Passing the midway point of the season, the Ottawa Senators have considerable ground to gain in the Eastern Conference standings if they hope to make the playoffs. Entering their Jan. 13th game against the Dallas Stars, the Senators were eight points out of the final wild-card berth.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Senators management prefers to be buyers as the March 2 trade deadline approaches, but that won't happen unless the club can overcome their current deficit in the standings. While the Senators record is better under new coach Dave Cameron, there remains room for improvement.
Garrioch claims GM Bryan Murray is actively seeking a top-six forward to boost the Senators offense. Murray said he's spoken with several teams about an experienced point getter. Such players, however, aren't easy to find right now.
Murray's problem is a lack of sellers at this point in the season. Only a handful of teams can be considered out of playoff contention. Those with players to move hope to squeeze playoff bubble teams into overpaying for rental players.
Arizona Coyotes center Antoine Vermette, Buffalo Sabres forwards Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford, Carolina Hurricanes winger Jiri Tlusty and New Jersey Devils forwards Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat are believed available. All are unrestricted free agents in July playing for teams with little chance of reaching the playoffs.
Vermette, Tlusty and Jagr are the best of the bunch but the Senators could have difficulty landing one of them if their respective teams hang onto them in hopes of driving up their value near the trade deadline. That won't help the Senators, who need to boost their scoring now.
The Philadelphia Flyers unsuccessfully attempted to trade Vincent Lecavalier last summer. There's a good reason for that, as the 34-year-old center is a rapidly fading star carrying an annual cap hit of $4.5 million for three more seasons. Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards could be available, but his annual cap hit of $5.75 million through 2019-20 is more toxic than Lecavalier's contract. It's unlikely Murray is interested in either guy.
Murray can also forget about trying to pry center Eric Staal away from the Hurricanes. For that matter, so can every other NHL team. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Staal has no intention of waiving his no-trade clause.
CAROLINA'S WARD WILD TARGET?
Speaking of the Hurricanes, there's growing speculation linking long-time starting goaltender Cam Ward to the struggling Minnesota Wild. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo last week reported the Wild inquired about Ward.
Raleigh News & Observer columnist Chip Alexander reported via Twitter Hurricanes GM Ron Francis wouldn't verify the rumor but admitted there were “some teams looking for goalies. Francis also noted Ward's no-trade clause, pointing out the free-agent market wasn't deep in goalie and his club needed to be careful.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher must also tread carefully. While Ward has decent stats this season, Russo points out the 30-year-old is nine year removed from his championship season, is coming off two seasons hampered by injury and inconsistency and carries a $6.3-million cap hit for 2015-16.
Even if Ward agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the Wild, he might not resolve their goaltending issues. NBC Sports' Jason Brough observes Ward is 26th out of 28 goalies in five-on-five save percentage among goalies with 1,000-or-more minutes-played this season. Current Wild starter Darcy Kuemper ranks 29th.
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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