For months, it’s been widely assumed Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa would be dealt as soon as Sami Salo returned from injury in order to clear sufficient cap space for Salo’s $3.5 million salary.
The Vancouver Province, however, recently claimed the Canucks may try and find a way to keep both blueliners.
Bieksa’s offensive numbers are down this season, but his overall defensive game – especially his physical play – has improved, which explains why Canucks management would prefer to retain him for the rest of the season.
Doing so would still leave the Canucks with the difficult task of clearing sufficient cap space for Salo’s return.
They could trade Keith Ballard, but given his contract (which has another four years at $4.2 million per season with a no-trade clause), that appears unlikely.
One reader suggested peddling Christian Ehrhoff as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer and would prove difficult to re-sign. Ehrhoff currently makes $3.1 million, so dealing him would clear most of that required cap space.
It’s believed, however, the Canucks wish to retain him as they value his puck-moving skills.
DUCKS IN A ROW
If Bieksa is off the market and the Canucks don’t shop another defenseman, a potential target for teams seeking blueline depth are the Anaheim Ducks, who are presently carrying eight defensemen.
The Orange County Register reported last week two trade candidates are Paul Mara and Andreas Lilja, who’ve been healthy scratches of late and carry affordable one-year contracts.
Mara’s name popped up in the rumor mill earlier this season so it’s possible he’ll be shopped as the trade deadline nears.
BLUES PLAYNG WITH PATIENCE
St. Louis Blues president John Davidson admitted late last week his club continued to be in contact with others in search of depth for St. Louis’ injury-ravaged roster, but he stressed the difficulty of finding a suitable deal at this time of year.
Davidson went on to say his team won’t make a trade just for the sake of doing so.
The Blues, like other teams that have been whacked by injuries this season, might have to tough it out until the trade market improves later this season.
Then again, they could get in touch with the Atlanta Thrashers…
BERGFORS ON THE MARKET?
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported this past weekend the Thrashers have let it be known second-year winger Niclas Bergfors is available.
The 23-year-old Bergfors scored 21 goals and 44 points as a rookie in ’09-’10 and has 18 points in 27 games this season, but his performance has dropped off since mid-November and he was a healthy scratch for three games earlier this month. LeBrun claimed Bergfors has fallen out of favor with the Thrashers coaching staff.
Bergfors has a good scoring touch, but consistency is an issue. He’s a restricted free agent next summer, but with a $900,000 salary for this season he’s an affordable gamble.
COLUMBUS CALLING ABOUT DEL ZOTTO?
The Columbus Blue Jackets still lack an experienced puck-moving defenseman and speculation persists they’re shopping around for help.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported Sunday the Jackets had interest in New York Rangers blueliner Michael Del Zotto and might have offered up former Ranger D-man Fedor Tyutin in return. Matheson doubted the Rangers would bite unless the Jackets threw in young winger Nikita Filatov, who’s been demoted to the minors.
Del Zotto’s offensive numbers are down compared to his rookie season, but his defensive play has improved. He’s currently in the second year of his entry-level contract and along with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal is part of the young defense corps Rangers management wishes to keep together.
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.