With the NHL ‘s March 4 trade deadline only three weeks away the rumor mill is heating up and, of course, this season’s usual suspects are front and center.
• Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester tops the list, but now there are conflicting reports on his availability due to the Panthers’ position in the Eastern Conference standings.
If the Panthers were out of the playoff race by now, Bouwmeester would certainly be shopped by the deadline, but with the club hanging tough in the standings management might prefer to retain him in hopes he’ll help push them to their first playoff berth since 2000.
While that hasn’t muted the Bouwmeester speculation, it appears the greater the Panthers chances of securing a post-season berth the less likely they’ll trade him.
• Anticipation grows in Toronto over which players Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke could move.
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle – currently recuperating from a broken hand – had suggested earlier this season he’d waive his no-trade clause and provide Burke with a list of preferred destinations if the Leafs GM requested it.
According to a recent report in the Toronto Sun, fellow blueliner Pavel Kubina is willing to do the same, but Burke has yet to make such a request to either defenseman.
Forward Nik Antropov is also believed to be available, but his recent on-ice struggles could diminish his trade value.
• The inconsistent play from the Anaheim Ducks continues to spark stories of defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer being made available by the trade deadline, but only if the Ducks fall out of playoff contention entirely.
Given how tight the Western Conference standings are – the Ducks, presently sixth, sit eight points up on the 14th-place Colorado Avalanche – a losing skid could jeopardize their position.
Still, if the Ducks are holding onto one of the top eight spots by March 4 it’s unlikely they’ll move Pronger or Niedermayer.
• St. Louis Blues forward Keith Tkachuk continues to feature prominently in trade speculations, namely to the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the Blues still within striking distance of a playoff spot, Tkachuk might not be keen to waive his no-trade clause should management make such a request. So far there’s been no indication from management they’re considering that possibility.
• Speaking of the Bruins, an interesting report popped up in both Boston and Edmonton suggesting the two teams might be working on a trade.
Oilers scout Dave Semenko has been following the Bruins for several games and since they don’t play against each other again this season this has naturally led to trade rumors.
Oilers winger Erik Cole is believed to be the likely candidate to be on the move should a deal go down between the two clubs by March 4. It’s rumored the Oilers want a winger or a big center to put on Ales Hemsky’s line, but they might not find that from Boston.
• The Montreal Canadiens’ recent stumbles – they have managed only two wins in their past nine games – has fueled speculation GM Bob Gainey will make a move or two by the deadline, perhaps to land an offensive defenseman and/or a second-line center.
It’s also led to some pretty wacky rumors hitting the wire. One had Gainey trying to pry center Brad Richards and defenseman Matt Niskanen out of Dallas, while another had the Tampa Bay Lightning asking for Carey Price and Alex Kovalev in exchange for Vincent Lecavalier.
Gainey is reportedly tiring of Kovalev’s inconsistency, which could make him a tough sell. Still, it’s been noted the Pittsburgh Penguins need a skilled winger for Sidney Crosby’s line and reportedly could part with Ryan Whitney – a puck-moving blueliner – to land one, so there is a potential fit there.
• Still with the Stars, rumors say they’re planning to demote forward Sean Avery and place him on recall waivers where the New York Rangers could claim him along with half his salary.
If true, this goes to show just how desperate things have become for the Blueshirts if they feel Avery will get them back on track.
• Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil recently told the Ottawa media he found it flattering his name was appearing so frequently in recent trade rumors, but insisted he wants to remain with the Senators.
Neil might not have much choice in the matter, though. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and if his salary demands prove too expensive for Senators GM Bryan Murray, Neil could find himself playing elsewhere by the deadline.
Another Senator likely to be dealt is Filip Kuba, who’s also a UFA this summer. Teams seeking an experienced puck-moving defenseman could be interested in working out a deal.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.