You know the NHL trade deadline is drawing near when a GM issues a public denial of an Internet-generated trade rumor involving one of his best players.
Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told The Sporting News there was no truth to speculation he would shop defenseman Brent Seabrook by the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
The rumor, which had its origins in the blogosphere, suggested Seabrook might be dealt because the Blackhawks lacked the salary cap space to re-sign the restricted free agent.
Bowman praised Seabrook’s performance this season and claimed he intended on re-signing the blueliner. Craig Custance added talks between the two sides were beginning to heat up.
While the Blackhawks have more than $43.5 million committed to 11 players for next season, they still have room to re-sign Seabrook, who’s earning $3.5 million this season and is in line for a hefty raise. He will likely command around $5 million per season, which is just below Duncan Keith’s $5.538 million per.
The Hawks could work out something a little more cap-friendly for Seabrook, who turns 26 in April, perhaps on a lengthy seven- to 10-year deal.
It would be expensive, but with the salary cap expected to rise to $62 million next season, getting Seabrook inked for around $5 million would still leave close to $14 million in available space to re-sign less expensive key players such as Corey Crawford, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Kopecky.
SENATORS PLAN TO GET BACK ON TRACK
Ottawa Senators fans hoping for immediate change in the front office, behind the bench or on the struggling roster weren’t mollified by a recent interview given by team owner Eugene Melnyk to the Ottawa Sun.
Melnyk acknowledged his club’s problems this season, but said GM Bryan Murray and coach Cory Clouston won’t be fired before the end of the season.
He also said a plan was being put in place to get the club back on track, but wouldn’t elaborate on the details.
Clouston is almost certainly a goner at season’s end and, according to the Globe and Mail, Murray will finish this season as GM and then move into a senior advisory role.
That means whatever plan is implemented, it’ll be Murray – the same GM who’s been vainly shopping around the league to bolster his floundering club since October – doing the leg work.
After weeks of silence, Melnyk’s comments raise more questions than answers. Could Chris Phillips be dealt by the deadline? Mike Fisher? Milan Michalek? Could the previously unthinkable occur and Daniel Alfredsson be shopped? Does Jason Spezza still have a future with the Senators?
The only thing Melnyk has ensured is there will be considerably more trade speculation about his team between now and Feb. 28.
CAPITALS CONSIDER ADDING DEPTH IN THE CREASE
The continuing health issues of young Washington Capitals goalies Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are keeping the club at the forefront of the rumor mill.
Varlamov has a history of groin injuries in his short NHL career and has already missed 14 games this season, while Neuvirth was recently sidelined by a lower-body injury.
That led Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal to suggest the Capitals will take a look at either Toronto’s J-S Giguere or Florida’s Tomas Vokoun before the trade deadline.
Capitals GM George McPhee has stuck by his young goalies dating back to last summer, but their recent injury woes could potentially put Washington’s Stanley Cup aspirations in jeopardy.
If McPhee were to shop for a veteran goalie he might pass on Giguere, who despite his impressive playoff pedigree also has an injury history. Vokoun would certainly be a tempting target, but recent reports out of Florida claimed Panthers GM Dale Tallon was in ongoing contract talks with Vokoun’s agent, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be on the market by late February.
Should Varlamov and Neuvirth remain healthy throughout February, it would be less likely McPhee would test the market. But if one or both are still hobbled, the possibility the Caps will seek more depth cannot be ruled out.
ISLANDERS OPTIONS WITH NABOKOV
Evgeni Nabokov’s refusal to report to the New York Islanders after being claimed off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings has cast doubt over his return to the NHL this season.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie listed the Islanders’ options and suggested they could suspend Nabokov for the balance of the season until he agrees to report, appeal to the league to “toll” his contract toward next season should he sit out the remainder of this one (thus preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer), or place him on waivers again and attempt to trade him if he cleared.
Islanders GM Garth Show told the New York Post he expected Nabokov to report, although efforts to reach the netminder over the weekend were fruitless.
Nabokov’s short-sighted refusal to report to the Islanders won’t benefit him in the long run. He knew the consequences of attempting to return to the NHL after starting this season playing in Russia and that the odds of clearing waivers to join the Red Wings were slim at best.
If he reports to the Isles he’d only have to play with them for three months, after which he’d become an unrestricted free agent again. If he played well for them it would only bolster his value in the free agent market.
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 Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.