Ray Emery’s poor performance and off-ice antics this season have led to calls from some quarters for the Senators to trade or demote the goalie, but neither is likely to happen.
Perhaps if Martin Gerber was playing as well as he was earlier in the season it would be easy to simply sit Emery and let him stew.
But with Gerber now mired in a mid-season funk, the Senators have no one else with big-game experience to turn to except Emery.
Forget about shopping him for a replacement, as the salary cap makes most GMs less willing to gamble on a problematic goalie with two years and almost $7 million remaining on his current contract.
Besides, there’s really no one available from other teams who’d be a suitable replacement.
Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin and Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson have been suggested, but both carry too much salary and their performances this season are scarcely better than Emery’s.
Forget about the Kings parting with Jason Labarbera. Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi got burned once before with Dan Cloutier and isn’t keen to repeat that experience; not to mention Labarbera is both affordable and playing better than the troubled Senators netminder.
Perhaps if they choose to shop Emery in the off-season the Senators might find a taker, but don’t expect him to be moving by the trade deadline.
• The Tampa Bay Lightning has lacked quality goaltending since Khabibulin was signed away by Chicago as a free agent in 2005. The Bolts will definitely be in the market for a top tender this summer.
There’s been no end to silly rumors of Lightning GM Jay Feaster trying to get Khabibulin back, but given the declining performance and hefty salary of the “Bulin Wall,” Feaster will likely look elsewhere.
It won’t be an easy task, as this summer’s free agent market will again be thin in terms of quality goalies.
The only notable might be Montreal’s Cristobal Huet, but the Lightning could find itself in a significant bidding war for his services, one it would be in tough to win if its ownership situation isn’t sorted out by then.
• Recent injuries to Kings defenseman Rob Blake and Blues rearguard Christian Backman could keep them out of the trade deadline marketplace.
Blake recently suffered a hairline fracture in his left ankle, while Backman is sidelined with a cracked bone in his left foot. Both are out for an estimated one or two weeks.
The two blueliners have been mentioned recently in trade rumors, Blake more so than Backman. But if it takes longer for them to return to action, they might not be going anywhere by Feb. 26.
• This week could see several more clubs joining the Kings as trade deadline “sellers.”
In the Eastern Conference, the Lightning are mired in last place, 12 points out of a playoff berth and fading fast, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be trying to move some of their expensive veterans.
In the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers are on the verge of falling out of playoff contention, while the Chicago Blackhawks could turn from buyers to sellers if they cannot reverse their recent slide in the standings.
The New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers still think the playoffs are a possibility in the East, but the gap between themselves and the final berths is widening. If those teams fail to gain any ground over the next two weeks, they could also join the sellers club.
In the West the playoff race is tighter, with only ten points between fourth and 12th, meaning improved teams like Phoenix, Columbus and St. Louis remain very much in the playoff picture. If that doesn’t change over the next two weeks those clubs won’t be dumping players at the deadline.
• Nervous Nashville Predators fans, fearful of their club engaging in another fire sale of talent, can rest easy. The team’s recent re-signings of forwards J.P. Dumont and Jordin Tootoo are obvious indicators the new ownership intends to retain its best players.
Dumont opted to forego the big bucks of unrestricted free agency to sign a four-year, $16-million contract extension, while Tootoo re-upped for two more seasons at $975,000 per.
Forward Martin Erat and defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are eligible for restricted free agency, where they could become targets for offer sheets, but Predators GM David Poile intends to re-sign the three before the summer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, www.spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.