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Rumor Roundup: Are Desharnais’ days in Montreal done?

Desharnais dealing with demotion and lack of production; Nill still has room on the books to make a deal; Red Wings trying to make space for Nyquist

This season’s opening month is one Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais would like to forget.

Desharnias has just one assist after 15 games. His previous goal came in a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets April 25.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien shuffled his linemates hoping to shake him out of his offensive doldrums but to no avail. Desharnais was demoted to the fourth line for Tuesday’s tilt against the St. Louis Blues.

This certainly isn’t the performance Habs GM Marc Bergevin expected when he signed Desharnais last March to a four-year, $14-million contract.

In hindsight, Bergevin may have been hasty. Though Desharnais was coming off a career-best 60-point performance in 2011-12, he struggled offensively last season, with only 10 goals and 28 points in 48 games.

In an interview last week with RDS.ca’s Francois Gagnon, Desharnais claimed to be uninjured and working hard to get his game on track.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported the Canadiens would be willing to trade Desharnais, but he and Gagnon believe his $3.5-million salary and lack of production hurt his trade value.

Bergevin could offer to pick up half of Desharnais’ remaining salary, but the center’s performance must significantly improve before that option becomes tempting to rival GMs.

Having bought out Scott Gomez last season, the Canadiens could be stuck with another expensive under-performing center. Demoting Desharnais this season would only free up $925,000 in cap space and Bergevin cannot go the compliance buyout route next summer, having used his allotment on Gomez and Tomas Kaberle.

A regular buyout next June would cost more $1.2 million per season against the Habs cap over the next six seasons.

Cap space could be an issue for Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill if he decides to shop around for blueline depth.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News noted the Stars only have $3.4 million in cap space. Nill claimed dollar-for-dollar deals are what’s currently being sought in the trade market, which are difficult to do.

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The Stars have more than $24.1 million in cap space invested in Shawn Horcoff, Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski, Ray Whitney and Erik Cole. Heika fears they have too much money tied up in too many under-performing players.

Of the five, only Whitney’s deal comes off the books at season’s end. Horcoff, Gonchar and Cole have one season left on their contracts, while Goligoski has two.

Nill assured Heika his current cap space will be sufficient enough to make a significant trade if needed later in the season, explaining his current cap space equates to a $7-million player by mid-season.

For now, Nill seems content to stick with his current roster and employ call-ups from the minors if needed.

The Edmonton Sun’s Jim Matheson reported the Detroit Red Wings are still shopping Jordin Toottoo in hopes of calling up forward Gustav Nyquist, while the Columbus Blues Jackets are trying to move defenseman Nikita Nikitin to make room for blueliner Tim Erixon.

In the wake of last week’s deals – the Sabres shipping Thomas Vanek to the Islanders for Matt Moulson and draft picks, while the Avalanche dealt Steve Downie to the Flyers for Max Talbot – one would think there would be a market for Tootoo ($1.9-million cap hit) or Nikitin ($2.2 million).

Both, however, have been frequent healthy scratches, Tootoo appearing in eight games this season and Nikitin only seven.

It could take until later in the season, when playoff bubble teams become desperate for help, for Tootoo and Nikitin to be moved.

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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