The Carolina Hurricanes made a bold move on April 29, acquiring the rights to goaltender Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in this year's draft.
Darling, 28, was eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Having gained his contract rights, the Hurricanes used the opportunity to sign him to a four-year, $16.6-million contract.
That Darling trade could prompt some GMs to look into going the same route with Los Angeles Kings pending UFA goalie Ben Bishop. On May 1, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported a couple of teams inquired into acquiring the 30-year-old's rights.
LeBrun elaborated on his report during an appearance on Edmonton's TSN 1260. While he didn't specify which teams could have interest in Bishop, he speculated the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars would make sense.
The Flames expressed interest in Bishop last June before acquiring Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues. Elliott's struggles in Calgary this season likely means he won't be re-signed, putting the Flames back into the market for a reliable starter.
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi each have a year remaining on their contracts with the Stars. However, their poor performances this season means one of them could depart via the expansion draft, a trade or a contract buyout. That will make room for an upgrade between the pipes.
DEVILS HAVE OPTIONS WITH NO. 1 PICK
The New Jersey Devils hit the jackpot last Saturday, winning the first-overall selection in this year's draft. It's the first time since the franchise moved to New Jersey in 1982-83 that they've owned the top pick in the draft.
Fortune didn't smile upon the Buffalo Sabres, however. Despite finishing with the league's fifth-worst record, the lottery knocked them down to eighth overall.
The change in the draft order for both clubs has already sparked some speculation and suggestions over what the two clubs should do with those selections.
NJ.com's Chris Ryan wonders if Devils GM Ray Shero might consider shopping the pick. Shero hasn't tipped his hand but Ryan doubts he'll peddle that pick before the draft arrives.
As Ryan observes, the 2003 NHL draft was the last time a first-overall selection was traded. He also points out this is a rare opportunity for the Devils to hold the top selection in a draft. Despite the absence this year of a true franchise player, the Devils could still land a potential NHL star with that pick.
No decision will be made with the Sabres' selection until they've hired a new general manager. The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington believes whoever gets the job should seriously consider shopping their pick.
Harrington feels the Sabres need an immediate boost, citing the urgency of improving their porous defense. He suggests packaging that pick to a defense-deep team such as the Anaheim Ducks or Minnesota Wild.
Despite the supposed lack of depth in this year's draft, a top-10 draft pick would still be a valuable trade chip for the Sabres. The Ducks and Wild risk losing a quality defenseman for nothing in the June expansion draft and could be amenable to moving one via trade. The opportunity to acquire a high draft selection could be enticing to one of those clubs.
Speaking of Shero, he indicated his intention to reach out to the agent for former Devils left winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently reported Kovalchuk could be ready to return to the NHL. The 34-year-old "retired" in 2013 and went to the KHL, spending the past four seasons with SKA St. Petersburg.
At the time of his retirement, Kovalchuk was in the third season of a 15-year, $100-million contract with the Devils. That deal was terminated but the Devils still hold his NHL rights till age 35, with an annual $250,000 recapture penalty counting against their salary cap through 2024-25.
Friedman said there's no problem with Kovalchuk re-signing with the Devils. But if he wants to play for another NHL club or if the Devils don't want him back, they'll either trade his rights or work out a sign-and-trade scenario.
Last weekend, the New York Post's Larry Brooks cited sources claiming Kovalchuk was “all but certain” to return to the NHL but not with the Devils. However, KHL insider Aivis Kalnins said there was “no truth” to reports of the winger's unwillingness to return to New Jersey.
If Kovalchuk can't work out a return to the Devils, he could attract several NHL suitors. Despite his age and lengthy NHL absence, Friedman and Brooks claim there could be significant interest in the veteran winger.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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