With pivots Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak sidelined indefinitely, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis is reportedly shopping for depth at center.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports the market for skilled centers is “sketchy” and the asking price (“a young roster player, top prospect and draft pick”) expensive.
Dreger believes Nonis might part with such a return for the right player, but could ultimately draw from his blueline depth or use draft picks in a lesser deal.
Given his club's 10-5-0 start, Nonis isn't panicking. In the meantime, coach Randy Carlyle will try winger James van Riemsdyk at center on the first line.
If van Riemsdyk fails to pan out and losses begin to mount, so will the pressure on Nonis to land a quality middleman.
Nonis would love to move veteran blueliner John-Michael Liles, but his $3.9-million annual cap hit is a significant sticking point. Nonis is willing to absorb a substantial portion of Liles contract, but Liles on his own won't land a scoring forward.
Don't be surprised if Jake Gardiner resurfaces in the rumor mill. Gardiner alone could fetch a young forward, though not one capable of centering the Leafs top line.
The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin suggested shipping Gardiner to the Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner, but while the Oilers need experienced blueline depth, trading Gagner would weaken them at center.
Goaltender James Reimer – sporting a 4-1-0 record with one shutout, a 2.36 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage – is Nonis' best trade chip.
The Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators would be very interested if Reimer hit the trade block, but Nonis would have to package him with something else for a quality center.
Trade targets for the Leafs could include Colorado's Paul Stastny and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier.
Stastny's been linked to the Leafs for more than a year, but he carries an expensive salary ($6.6 million) and is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. Though the Avs last week shipped winger Steve Downie to Philadelphia for veteran forward Max Talbot, they don't appear in any hurry to move Stastny.
Nonis and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren have a trade history (van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn) and the struggling Couturier could benefit from a change of scenery.
IS A RANGERS-OILERS DEAL IN THE WORKS?
The New York Post's Larry Brooks speculated the presence of Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, GM Craig MacTavish and special adviser Mark Messier at Monday's Anaheim Ducks-New York Rangers game suggests they're scouting the Rangers for possible trade targets.
Brooks claimed the Oilers were entertaining offers for winger Ales Hemsky and gauging the market for sophomore right winger Nail Yakupov. He noted the Rangers would have to free up cap space for Hemsky's $5-million salary, while it's unclear if they have sufficient assets (or the willingness to part with them) to land Yakupov.
The Rangers – entering Wednesday's game against Pittsburgh 27th in goals-per-game – are desperate for scoring help. Puck-moving defenseman Michael Del Zotto is a rumored trade candidate, but the Oilers would benefit more from a “stay at home” blueliner.
Though Hemsky's injury history and salary are concerns, he would be a good short-term option for the Rangers. Yakupov has tremendous potential, but the Oilers’ asking price could be too expensive for the Blueshirts.
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.).
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