Has Marian Gaborik played his final regular season game with the New York Rangers?
That's what Larry Brooks of the New York Post wondered Saturday, pointing out Gaborik had been benched in the third period of each of the team's “must-win” games earlier in the week.
Gaborik has three more seasons remaining on his contract at a pricey $7.5 million cap hit per season. He was the Blueshirts’ top scoring player last year with 42 goals and 86 points, but this season injuries limited him to only 22 goals and 48 points in 62 games.
His production drop-off led to some wild talk at mid-season claiming the Rangers tried to shop him to the Los Angeles Kings as part of their master plan to make room for potential free agent Brad Richards this summer.
Injuries certainly played a role in Gaborik's decline this season, but there's also unsubstantiated talk he's clashed with strong-willed coach John Tortorella.
If the Rangers try to shop Gaborik in the summer, when teams have more available cap space, they’ll find his hefty contract still won’t be very easy to move.
After the Rangers clinched a playoff berth, Brooks suggested this post-season will provide Gaborik the opportunity to prove himself as a linchpin for the future rather than trade bait.
FLAMES WILL WORK HARD TO KEEP PENDINGS UFAs
Lots of speculation from the Calgary media over the Flames’ off-season plans as the club's season wound down this past weekend.
Pundits from the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald agreed underachieving forwards Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman won't be returning despite each having another season at $3 million remaining on their contract. They’ll most likely be demoted or loaned to a European team.
Herald columnist Vicki Hall noted that simply clearing the two players’ combined $6 million cap hit won't free up substantial space for a team that would have around $50 million invested in 16 players for next season without them.
If the cap, as expected, rises to $62 million it would leave the Flames with around $12 million of available space, which won't be enough to cover the cost of re-signing and/or replacing key players such as Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross, Anton Babchuk and Brendan Morrison.
The Globe & Mail's Allan Maki and the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak resurrected the possibility of the Flames trading team captain Jarome Iginla, whose trade value will be high as he comes off a 43-goal season.
Factor in Iginla's no-movement clause and his high marketing value for the Flames and any suggestion he will be shopped in the off-season becomes pointless.
Calgary Herald columnist John Down wrote pending UFA left winger Alex Tanguay's performance this season put him in line for a big raise over the $1.7 million he earned in 2010-11. Tanguay said he's hoping for a long-term deal for job security and to provide a home for his family.
Down suggested the Flames’ priority will be to re-sign Tanguay and fellow free agent left winger Curtis Glencross, though management would have to free up additional cap space to make both of those signings happen.
Barring a bold trade or two this summer it appears the Flames front office intends to retain most, if not all, their core players, while cutting salary via demotions, overseas loans and by making smaller trades.
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.