With the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline just more than two weeks away, speculation is growing over trade destinations for Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun recently added the Los Angeles Kings to the list of potential suitors (others include the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins) for Iginla, suggesting they could offer up young goaltender Jonathan Bernier as trade bait.
LeBrun cited the Kings’ interest in Iginla a few years ago, plus they’re now coached by former Flames coach and GM Darryl Sutter.
Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail rejected this notion, pointing out their interest in Iginla was prior to the acquisitions of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
With starter Jonathan Quick having an erratic season, Duhatschek believes the Kings prefer keeping Bernier as insurance.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi claimed the Penguins are interested in Iginla, but suggested the veteran winger – who currently has 523 career goals and 1,092 career points – “might not fill a top-six role with the Penguins.”
The Penguin’s top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis has played very well this season, so reluctance to see them broken up is understandable.
But considering the chemistry Iginla had with Crosby on Canada’s gold medal-winning men’s hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics, it’s obvious which line he’ll play on if the Penguins acquire him.
Critics question the logic of parting with the rumored asking price of “a top-four defense prospect, a roster player and a first round pick” for an apparent rental player like Iginla, but it wouldn’t be the first time Penguins GM Ray Shero paid such a price.
In 2008, Shero shipped out two roster forwards (Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen), a then-top prospect (Angelo Esposito) and a first round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for Marian Hossa. Coincidentally, Dupuis also joined the Penguins in that deal and went on to have a productive career in Pittsburgh.
Iginla, meanwhile, refuses to publicly discuss the trade speculation, while Flames GM Jay Feaster is keeping mum about his trade options.
Moving Iginla, or for that matter defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, by the trade deadline remains an uncertainty.
Though the Flames enter this week 14th in the Western Conference, they’re only four points out of a playoff berth. If they gain ground over the next two weeks, Feaster could be reluctant to move his stars.
GABORIK RUMORS WON'T GO AWAY
New York Rangers winger Marian Gaborik continues to pop up in the rumor mill, but a trade is far from certain.
LeBrun claimed the Rangers “aren’t necessarily shopping Gaborik,” but he’s available for the right price, that being a right-handed top-four defenseman and a couple of grinding forwards.
Craig Custance recently reported Gaborik has a modified no-trade clause, in which he provides a list before each season of eight teams he would consider acceptable trade destinations.
Custance and LeBrun noted Gaborik’s contract, which has one year remaining at $7.5 million, could be difficult to move.
On Saturday, CBC’s Ron MacLean asked colleague Elliotte Friedman about a rumor linking Gaborik with the Vancouver Canucks.
Friedman thinks they “talked about it” but doesn’t believe it went beyond that. He also feels the Rangers don’t want to retain part of Gaborik’s salary to facilitate a trade. Like LeBrun, Friedman suggests the Blueshirts would move him only if the return would replace the depth they lost in the off-season.
Absorbing part of Gaborik’s salary, however, might be the only way the Rangers drum up interest in the trade market. Next season’s declining cap makes his $7.5-million cap hit difficult for most teams to comfortably acquire. Factor in his no-trade clause and the trade options narrow.
CANUCKS SHOP FOR A CENTER
Recent injuries to wingers David Booth and Zack Kassian could push Canucks management to seek short-term replacement via trades, but with Ryan Kesler sidelined again, they also need a healthy second-line center.
If Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss hadn’t been sidelined by season-ending wrist surgery, LeBrun believes the Canucks would’ve made a pitch for him.
He also claimed the Canucks contacted the Buffalo Sabres regarding center Steve Ott, but they aren’t interested in moving him right now.
Duhatschek reported there’s talk of Dallas Stars center Derek Roy ending up with the Canucks. Roy could be unavailable, however, as the Stars recently opened contract talks with his agent.
Given the Stars’ recent four-game losing skid – including an 8-1 humiliation against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday – Roy’s trade status could change if the club doesn’t soon pull out of its tailspin.
SUITORS FOR SMID
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari included Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid on his recent list of potential free agents who could become trade deadline rentals.
Smid is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the summer, but recently told the Edmonton Sun he hopes to re-sign, noting contract talks with the Oilers had recently begun.
The 27-year-old blueliner not only leads the Oilers in hits and blocked shots, but also ranks among the league leaders in those categories. Combine that with an affordable cap hit this season ($2.3 million) and there will be no lack of serious suitors for Smid if the Oilers shop him.
Considering the Oilers’ lack of depth in skilled physical size on their blueline, they cannot afford to lose Smid. Unless his salary demands are unreasonable, he should be re-signed.
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.).