Just as it seemed last Friday the NHL’s free agent signing craze was slowing down entering the July 4 long weekend, a story emerged that had fans, bloggers and pundits buzzing.
A report out of Philadelphia said the Flyers were engaged in exploratory trade talks regarding veteran winger Simon Gagne.
Gagne’s name has frequently surfaced in the rumor mill over the past two years, but his no-trade clause usually squelched talk. By agreeing this time to waive that clause, it appears he may have played his final game as a Flyer.
Philadelphia needs to free up cap space to not only re-sign players such as Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe, but are also believed intent on landing an experienced starting goalie like Evgeni Nabokov or Marty Turco.
Hampered by injury in recent years, Gagne has only one season remaining on his contract (worth $5.25 million). Those two factors probably mean the Flyers won’t re-sign him after next season, which could be why he has agreed to waive his clause.
Late Sunday, news broke that Ilya Kovalchuk had decided against signing with the Kings, which might be why L.A. was rumored as a potential destination for Gagne, who reportedly agreed to waive his no-trade clause. With a trade not close as of Friday, the sides apparently took the weekend to think things over.
Meanwhile, Kings GM Dean Lombardi declined to comment on his supposed interest in Kovalchuk or Gagne, issuing a statement instead saying he and his staff were “working on different scenarios,” but weren’t close to any deals heading into the weekend.
Lombardi was reportedly keen to sign Kovalchuk, but unwilling to meet the expensive asking price at the risk of jeopardizing his future, opting instead for a more affordable, short-term direction like Gagne.
CANUCKS BLUELINE MOVES?
The Vancouver Canucks blueline additions of Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis have given rise to speculation they might try to move Kevin Bieksa for perhaps more depth up front.
A report in the Columbus Dispatch cited sources suggesting the Blue Jackets might offer promising winger Nikita Filatov for Bieksa, while the Orange County Register suggested he could be a good fit on the Anaheim blueline, having previously played for Ducks coach Randy Carlyle in the American League with the Manitoba Moose.
To date there’s been nothing more since Friday on the Bieksa-for-Filatov rumor.
However, the Vancouver Sun suggested Canucks GM Mike Gillis is in no hurry to move Bieksa or another defenseman at this time. It’s possible Gillis could wait until later in the summer in hopes of getting a better return.
Late last week, the Edmonton Oilers placed disgruntled veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray on waivers, but couldn’t find any takers.
Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Journal suggested perhaps the reason the Oilers went the waiver route was due to lack of interest in Souray in the trade market.
If that’s the case, Oilers management better hope interest picks up later in the summer once all the best available free agent defensemen are gone, otherwise they could face the possibility of being stuck with him for another season.
That could prove an unnecessary distraction for a team putting its focus the rebuilding process.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays 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.