With this season's Feb. 29 trade deadline over six weeks away, left wing Eric Staal's tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes could be drawing to a close. Staal, 31, is completing a seven-year, $57.5 million contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
It was anticipated talks between Staal and Hurricanes GM Ron Francis would begin this month. However, the Raleigh News & Observer's Luke DeCock reports discussions appear stagnant. He speculates a Staal trade is possible, “even likely” by the trade deadline.
While Staal carries a no-trade clause, he indicated several weeks ago he wouldn't stand in management's way if they wanted to move him. However, don't expect him to waive it to go to a non-playoff club.
Staal isn't the only pending Hurricanes UFA possibly on the move by the deadline. Goaltender Cam Ward, left wing Kris Versteeg and defenseman John-Michael Liles could also hit the trade block in February.
MAPLE LEAFS' UFAs COULD BE SHOPPED
With the NHL trade deadline on the horizon, there's growing speculation over which members of the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs could hit the trade block. It's assumed pending UFAs forwards Michael Grabner, Shawn Matthias and P-A Parenteau and defenseman Roman Polak could be shopped for draft picks.
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons reports at least two teams inquired about Polak, but found the asking price too high. Simmons claims GM Lou Lamoriello has set high prices for all his potential trade bait, though they're expected to drop before the trade deadline.
Lamoriello will seek draft picks, prospects and young players for his rebuilding club. He's probably set the rate for Polak at a second-round pick.
WILD MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO LAND CENTER
Prior to the Columbus Blue Jackets shipping center Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators last week for defenseman Seth Jones, there was speculation the Minnesota Wild were interested in him. If so, StarTribune.com's Michael Russo believes they missed their chance to land a young first-line center.
Looking at other options, Russo doesn't expect to see Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings pulling on a Wild jersey anytime soon. He also notes Staal is on the downside of his career. St. Louis Blues center David Backes could be available this summer via free agency. Like Staal, however, he's 31.
Russo notes Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be available but questions if he's an improvement over the Wild's Mikael Granlund. Another option could be Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks, but he has injury concerns.
The Wild can draw upon their blueline depth as trade bait. Jonas Brodin's been mentioned in recent weeks as a trade candidate, but the 22-year-old's been something of a disappointment in his development. He's also under contract through 2020-21 at an annual cap of $4.16 million. Younger blueliners like Matt Dumba or Mike Reilly could interest rival clubs, but not enough to part with a potential top-line center.
COWEN NOT ASKING FOR TRADE
Defenseman Jared Cowen remains odd man out on the Ottawa Senators blueline. He's been a frequent scratch in recent games, fuelling speculation over his future.
Unlike Tampa Bay Lightning winger Jonathan Drouin and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kerby Rychel, Cowen told the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren he's not demanding a trade. “I don't want the Drouin situation,” he said.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch claims a couple of clubs have expressed interest in the 24-year-old blueliner, though his $3.1-million cap hit through 2016-17 could be difficult to move. Still, the Sens could find a club willing to gamble on Cowen improving with a change of scenery.
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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