When the Carolina Hurricanes upset the Boston Bruins 3-0 Thursday, no fewer than 12 NHL teams were represented in the press box.
Scouts are tracking several potential trade targets on the ‘Canes, including pesky forward Tuomo Ruutu – who scored one of the Carolina goals during a showcase performance.
“I've heard rumors I'm going to every team in the NHL,” Ruutu told the Raleigh News & Observer. "I must be really playing well . . . You hear rumors but I think everybody is different. We're all human. Some guys take it more seriously, some take it less seriously. Everybody has their own way of dealing with it. I hear about stuff but there's nothing I can really do, so . . .”
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek is coming off an upper body injury, so teams will follow him as a possible rental player. Defenseman Tim Gleason is off the market after signing a four-year contract extension.
Goaltender Cam Ward and center Eric Staal appear to be off-limits as well, since GM Jim Rutherford has given no indication that he will move one of his cornerstone players.
The Columbus Blues Jackets appear ready to hold a yard sale. Everything might go!
While other teams have picked up their play – most notably Anaheim and Carolina – the Jackets are now the Team Most Likely To Dump Payroll.
Finding a taker for Jeff Carter and his staggering salary may not be easy, but expect Columbus to make every effort.
Here were some of the other rumors coming out of the All-Star Game:
Would the Dallas Stars really deal Brenden Morrow as part of a sweeping overhaul? If that team is willing to go there, the Red Wings would be just one of the possible bidders.
Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter told the world that he won’t extend his contract before the trade deadline. So teams trying to acquire him from Nashville would do on a rental basis – something that may not excite him. “I'm a Nashville Predator until July,” he told ESPN. “I will focus on making my team better.”
As always, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is dying to add size and grit. This has led to speculation about Ryane Clowe (San Jose Sharks) and Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina Hurricanes). The San Jose management insists Clowe is staying put this season.
Goaltender Ryan Miller is no longer regarded as a team cornerstone in Buffalo. Given the number of teams looking for help in the net, expect Miller to become the subject of much speculation. How about a straight-up deal with Anaheim, Miller for Jonas Hiller?
If Anaheim deals Hiller without getting a goaltender in return, would the Ducks send Corey Perry up to Vancouver for Cory Schneider, forward Mason Raymond and defenseman Keith Ballard? Such quality-for-quantity deals usually backfire. Depth is easier to find than high-end talent.
Buffalo also seems likely to shop center Derek Roy. Montreal was linked to him earlier and some folks think the Kings could move into play – despite that team’s apparently depth up the middle.
Meanwhile the Los Angeles Kings are looking to move chronic underachiever Dustin Penner, but what team would really covet him? Eastern Conference teams are always starved for size, but his salary will be tough to digest.
With Carolina willing to move Jarsoslav Spacek, Bryan Allen and/or Tim Gleason, the Panthers might look there once Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford lowers his asking price.
Would Rutherford trade goaltender Cam Ward? He has dismissed such speculation, but other teams are watching carefully. Ward does carry an annual cap hit of $6.3 million for the next five seasons.
If the Canadiens up to sell off some parts, gritty forward Travis Moen might attract some interest. He is headed for unrestricted free agency.
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is recovering from knee surgery, but not as quickly as the team hoped. He may not return to action until early March – well after the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline passes.
But that won’t stop Carolina from entertaining trade offers for veteran defensemen Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek. Each of those players will become unrestricted free agents after the season and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is looking to retool with younger players.
Each of those defensemen could have value to contending teams looking to rent some help. The Flyers, for instance, are looking to fortify their blue line after losing Chris Pronger to a season-ending concussion.
“Despite all the talk that people stir up, I'm approaching it at this stage as being more interested in hockey trades and not deadline trades or trading UFAs,” Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer. “If something makes sense for our organization and from a financial point of view, if it seems like something we should do, I'll do it. But I'm not out there making all the calls looking to make trades.
“If we were to trade a UFA for a veteran player, we would want control of him next year or the next few years. Usually, we have looked to bring in younger players, but a hockey deal where a veteran player is under contract also is a possibility.”
Canadiens general manager Pierre “The Ghost” Gauthier doesn’t mind spending big money on defensemen.
Improbably, lavished a three-year, $15.75-million deal on Andrei Markov during the offseason even though the talented puck rusher was recovering from major knee surgery. As it turned out, Markov didn’t make it back – instead undergoing another operation that will shelve him until at least February.
Then Gauthier moved defenseman Jaroslav Spacek and his expiring contract to Carolina for Tomas Kaberle, who is less than a half-season into his three-year deal paying $4.25 million per season.
These are the sorts of moves that get a NHL GM in hot water with owners. Earlier, Gauthier fired well-respect Habs assistant coach Perry Pearn.
That seemed like desperate move to folks outside the organization. If coaching was the problem, why not cashier head coach Jacques Martin?
Gauthier and Martin both appear to be on the spot. The Canadiens need to make a run.
Perhaps they started the process by earning a 2-1 victory at New Jersey Saturday to move into ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 31 points in 30 games.
Kaberle made himself right at home, assisting on both goals.
“I have to admit I was a little nervous at the start,” Kaberle told reporters. “I had a new team with new teammates. I hadn’t practiced in two days. I had a long travel day. We went over some things in the hotel before the game at breakfast, but I wasn’t sure of what to expect. I just had to jump in right away and be ready. I just had to try to keep it simple.”
Andre Markov’s misfortune was Carolina GM Jim Rutherford’s gain.
Rutherford made a huge mistake signing defenseman Tomas Kaberle to a big free agency deal. Kaberle continued the listless play that confounded the Bruins last spring.
Surely there was no way the Hurricanes could offload Kaberle’s contract, right?
Wrong. With the hard-luck Markov needed addition recovery time after another knee operation, the Canadiens needed some offensive help on the blue line. The Habs were desperate, in fact, given their generally substandard play.
So Rutherford was able to dump Kaberle and his remaining contract – more than 2 ½ years at $4.25 million per – to Montreal for defenseman Jaroslav Spacek and his expiring contract.
Whew! That is gigantic payroll relief, which helps Rutherford save face with his owners and possible position himself for another trade to juice his team.
As for the Habs, they earned this rebuke from Edmonton Journal scribe Jim Matheson: "Can't imagine the Habs' pro scouts in unison said "we have to have this Kaberle" after watching him. This is all on GM Pierre Gauthier."
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