It’s been weeks since Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Rick Nash appeared in the NHL trade rumor mill, but with the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs about a month away and only four teams left, his name has resurfaced.
Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch suggested New York Rangers GM Glen Sather would be spurred to revisit his interest in Nash if his club falls short of glory.
Though Arace wrote his piece prior to the Rangers defeating the Washington Capitals to reach the Eastern Conference final, it’s no stretch to imagine Sather will reconsider a deal for Nash if the Rangers don’t make the Cup final.
The two teams were reportedly close to a Nash deal at February’s trade deadline, but the Blue Jackets’ steep asking price - believed to be two players, one or two top prospects and a first round pick - killed it.
As more contenders fall by the wayside this spring, Arace believes Nash will become more attractive. He speculated the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins would pitch harder for the 27-year-old’s services now than they did in February.
Simmons cited the Sharks, Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs as possible suitors, while Garrioch claimed Sharks GM Doug Wilson informed the Blue Jackets his team would sweeten their offer next month.
The Rangers’ interest in Nash might fade if they advance past the Devils into the Stanley Cup final and disappear entirely if they win it all.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s comments following his team’s post-season elimination suggested he’s reluctant to shake up a roster one year removed from a championship season.
The Blue Jackets’ reported interest in Sharks sophomore Logan Couture was a deal-breaker for Wilson, so don’t expect the young center to be part of any “sweetener” pitch for Nash.
Leafs GM Brian Burke was rumored to have interest in Nash, but finding a No. 1 goalie and depth at center are his priorities this summer. That’s not to say Burke won't kick the tires, but landing the Brampton, Ont., native won't address his more pressing roster weaknesses.
The only certainty at this point is the Nash speculation will rev up in earnest between the end of the playoffs and the June draft weekend.
FLYING CLOSE TO THE CAP
One of the issues facing Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is re-signing pending unrestricted free agent blueliner Matt Carle. Though Holmgren would like to bring back the 27-year-old, the Philadelphia Daily News reported he cannot sign the defenseman to a new contract before July 1, as he’d be in violation of the league's “salary tagging” rule, which precludes teams from exceeding the current salary cap before next season’s cap ceiling is announced.
The current cap is $64.3 million and while next season's cap ceiling – rumored to be $69-$72 million – could be announced by late June, it won't be implemented until July 1.
The Flyers already have $61.2 million invested in payroll for next season, while Carle earned $3.4 million this season. Should Chris Pronger remain on long-term injured reserve with concussion issues, Holmgren will have an additional $4.9 million in cap space with which to manoeuvre. However, even if Carle agreed to the same salary as his existing contract before July 1, it would still push the Flyers payroll above $64.3 million.
In other words, unless Holmgren sheds some of the salary already invested in next season’s payroll, it will be impossible for the Flyers to re-sign Carle prior to July 1.
Holmgren said contract talks with the Carle camp have already taken place and believes a deal could be worked out quickly. This suggests the blueliner has little intention of testing the market even if the Flyers can’t re-sign him before July 1.
In other Flyers news, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported pending UFA right winger Jaromir Jagr was non-committal about returning to the club next season.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen is expected back. He has one year remaining on his contract, but there had been some suggestion the 37-year-old would retire.
BLUES BLUELINE GETTING THICKER?
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal believes the St. Louis Blues will seek a top-two defenseman this summer to pair with rising star Alex Pietrangelo and move Kevin Shattenkirk to their second unit.
Matheson cited “several scouts” who believe the Blues will part with right winger T.J. Oshie or left winger David Perron to land such a blueliner.
Of the pair, the 25-year-old Oshie seems to be the more likely to go. Though Oshie is a fan favorite, the 23-year-old Perron (despite his concussion history) has better stats, especially in the post-season (where Oshie has no goals in 13 career games). Both are also restricted free agents so their salary demands will be a factor.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday 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 Kukla's Korner.