It's shaping up to be yet another busy off-season for the Philadelphia Flyers.
GM Paul Holmgren got the ball rolling earlier this month with his acquisition and (anticipated) signing of defenseman Mark Streit, then informed Daniel Briere of the club's intent to use a compliance buyout on him to shed his cap hit.
A potential replacement for Briere is NY Rangers center Brad Richards if he also receives a compliance buyout. Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer cited a team source claiming the Flyers would “absolutely” have interest in Richards if he becomes a free agent on July 5.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov could also receive a compliance buyout provided a suitable replacement can be found via the trade market. Failing that, Holmgren could trade another player to free up additional cap space.
The Flyers are reportedly among five teams interested in 24-year-old netminder Jonathan Bernier, but CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reported Thursday the other clubs may be offering more than Holmgren is willing to pay.
Panaccio believes Holmgren would offer up a winger such as Matt Read for Bernier, but the Kings might prefer Jakub Voracek, who had a breakout performance this season with 22 goals and 46 points in 48 games.
Panaccio also claimed the Flyers remain interested in Anaheim Ducks star Bobby Ryan, whom the Ducks are believed to be quietly shopping. One trade scenario supposedly discussed was the Flyers shipping defenseman Braydon Coburn and their first round pick (11th overall) to Anaheim for the 26-year-old winger.
Despite the addition of Streit, Panaccio believes parting with Coburn for Ryan would deplete the Flyers defense. Such a move would make sense, however, if Holmgren has another deal in the works with a different team, in which he would deal one of his young forwards (Read, Voracek, Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn) for a defenseman.
That could explain the rumored interest in Ryan, as well as the speculation of offering a forward to the Kings for Bernier, thus enabling Holmgren to buy out Bryzgalov.
It wouldn't be the first time Holmgren has shaken up his roster in June. Last year, he swapped James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn and dealt future Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for draft picks.
Two years ago he dealt Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles in multi-player deals and acquired Bryzgalov's negotiating rights from the Phoenix Coyotes. In 2009, he shipped Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa to the Ducks for Chris Pronger.
Holmgren is not known as a GM who stands pat.
LATEST ON LETANG
Preliminary contract talks between Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero and agent Kent Hughes (representative for Kris Letang) began earlier this week and Hughes told Shero his client wants to remain a Penguin.
It's a promising start, but determining how much Shero is willing to spend – and for how long – to re-sign Letang is another matter.
Having invested heavily in superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there's speculation Letang will prove too expensive for the Penguins. TSN's Pierre LeBrun believes the Letang camp won't accept less than $7-million per season, while colleague Darren Dreger feels Letang could be re-signed if he accepted less money (around $6.5 million) on an eight-year deal.
Letang has one year remaining on his current contract, so Shero isn't under pressure to move him this summer. If a new contract isn't in place by draft weekend, however, Shero could trade Letang, just as he did with Jordan Staal at last year's draft.
If Letang is shopped, rule out the Detroit Red Wings as a suitor. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press believes the cost of the return for Letang and his new salary would be too expensive for the Wings.
BUSY BUDS IN SUMMER SEASON
The Toronto Maple Leafs are also quite busy heading into the NHL draft next weekend.
Following Wednesday's NHL GMs meeting in Boston, Leafs GM Dave Nonis told the press he intends “to look for upgrades at every position.” He added that didn't mean he was unhappy with his current players, but believes it's worthwhile to explore what's available.
The Leafs are reportedly among the clubs interested in acquiring the negotiation rights to Florida Panthers pending free agent center Stephen Weiss. They're also believed among those pursuing LA Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Negotiations with pending free agent center Tyler Bozak should determine how seriously the Leafs pursue Weiss. Bozak is reportedly seeking $5.5-million per season, while the Leafs hope to re-sign him for $3.5 million per.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos also noted Nonis had a 10-minute chat with Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish during the GM meeting and wondered if the Leafs would part with a defenseman for the Oilers first round pick (seventh overall) in the upcoming draft.
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal believes it would make sense for the Oilers to move that pick for either a top-six forward or a “useful” top-four defenseman. He noted the Leafs top-four blueliners currently consisted of Dion Phaneuf, Mike Kostka, Jake Gardiner and Carl Gunnarsson.
The Oilers won't move that pick for Kostka or Gunnarsson, while the Leafs prefer to retain the promising Gardiner.
That would leave Phaneuf, the target of fan and media criticism in Toronto this season. With one year remaining on his contract, the Leafs captain faces an uncertain future in Toronto, but MacTavish would want assurances Phaneuf would re-sign with the Oilers before signing off on such a deal.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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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