Puckin' Around With Spector
by Lyle Richardson on 03/28/12 at 11:40 AM ET
NHL general managers looking toward this summer’s free agent market to bolster their teams won’t find many star players available.
It’s a very thin market this season, particularly for available “name” talent, lacking quality starting goaltenders and offensive stars.
The best of this summer’s bunch includes New Jersey’s Zach Parise, Nashville’s Ryan Suter and Andrei Kostitsyn, Washington’s Alexander Semin and Tomas Vokoun, Calgary’s Olli Jokinen, Philadelphia’s Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle, Phoenix’s Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, Detroit’s Brad Stuart, and Minnesota’s Josh Harding.
Of this group, only Parise and Suter are considered elite talents in their playing prime. Most of the aforementioned are past their “best before” date or have yet to fully reach their expected potential.
Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne will also be available, but these ageing wonders will either re-sign with their respective teams, or retire.
That could result in perhaps a higher-than-usual volume of off-season trade activity.
Topping the list, of course, will be Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, whom the Jackets attempted to move at the trade deadline and will undoubtedly try again this summer. The NY Rangers pursued Nash at the deadline and might revisit the option if they come up short in this year’s playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider is widely considered a trade candidate, as is LA Kings backup Jonathan Bernier. Toronto, Tampa Bay and Columbus could be in the market for either guy.
The St. Louis Blues goalies Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott could become targets for clubs seeking goaltending depth.
Earlier this week in my THN.com column, I suggested the Calgary Flames should finally begin their long-overdue rebuilding process by dealing team captain Jarome Iginla and/or starting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
While it remains to be seen if GM Jay Feaster considers either option (or both), the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA market could bolster their already-significant trade value, providing the Flames with substantial returns to jump-start their rebuild.
If the LA Kings fail to make the post-season, expect the Dustin Brown trade rumors to resurface. GM Dean Lombardi backed away from that option near the trade deadline when word got around a couple of teams were talking to him about Brown, but that probably won’t prevent a few general managers from making enquiries.
And of course, we can’t forget the Anaheim Ducks. Speculation over the availability of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf set the rumor mill churning into mid-season overdrive.
Since then, the Ducks made considerable improvement in the second half, killing the trade rumors swirling about them for the remainder of the season. As with Brown, however, don’t be surprised if reports of interest in those three reappear heading into the summer.
Here’s a crazy thought: if the Vancouver Canucks come up short in this year’s playoffs, and starting goalie Roberto Luongo is once again the scapegoat, could GM Mike Gillis consider moving him, rather than Schneider?
Yes, Luongo’s expensive contract and “no-trade” clause make him difficult to trade, but not impossible, especially if he wearied of being the target of criticism from disgruntled Canucks fans.
For that matter, perhaps the Boston Bruins could give some thought to moving two-time Vezina winner and 2011 playoff MVP Tim Thomas?
He has only one year remaining on his deal, and his “no-trade” clause expires on July 1st. With Tuukka Rask awaiting his turn as the Bruins starter, one shouldn’t fully dismiss the prospect of Thomas being dealt for a good return.
And what of Toronto’s Phil Kessel, singled out by some Toronto pundits as the scapegoat for all the Maple Leafs ills? Could GM Brian Burke consider trading him for, say, Rick Nash?
Yes, I know, Kessel has better offensive stats, and Burke probably won’t trade him as that would be seen as admitting he was mistaken in parting with two first round draft picks to pry him out of Boston. Still, the thought of local boy Nash patrolling the right side on the Leafs first line could get some pundits pushing for such a swap, though Burke will ignore such calls, and rightly so.
Maybe the “Paul Stastny to Toronto” rumors get resurrected this summer, if for nothing else than to provide justification for Don Cherry’s conspiracy theory of Burke overstocking the Leafs with Americans.
Or how about Nashville’s version of the prodigal son, Alexander Radulov? Could he be re-signed by the Predators? Will he bolt back to the KHL? Or, as CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently speculated, could he become a trade candidate?
Of course, I’m just thinking aloud, tossing out possibilities, not saying all these moves might happen.
Still, as the old saying goes, “anything’s possible”, and given the lack of UFA talent, and the uncertainty over the next CBA, it’s shaping up to be an interesting summer.
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About Puckin' Around With Spector
I’m Lyle Richardson. You might know me from my website, Spector’s Hockey, my thrice-weekly rumor column at THN.com, my weekly column at Eishockey News (if you read German), and my former gig as a contributing writer to Foxsports.com.
I’ll be writing a once-weekly blog here with my take on all things NHL. Who knows, I might actually find time to debunk a trade rumor or two.