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Rumor Roundup: Canadiens’ Briere destined to be traded?

Are Danny Briere’s days in Montreal numbered?…And once again the Toronto Maple Leafs are rumored to be interested in everyone from Rangers defesneman Michael Del Zotto to Oliers center Sam Gagner.

Montreal Canadiens winger Danny Briere was a healthy scratch in two straight games last week, sparking questions about his future with the club.

Briere signed a two-year, $8-million contract with the Canadiens last summer, but has managed only 13 points in 30 games. Following his two-game banishment to the press box, Briere tallied two goals and an assist in the Habs’ 4-3 overtime loss to Ottawa Saturday. It remains to be seen if this signals a return of his scoring touch.

TSN’s Darren Dreger wondered how long before Briere or the Canadiens seek a better fit. Recent rumors link Briere to the Buffalo Sabres, with whom he blossomed into an NHL star and had his best seasons. Montreal sports radio station 98.5 FM cited reports out of Toronto suggesting a swap of Briere for Sabres captain Steve Ott, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

With the Sabres engaged in a full rebuild, they’re unlikely to acquire a fading blast from the past. While the Sabres could lose Ott to free agency, he’s expressed a willingness to stay and be part of the club’s future.

Habs GM Marc Bergevin could be experiencing buyer’s remorse over signing Briere, but it may take picking up half the remaining value of his contract to spark some interest in the trade market.

For several weeks the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch has reported on Bergevin’s search for a physical scoring forward. On Sunday Garrioch speculated Bergevin might have looked at Calgary Flames winger Curtis Glencross, believing the Flames could try to convince him to accept a deal.

Glencross would undoubtedly be a welcome addition to the Canadiens lineup, but the 31-year-old has a full no-movement clause and isn’t expected to return from a high ankle sprain until late February. He also typifies the truculence Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke like on his team.

Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner hoped signing a three-year contract extension last summer would put an end to the trade chatter that’s dogged him in recent years. However, the Oilers’ ongoing struggles have led to his name resurfacing in the rumor mill.

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CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday the Oilers could shop Gagner, citing the fact he lacks a no-trade clause. Though GM Craig MacTavish promised Gagner he wouldn’t be dealt, Friedman believes MacTavish could speak with the 24-year-old center in hopes of working out something to his benefit.

Moving Gagner would leave the Oilers thin at center, but packaged with their first round pick in this year’s draft (which could be first overall) and a top prospect he could fetch a healthy return.

If Gagner ends up on the block, the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested, as they reportedly “kicked the tires” on him last summer. The Nashville Predators could also come calling.

Michael Del Zotto’s trade status with the New York Rangers could be closer to a resolution. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the 23-year-old’s representatives were in New York over the weekend hoping to meet with Rangers GM Glen Sather regarding his efforts to move their client.

Brooks cited league sources saying the Rangers weren’t aggressively shopping Del Zotto. He also reported the Maple Leafs expressed “previous interest” in the defenseman. Brooks claimed Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson were mentioned as trade candidates, but the Rangers weren’t interested in either blueliner.

Sather’s rumored asking price of a top-four defenseman is believed to be the reason he’s having difficulty moving Del Zotto. As for the Leafs, GM Dave Nonis is apparently reluctant to part with Gardiner, while trade buzz about Franson died off after he re-signed a one-year deal last summer. Considering Nonis recently acquired rugged blueliner Tim Gleason, his focus could be on landing some scoring depth.

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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