhere for a short-term fix, if there’s any to be had, and focus on landing a good young goalie in the off-season.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 Kukla’s Korner.