For several weeks trade rumors have dogged Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal and defenseman Andrej Sekera. There was talk several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, inquired into Staal's availability. Sekera's eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July fuelled speculation he could be dealt at some point this season.
Hurricanes GM Ron Francis finally addressed the rumors during an interview with Sportsnet Fan 590. Francis agreed with co-host Doug MacLean's assessment of Staal's availability as “B.S.”, and suggested there are people “always trying to throw things out there and stir things up”. As for Sekera, Francis called him a player “we would look to re-sign and keep here.”
Francis' comments, however, probably won't put an end to the Staal and Sekera rumors. Not even Staal's insistence that he wants to remain with the Hurricanes silenced the rumormongers. Of the pair, the most likely to be traded is Sekera, depending upon his willingness to re-sign before the March 2 trade deadline and where the Hurricanes are in the standings.
A player Francis might be willing to move is underachieving winger Alexander Semin. A recent healthy scratch, Semin has managed only two points in nine games. He's also in the second year of a five-year, $35-million contract. Though he lacks a no-trade clause, the combination of his poor production and $7 million annual cap hit makes him virtually untradeable.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun cites an Eastern Conference NHL executive suggesting the only way to move Semin is to absorb 40 percent of his contract. Even that, however, probably won't attract many suitors.
Semin's best season was his 84-point performance in 2009-10. His numbers have steadily declined and he's garnered a reputation for inconsistency. At 30, his best seasons seem well behind him. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wonders if there's a “Kovalchuk-type solution” to this situation. While under contract with the New Jersey Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk announced his NHL “retirement” in July 2013 to play in Russia. Failing that, the Hurricanes other option is a contract buyout in June.
VERMETTE DRAWING INTEREST
If the Arizona Coyotes decide to blow up their roster later this season, center Antoine Vermette could attract considerable interest in the NHL trade market.
Vermette is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, coming off a contract paying him $3.75 million per season. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reports the 32-year-old center's durability and two-way skills will make him attractive to rival clubs, either at the March trade deadline or via free agency.
Johnston notes Coyotes GM Don Maloney had some preliminary contract discussions with his agent during the off-season. Unfortunately, Maloney cannot proceed further until Andrew Barroway, the Coyotes new majority owner, officially joins the ownership group.
Johnston claims the Coyotes management are believed to have considered moving the center prior to last season's trade deadline and could the same again this season. That decision, however, will likely be based upon the Coyotes position in the standings leading up to the March 2 deadline.
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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