The Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning stoked more speculation of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos joining the Leafs in the near future. Stamkos, who turns 26 in February, is eligible in July for unrestricted free agency. While he and Lightning management decline to discuss contract talks with the media, his future in Tampa Bay remains a hot topic.
While some Leafs fans are imagining Stamkos coming to Toronto via trade or free agency, Sportsnet's Mark Spector wonders if the Markham native is doing the same. The Leafs are a rebuilding club, which was painfully evident at times during that loss to the Lightning. If Stamkos was sizing up the Leafs in that game, Spector suggests he didn't see much of a comparable to his current club.
Earlier this season, when the Lightning seemed in danger of falling out of playoff contention, there was talk suggesting Stamkos might waive his no-movement clause if still unsigned by the trade deadline. TSN's Pierre LeBrun, however, dismissed that notion, pointing to the Bolts' recent surge in the standings.
With the Lightning looking like the club that marched to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, it makes no sense for Stamkos to request a trade now. If he leaves Tampa Bay, that decision won't be made until the summer. Toronto fans visualizing Stamkos donning a Leafs jersey will have to wait a little longer to find out if their dream becomes reality.
CONFLICTING REPORTS ON LADD'S STATUS
Winnipeg Jets left wing and captain Andrew Ladd remains a fixture in the NHL rumor mill. His agent denied a report from earlier this week claiming contract talks had broken off, while Ladd also said he believed there was no change in the situation.
TSN's Darren Dreger said Jets management haven't decided to shop the 30-year-old winger, who's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. If Ladd does hit the trade block, Dreger believed the Florida Panthers and perhaps the Vancouver Canucks could be interested.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has a history with Ladd. As Blackhawks GM, he acquired Ladd from the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2008 trade deadline. Earlier this season, Tallon suggested he could be in the market for a scoring forward.
Since then, however, the Panthers have surged in the Eastern Conference standings. George Richards of the Miami Herald said he was told the Panthers have “zero interest” regarding Ladd, seemingly happy with their current roster. That doesn't necessarily mean Tallon won't be in the market for a playoff rental player or two by the trade deadline. Ladd, however, might not be one of his trade targets.
DUCKS COULD TARGET ERIKSSON
Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson also remains the subject of media trade chatter. Despite his obvious value to the Bruins this season, several Boston pundits believe the 30-year-old pending free agent could be dealt for a good young defenseman if unsigned before Feb. 29.
Should the Bruins peddle Eriksson, they could dangle him to the Anaheim Ducks, who are deep in blueline depth but still lacking in experienced scoring punch up front. They could offer up defenseman Sami Vatanen, who's a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. Currently earning over $1.2 million this season, the 24-year-old blueliner is due for a big raise, perhaps more than the Ducks can afford.
Don't expect to see Eriksson dealt back to his former club, the Dallas Stars, by the deadline. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika, responding to a reader's question about a possible Eriksson return, doesn't see that happening.
MORE RUMOR ROUNDUP:
- Rangers looking for buyer for Yandle
- Should Penguins deal Kessel?
- Predators looking for even more offensive help
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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