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Rumor Roundup: Plenty of interest in Panthers’ Matthias and Kulikov

A pair of young Panthers are getting a lot of trade attention; What’s stopping the Ottawa Senators from swinging a big deal?; And are the Flyers no longer shopping their big names?

Since the Florida Panthers shipped winger Kris Versteeg earlier this month to the Chicago Blackhawks, speculation persists over which Panthers will be next on the trade block.

According to recent rumors, center Shawn Matthias is attracting the most interest from clubs seeking forward depth. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently linked Matthias to the Vancouver Canucks, SI.com’s Allan Muir reported the Montreal Canadiens could be a suitor and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson claimed the Oilers were making enquiries.

Why so much interest in a 25-year-old center who’s never tallied more than 24 points in a season? Matthias’ size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), two-way abilities and affordable contract ($1.75 million per season) make him valuable for teams in need of depth forwards. His 14-goal, 21-point performance during last season’s shortened schedule suggests he could become a decent second-line player on a more talented club.

Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has also resurfaced in the rumor mill, with Muir claiming the Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings are interested, but he suggests the Anaheim Ducks could be a better fit. With Sheldon Souray sidelined until January and Luca Sbisa out six to eight weeks to a torn tendon in his right hand, Kulikov could be in the Ducks sights.

Kulikov, 23, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at season’s end and it’s believed the Panthers aren’t willing to pay the significant raise he’s expected to seek. Given his youth and potential, they could wait until closer to the trade deadline in hopes of pushing up his trade value.

The Ottawa Senators were reportedly shopping for either a top-six forward or top-four defenseman, but GM Bryan Murray hasn’t received any offers to his liking. He recently told the Ottawa Sun he still considers the Senators a playoff club, but he says some players need to improve. The Sun also reported if the Senators made a deal they don’t want to take on more money.

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That would explain why, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, discussions with the New York Rangers regarding defenseman Michael Del Zotto didn’t get far. There’s also talk of the Edmonton Oilers shipping Ales Hemsky to Ottawa, but his $5-million salary is too expensive to the Senators to absorb.

Unless a dollar-for-dollar swap can be found, or a rival club takes back some salary in a trade, the budget-conscious Senators will continue to seek help from within.

Until a week ago, Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was believed to be looking to make major move to improve his struggling club. Young forwards Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds were bandied about the rumor mill as potential trade bait.

The Flyers, however, have of late made significant improvement. They are 6-1-1 in their last eight games and are now close to a .500 record (10-11-2). They are within striking distance of a wild card berth, prompting a call from columnist Mike Sielski for Holmgren to avoid making a major move.

It remains to be seen if Holmgren heeds that advice, but given the Flyers recent upswing he’s feeling less pressure to shake things up than he was earlier in the month.

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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