Huge Rumor update – June 22, 2011

Trade winds start for Jackets

Sens need second-line centre

Will Panthers trade up for Nugent-Hopkins?

Stars trying to deal Richards rights
Trade winds start for Jackets

As the NHL draft draws near, talk among the league’s general managers will get more serious and more specific. So far, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said, there has been an “exchange of ideas” between him and his peers, with a few names of “available” players surfacing.

For Howson, who is intent on trading the No.8 overall pick and is willing to listen to any offer that doesn’t include Jackets captain Rick Nash, this is good news.

“I’ve had a few surprise calls, players who might be available,” he said. “It’s not been specifically about the pick, but just, ‘Here’s what I’m thinking about doing’, and, ‘Here’s who might be available.’

“There’s a lot going on, more than normal. Teams realize we’re more open to trading a top-10 pick than we’ve been in the past for immediate help. That has generated some interest.”

The draft, which starts on Friday, and free agency, which begins on July 1, give clubs two prime chances to dramatically change the look of their roster.

The Blue Jackets are looking for, in order, a skilled defenseman (or two), a top-six center and a backup goaltender.

With a scarcity of centers available through free agency – it’s looking like Brad Richards and a bunch of backup singers, at this point – it would seem logical that the Jackets would attempt to address the need at center this weekend.


“There’s a scarcity of centers available by trade, too, at least the kind that we would want,” Howson said. “I don’t think that changes what we’ll be thinking about when we get to the draft.

“Those are two areas of need. If something comes our way in one of those areas, we won’t question it. We’ll make the move as long as it makes sense to us and we’re excited about it.”

The Blue Jackets’ pursuit of Philadelphia center Jeff Carter has been well-chronicled in both markets. At this point, it looks like the Jackets are more interested in acquiring Carter than the Flyers are in trading him, but that could change.

Sens need second-line centre

Bryan Murray is on a hunting trip.

Not for moose or deer or partridge or anything that requires a gun or trap.

No, for the Senators GM, it’s once again “second-line centre” season.

Murray is off to the Wilds of Minnesota, where his primary goal must be to bag an offensively skilled pivot, someone qualified to follow as closely as possible to Jason Spezza on the depth chart.

By hook, by crook, by draft or by trade.

A productive No. 2 centre is a need the Senators have had for … for forever? Mike Fisher had 59 points in 2009-10, but everyone said he was more the quintessential third-liner. Antoine Vermette had all the skills, but never more than 53 points as a Senator. Bryan Smolinski’s best days were behind him by the time he arrived in Ottawa.

Granted, last season was an aberration as Spezza led the team in points with 57, while missing 20 games to injury, but can you name Ottawa’s second-highest scoring centre? How about Ryan Shannon, a part-timer at the position, with 27?

Good teams are strong up the middle. Boston with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. Vancouver with Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. The second-line centres on good teams score more than 27 points.

Murray doesn’t have to get one in Minnesota. He could wait until July 1 and the free-agent fishing waters open up. But there’s a catch with most of the centres who will be available in that.

Brad Richards will be the best, and he’s the guy the Senators should net, but he made $7.8 million last season and will command an even higher salary this time around. So they won’t be chasing him.

Will Panthers trade up for Nugent-Hopkins?

A source told me last week that Panthers GM Dale Tallon was smitten with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and today the Hockey News is reporting that two well-placed sources say the Oilers are in talks to trade the No. 1 pick overall and that one likely trade partner is Florida, which currently owns the No. 3 selection.

The assumption is Edmonton would pull the trigger if it thinks it can still get Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson with a lower pick and grab another asset – for example, a prospect – in the process. Florida would likely pick center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall selection.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini addressed the draft in a morning press conference before he left for Minnesota.

“To have people want to move down a couple spots,” he said, “you really need to present something that is almost a no-brainer for the organization and that’s a hard thing to deliver sometimes.”

Like the Oilers, the Panthers are rebuilding and have a pretty good stable of prospects to dangle in front of Edmonton. And though there are many great options in this year’s draft, positioning is going to be crucial, hence the trade talk.

Stars trying to deal Richards rights

The Dallas Stars remain hopeful in their efforts to move Brad Richards’ rights in order to recoup some asset value.

But the clock is ticking toward July 1, when Richards will be an unrestricted free agent, and he holds all the cards thanks to his no-movement clause.

“We continue to chip away here,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk told on Tuesday. “Our intention is to move his rights and hope to do that prior to the draft here.”

Nieuwendyk would not offer up any other details, but our suspicion is that he’s had some serious offers for the rights to the star center. The question is whether the Stars can ever convince Richards to waive his no-movement clause. Of course, if you’re Richards, why not just look at all your options July 1?

Winger Jamie Langenbrunner, meanwhile, is also UFA-bound July 1. The Stars will try to keep him within financial reason.

“We’ve had an initial discussion,” Nieuwendyk said. “We’d like to keep Jamie, but obviously it has to be worked out the right way for both sides. I anticipate we’ll have another discussion before July 1.”