NAPLES, Fla. – Peter Forsberg stole the spotlight on the first day of the NHL GM meetings. And he wasn’t even in Florida.
The 34-year-old Swedish star, through his agent Don Baizley, informed teams Monday that his return to the NHL this season was highly unlikely because he continues to have foot/ankle problems.
With Forsberg out of the picture, that could prove to spice things up on the trade front.
“This will break the logjam,” predicted Tampa Bay Lightning GM Jay Feaster.
Philadelphia, Colorado, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Minnesota were among the teams believed to be in the running for Forsberg’s services but now must find help elsewhere.
“He doesn’t want to hold teams up,” said Senators GM Bryan Murray. “And it’s better for everyone that we know now.”
The NHL’s 30 GMs spent Monday morning discussing official league matters. The rest of the day was open for why they’re really here: trade talks.
“I think that’s what you do here, you have many discussions – you hope,” Murray said after the first day of meetings wrapped up at a posh hotel. “More than likely you leave here with the hope that you can continue the discussion and have it happen before the trade deadline.”
Murray is hoping to add a forward and a defenceman. His team is 5-10-1 in their last 16 games.
“Obviously the way our team is playing right now in particular, I think we can use another shot in the arm,” said Murray. “We’ve got a real good hockey team and if something can be done to help that we would do it.”
The Senators are believed to be among eight teams who have called Feaster about winger Vaclav Prospal, an unrestricted free agent July 1 whose future doesn’t appear to be in Tampa for too much longer.
“We’re always looking for goal scoring and on our team in particular it seems if the big guys don’t score right now we have a tougher time,” said Murray, speaking in general of his search for another forward.
A bigger name that had people buzzing at the meetings Monday was that of star centre Brad Richards. With the Lightning trying to re-sign defenceman Dan Boyle, the thinking is that the team will try to move Richards, who has three more years on his hefty contract at US$7.8 million a season. He also has a no-movement clause. Feaster declined to comment.
Atlanta Thrashers winger Marian Hossa is another big name and he may be very well move. He’s slated for unrestricted free agency July 1 and the Thrashers have been unable to sign him.
“We’re still faced with the three options,” said GM Don Waddell. “The first one, to sign him, is getting slimmer by the day. Secondly is looking at a potential trade and third is that we’re still battling and trying to win our division so the idea would be to keep the player and try to sign him at a future date. All those options still are in front of us and the days are counting down.”
Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, Ottawa and Montreal are believed to be among the teams in pursuit of Hossa. The Canadiens-Thrashers rumours have swirled for quite a while.
Habs GM Bob Gainey, speaking in general terms about his team’s possible needs, said he would like to add an impact player but wasn’t convinced it was going to happen.
“We’re not really looking for any sideways moves,” said Gainey. “A lot of the players on our team are still developing and getting better. I suppose an intangible is that we’re missing a lot of experience. We don’t have a lot of playoff experience, but have depth in most areas. …
“If we could upgrade significantly to an ‘A’ player, those are the kinds of things that we’re interested in,” added Gainey. “We would try to put together a deal that would make that work. But there’s not many of them. They’re rare to find here. I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat thinking it’s going to happen.”
While Gainey is hoping to be a buyer, Cliff Fletcher is looking to sell.
The Toronto Maple Leafs interim GM says he still hasn’t approached any of his five players that have no-trade clauses. Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle have some form of no-trade or no-movement clause and would need to give their blessing to any move.
“No, not yet,” Fletcher said. “Because if I was going to ask them I would be going to them with something tangible that they could evaluate. …
“If you go to a player and ask him, he’s going to come back right back to you and say, ‘Where would I go? It depends on where I’m going.’ So it’s a waste of time. If you have something that you think the player would be interested in, then you go to the player. But until such time, you don’t.”
Anaheim is believed to be in hot pursuit of Sundin – an unresricted free agent July 1 – but Ducks GM Brian Burke denied he was close to making any trade.
“Right now I’ve got nothing even simmering,” said Burke.
Kaberle, who has three more years on his deal at $4.25 million per season, is a highly sought-after player but his agent Rick Curran said Monday that his client doesn’t want to leave Toronto.
“Tomas Kaberle has a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs and he is not going anywhere,” said Curran. “He signed in Toronto to play in Toronto. He’s not leaving, he wants to help this team.”
Another defenceman with a no-trade clause who may not be on the move after all is 38-year-old Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings. He told the Los Angeles Times in Monday’s edition that he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles.
“I haven’t asked him yet,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Monday. “And the reality is, we haven’t been presented with an offer that I consider worth taking to him. So that’s where it’s at. We talked at length twice last week. The reality is, what’s the sense of even approaching him if I don’t have an offer worth approaching him. …
“Before we even have to put him that quandary or put myself in that quandary, you probably need a bona fide offer.”
Keeping with blue-liners who may or may not be on the move, Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier will this week make another contract offer to Brian Campbell. He’s slated for unresricted free agency July 1 and may be dealt before the deadline if he’s not re-signed.
“There’s a number of variables,” Regier said in assessing the situation. “One of them is, you have to assess the asset value versus the value to your team for the balance of the year and the potential to be able to sign him after. Although that’s maybe a little tougher.”
The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, are hoping to be players on the trade front.
“With us, I’m trying to get a little bit bigger up front,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “If I can’t, I can’t. We’ve got a couple of things we want to try and do and I’ve had a couple of dicussions with guys.”