You know we’re in the midst of the dog days of summer when the most notable NHL rumors involve potential destinations for a third-line right winger and a third-string goaltender.
Most GMs are waiting until training camp before considering any significant moves prior to this season. The free agent pool has been pretty much drained of quality talent and there’s a lack of real news regarding unsigned restricted free agents Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn.
As a result, unrestricted free agent right winger Trent Hunter and Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton have become the most newsworthy names in an otherwise quiet rumor mill.
Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reported a Google search of “trent hunter anaheim ducks” produced an NHL.com profile listing Hunter as a member of the Ducks, setting off a false rumor last Friday suggesting the club had signed Hunter, but hadn’t announced it yet.
The reason for the glitch was because Hunter was drafted by the Ducks in 1998.
Hunter’s agent told Stephens his client had spoken with a number of teams, but hasn’t decided where to play this season.
Stephens noted the agent didn’t specify if the Ducks were among those teams, but his comments didn’t rule Anaheim out.
It’s possible Hunter is on the Ducks’ radar. As Stephens also pointed out, the Ducks lack depth on right wing beyond Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne and if the latter retires, it will increase the pressure on management to find a replacement.
While Hunter has reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his career, the last time was in 2006-07. Stephens suggested at this point in Hunter’s career he’d be best used as an affordable third-liner.
Other clubs that may also have interest in Hunter include the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes.
LEIGHTON OR BOBROVSKY?
Leighton, meanwhile, will have to wait several weeks to determine his future and whether it’s still with the Flyers.
Ilya Bryzgalov is their obvious starter, leaving Leighton to jockey with the promising Sergei Bobrovsky for the backup role.
GM Paul Holmgren recently told Chuck Gormley of the Cherry Hill Courier-Post he wasn’t going to address Leighton’s situation now, indicating his staff will evaluate the team’s goaltending during training camp next month.
Leighton said he won’t seek a trade and believes Holmgren has an idea where he’ll play, but isn’t going to tell him now.
It’s likely Leighton will be demoted, though Gormley pointed out the Flyers signed Jason Bacashihua and anticipate him as the starting goalie with their AHL team.
Gormley also noted Holmgren gauged Bobrovsky’s trade value prior to the June draft and suggested the young Russian’s trade value is high, based on the return the Washington Capitals received (first and second round picks) for shipping Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche.
But that doesn’t guarantee Bobrovsky will be the one moved in the coming weeks. ‘Bob’ still has two more seasons remaining on his current contract, while Leighton has only one left.
Holmgren might wish to retain Bobrovsky beyond this season, perhaps hoping a good performance by the young netminder will drive up his value a little more.
Payroll will also come into play. CapGeek.com indicates the Flyers currently have around $175,000 in available cap space, but that doesn’t include Leighton’s salary, as he’s not listed as a roster player.
If Holmgren decides he needs to shed a little more salary, he may try moving Bobrovsky and his $1.75 million per season salary for draft picks. Leighton’s $1.55 million salary would then be added to the Flyers payroll if he took over the backup role, but at least it would provide a little more cap space.
Currently there’s not much of a market for goalies, though that could change during training camp and in the pre-season as rival clubs evaluate their goaltending requirements.
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.