The Los Angeles Kings finally made a move to address their woeful offense, shipping defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night for center Jeff Carter.
As notable as that move was, it might not be the only one Kings GM Dean Lombardi pulls off before Monday’s trade deadline.
Following the announcement of the Carter trade, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Kings right winger Dustin Brown is also in play.
Darren Dreger chimed in via Twitter to suggest Brown’s availability will put pressure on the Blue Jackets to make a decision to move right winger Rick Nash before Monday, claiming the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Flyers were among those interested in the Kings captain.
Brown will certainly draw considerable attention leading up to deadline day. He’s a versatile, physical winger with good scoring skills and leadership ability, plus he’s also affordable, with two years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3.2 million per season.
No word on what the Kings would want in return, but for a player like Brown, they’re bound to get more than just draft picks and prospects.
ARE THE CAPITALS BUYERS OR SELLERS?
Things are starting to get ugly for the slumping Washington Capitals.
Though only three points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference heading into Friday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Capitals have won only three of their past 11 games and have dropped six of their past seven.
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun was yanked in his past two starts, captain Alex Ovechkin is currently hobbled by a lower body injury and coach Dale Hunter can’t find a way to snap his players out of their current funk.
In the wake of Washington’s humiliating 5-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com suggested the Capitals were badly in need of a shake-up and believed it would cost GM George McPhee either a top prospect such as Evgeny Kuznetsov or one of his two first round picks in this year’s draft to bring in a player who can make a difference.
Rumors intensified on Wednesday, after veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik was a healthy scratch in the Capitals’ 5-2 loss to Ottawa. RDS.ca reported Hamrlik was being shopped and would welcome a move, though his agent denied his client was seeking a trade.
McPhee recently claimed left winger Mike Knuble wasn’t being shopped, but he continues to be mentioned as someone coveted by playoff contenders. Given the Capitals’ ongoing struggles, McPhee might change his mind if he got a decent offer.
It’s expected McPhee will be busy at the trade deadline, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be a buyer or seller.
He could try to move Hamrlik, or pending UFAs Knuble, Alexander Semin, Dennis Wideman and Jeff Halpern, though they likely wouldn’t fetch a return the Capitals need to make the playoffs.
If McPhee was willing to run up the white flag on the season, or follow the advice of one Washington columnist and blow up the roster, that would be fine.
Given how close the Capitals are to getting back into the post-season picture, though, a major overhaul isn’t likely. McPhee should be a buyer and given the recent reports of Dustin Brown’s availability, it wouldn’t be surprising if he showed interest in the Kings captain.
TORONTO TARGETING A GOALIE
If fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs harbored hopes GM Brian Burke would pursue Rick Nash by the trade deadline, Burke’s interview on Wednesday with TSN Radio would all but dash them.
Burke declined to comment if he was interested in Nash, citing the league’s tampering rules, but did say he had “no firm offers on the table” for the Blue Jackets captain.
That’s understandable, as Burke’s focus is on the more pressing need of improving Toronto’s goaltending.
In the same interview, Burke admitted he would explore his options before the trade deadline to see if there was something available to help his team right now.
His comments triggered a blizzard of speculation over which goalies he’s targeting. Edmonton’s Nikolai Khabibulin, Minnesota’s Josh Harding, Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, L.A.’s Jonathan Bernier, Nashville’s Anders Lindback, St. Louis’ Ben Bishop, Florida’s Scott Clemmensen, San Jose’s Antero Niittymaki and Colorado’s J-S Giguere – a former Leaf – are listed as possibilities.
The Toronto Star‘s Damien Cox reported there was no interest in UFA goalie Marty Turco and no chance the Buffalo Sabres would part with Ryan Miller, or the Blues with Jaroslav Halak.
Burke could be at a disadvantage, as rivals will try to squeeze him for a quality player in return.
Another problem is there aren’t many palatable choices for Burke to pursue.
Schneider doesn’t appear to be available and it’s doubtful the Predators would move Lindback, who lacks starter experience anyway. The Kings probably want to package Bernier for a scorer and with the Avalanche making a push for the playoffs, it’s unlikely Giguere will go anywhere.
Niittymaki has starter experience, but also a lengthy injury history. Harding and Clemmensen have been employed mainly as backups, while Bishop lacks NHL experience.
That would leave Khabibulin, who has one year at $3.75 million left on his contract, but is currently sidelined with a groin strain.
In other NHL rumors heading into the final weekend before Monday’s deadline:
• The New York Post reported the New Jersey Devils are keeping an eye on the trade market for an affordable defenseman.
It appears former Devils blueliner and current Winnipeg Jet Johnny Oduya won’t be available since the Jets are now back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Montreal’s Chris Campoli is an option.
• For those who had any lingering doubts, GM Lou Lamoriello said left winger Zach Parise won’t be moved by the trade deadline.
• Anaheim Ducks right winger Teemu Selanne continued to play coy with the media over whether or not he’ll request a trade by the deadline. When asked if he intended to stay with the Ducks for the rest of the season, he replied, “Right now, yes.”
Selanne also said he believes the Ducks can make the playoffs, adding it would be selfish to consider other options at this time. That doesn’t sound like a player seriously mulling his trade options.
GET UP-TO-THE-SECOND UPDATES AND ANALYSIS ON TRADE DEADLINE DAY ALL FEB. 27 ON THN.COM.
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.