Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien still faces an uncertain future with the Winnipeg Jets. An unrestricted free agent in July, it was recently revealed the 30-year-old was seeking an eight-year, $55 million contract. That could put him out of the budget-conscious Jets' comfort zone.
Last weekend, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported a couple of sources suggested the Washington Capitals could have interest in Byfuglien if veteran blueliner Brooks Orpik remained sidelined by injury. Friedman noted, however, that Orpik is expected to soon return to action. That means the Capitals can't afford Byfuglien's $5.2-million salary-cap hit.
Friedman suggests the Florida Panthers could take a run at Byfuglien. He points out Panthers GM Dale Tallon was part of the Chicago Blackhawks management when Byfuglien was drafted and came up through their system.
Tallon, however, recently said his preference was to add a scoring forward. Unless he's changed his mind, or envisions Byfuglien as a forward, he'll likely pass on that option.
Responding to a reader's question about the Dallas Star pursuing Byfuglien, Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News believes they're in the market for a high-end defenseman. He claims Stars GM Jim Nill is currently assessing his pending UFA blueliners like Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Jordie Benn. While the Stars have some promising young defensemen in their system, he'll have to decide if he wants to part with some of them for a big fish like Byfuglien.
The Jets, meanwhile, are in tough for a playoff berth. If they fail to gain ground in the standings by late-February, they could shop Byfuglien near the trade deadline.
SENS' COWEN A POTENTIAL RENTAL
Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen is garnering more attention of late in the NHL rumor mill. Frequently in coach Dave Cameron's doghouse, Cowen doesn't seem to have a future with the Senators. After the 24-year-old was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren believes something has to give.
Friedman also notes the Senators were trying to move out rearguard Patrick Wiercioch earlier this season. Given Cowen's struggles under Cameron, however, Friedman speculates their focus may have shifted.
Given his youth and size, the 6-foot-5, 238-pound Cowen should draw some interest from rival GMs seeking a big blueliner with potential. However, his $3.1-million cap hit through 2016-17 could prove difficult to move this season. Wiercioch, on the other hand, is a restricted free agent this summer, which could make him more enticing as a rental player.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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