Contract talks between the Toronto Maple Leafs and right winger Nikolai Kulemin apparently aren’t going very well, as GM Brian Burke claimed Kulemin was seeking first-line money.
The 23-year-old Russian was pressed into service on the Leafs’ top line because of their lack of offensive depth last season and showed some promise with 16 goals and 36 points. Burke believes Kulemin has promise, but doesn’t deserve first-line money yet.
Kulemin had best be careful in his dealings with Burke, who is believed to be actively seeking offensive depth next season and probably wouldn’t have any qualms about moving Kulemin out and paying the money earmarked for him to another player.
In other Leafs rumors, The National Post reported Anaheim, Buffalo, Columbus and New Jersey have expressed interested in defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
The article also reports Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, hasn’t provided the Leafs with a list of preferred destinations for his client, saying Kaberle wants to remain in Toronto.
• The Washington Capitals appear ready to part ways with a goaltender, but could be close to re-signing a key forward.
Agent Don Meehan, who represents pending UFA netminder Jose Theodore, told the Washington Post he’d heard nothing from Capitals management regarding a possible contract extension for his client.
The Post suggests that could mean the club will go with Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth as its goaltending tandem next season.
Right winger Eric Fehr, another Meehan client, apparently is having better luck, as the agent said talks between the two sides on a multi-year deal are going smoothly.
It’s speculated the Capitals will look toward free agency for an experienced starting goalie like Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov, but they’ve been grooming Varlamov and Neuvirth for some time, plus it would be more affordable to go with those two since it would give Washington cap space to re-sign players such as Fehr.
• Nashville Predators GM David Poile was a nominee this year for the league’s GM of the Year award, but The Tennessean reports he’ll need all his expertise to address the future of defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who’s eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1.
Poile said re-signing Hamhuis was going to be “very difficult,” but intends on continuing contract conversations with the blueliner’s agent this week and perhaps reaching out personally to him next week before making a decision.
One headache Poile won’t have to deal with this summer is Alexander Radulov, for while the GM has had frequent contact with Radulov’s agent, it’s Poile’s understanding the wayward winger will play out the final year of his Kontinental League contract.
• It appears the Carolina Hurricanes could be parting ways with forward Ray Whitney July 1.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported the Hurricanes don’t intend to spend $50 million in payroll – and may spend as low as $44 million – and GM Jim Rutherford said it would be difficult to reach an agreement with Whitney, an unrestricted free agent, prior to the cutoff date.
Rutherford has most of his key players currently under contract, but with nearly $42 million committed to 15 players there’s not enough to re-sign Whitney and fill out the rest of the roster.
• Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune recently observed the Minnesota Wild, hampered by salary constraints and “daunting contracts,” could find it difficult to address their need for offensive depth.
Russo suggested GM Chuck Fletcher might have to turn to the trade market to address those needs by shopping one of his blueliners. Russo believes the Wild are shopping defenseman Nick Schultz, but suggests the four years remaining on his current contract (at $3.6 million per) make him a tough sell.
Russo also suggested the possibility of moving Brent Burns, but only if the return brought the Wild a top-six winger or first-line center. Russo doesn’t believe shopping backup Josh Harding on his own would be enough.
With more than $47 million committed to next season already and Harding and forwards Guillaume Latendresse and James Sheppard to re-sign, shopping either Schultz or Burns could be the only viable options for Fletcher to bolster his offense.
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.