UFA Tracker

Rumor Roundup: Trade or keep Paul Stastny?

The Colorado Avalanche face a tough choice with pending UFA center Paul Stastny…Are the Vancouver Canucks a good destination for Evander Kane?…And is the last year Ville Leino is a Buffalo Sabre?

After going through three grim years with the Colorado Avalanche, center Paul Stastny is enjoying the club’s improved performance. It remains to be seen, however, if he has a long-term future with the Avs.

Stastny, 27, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. He’s earning $6.6 million and might have to accept a substantial pay cut to stay in Colorado. The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater believes Avalanche management faces a tough decision. Do they re-sign Stastny before his UFA eligibility on July 1, move him for a decent return before the March 5 trade deadline or stick with him for the playoffs and see what the summer brings?

Dater noted that Stastny’s played well, but keeping him means promising Nathan MacKinnon remains a third-line center or becomes a winger on one of the top lines. He cited a source claiming the Montreal Canadiens were scouting Stastny and pointed out the Toronto Maple Leafs need depth at center.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston recently reported he was told the Canadiens weren’t interested in Stastny. And recent injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland could prompt Leafs management to inquire about Stastny’s trade status.

Given the Avs’ solid play over the past two months, they’re in no hurry to shake things up, let alone make a decision on Stastny’s future. Even if they were willing to move him now, his salary remains too expensive for most teams (including the Canadiens and Maple Leafs) to absorb at this point. Expect interest in Stastny to pick up near the March 5 trade deadline when the bulk of his salary has been paid out.

Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane’s on-ice struggles amid speculation of tension with coach Claude Noel continues to raise questions about his future with the team.

Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province recently suggested the club was starting to view the 22-year-old Kane as more trouble than he’s worth, which is an annual cap hit of $5.25 million through 2017-18.

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Willes suggested the Canucks consider pursuing Kane (a Vancouver native), believing the young power forward could become a game-changer. But that’s exactly why the Jets aren’t likely to move him. Despite his struggles this season, Kane’s best years are ahead of him, hence the reason the Jets invested so heavily in him.

Should the Jets change their minds, they won’t just give Kane away. The asking price will be too expensive for a team with few young assets like the Canucks, who are cap-strapped, anyway.

Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan recently made veteran center Ville Leino a healthy scratch, prompting Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News to speculate the 30-year-old is playing his final season with the club.

Since the Sabres signed Leino in 2011 to a six-year, $27 million contract, he’s been an expensive, injury-ravaged bust. He will be shopped (along with Ryan Miller, Steve Ott and Matt Moulson) near the March 5 trade deadline, but his poor play and $4.5 million cap hit won’t attract many takers. Even offering to absorb half his remaining contract may not improve his trade value to the point where Buffalo will find any takers. If the Sabres truly wish to be rid of him, they’ll likely have to go the buyout route in June.

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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