June 27, 2011 News and Rumors

Minnesota Wild turn attention to free agency market, which opens Friday

Blue Jackets turn their attention to defense

New York Rangers likely won’t find a taker on NHL trade market for defenseman Wade Redden: sources

Jets weighing their options

Minnesota Wild turn attention to free agency market, which opens Friday

There was a telling moment during the NHL draft over the weekend when Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher, explaining his deal that sent Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks for Devin Setoguchi and a prospect, noted that the Sharks made the move because “they’re trying to win the Stanley Cup next year.”

Fletcher needed about one millisecond to recognize a little perspective was required.

“Not that we’re not,” he noted, “but we need assets to compete with these teams.”

Although Wild personnel say they had a marvelous draft for “trying to stock the cupboards,” in the words of assistant general manager Brent Flahr, they must quickly turn their attention to impending NHL free agency.

The Wild have six players who will become free agents Friday: Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, John Madden, Chuck Kobasew, Jose Theodore and Josh Harding.

Adding Setoguchi up front, along with the expected return of Guillaume Latendresse from surgery that sidelined him nearly all of last season, should give the forward lines a strong core to work with. Already, coach Mike Yeo is considering pairing Setoguchi with Pierre-Marc Bouchard on a line that might be centered by Mikko Koivu.

Add Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen into the mix, and it appears the Wild won’t be looking for a high-end, high-cost forward beginning Friday.

They’ll need a goalie, unless they grab Theodore or Harding. Philadelphia’s Brian Boucher is available, too.

The defense, of course, will miss Burns, although some fans wonder if the Sharks will see the Burns who played his way into an all-star berth in the first half of last season or the one who played into the hands of opposing teams’ offensive rushes during the second half.

Fletcher said he’s comfortable with the returning group of defensemen and singled out Czech Republic Olympian Marek Zidlicky as the type of puck-carrying offensive threat who could pick up the slack from the missing Burns.


Blue Jackets turn their attention to defense

With the acquisition of first-line center Jeff Carter, the Blue Jackets can scratch fixing that position off general manager Scott Howson’s summer to-do list. With Carter’s name on the roster, the Jackets have never been deeper at center ice.

Now onto item No. 2 on the agenda: infusing skill on the blue line.

The next two or three days should begin to show Howson’s plans heading into the start of free agency on Friday.

“There are a number of different options in front of us,” Howson said.

Contract talks with unrestricted free agent Jan Hejda are expected to heat up in the next few days. Hejda, perhaps the most solid defenseman the franchise has had, has stated his desire to remain in Columbus, and the Blue Jackets have hinted in recent weeks that the feeling is mutual.

Now comes the sticky part: determining Hejda’s worth over the course of a three- or four-year contract.

If Hejda is allowed to test the market, the Blue Jackets will head into free agency looking to add two defensemen – a stay-at-home type to replace Hejda, along with a player skilled enough to run a power play – preferably one who can play on the right side.

That could be a $9 million to $10 million expenditure per season to sign both players.

“Free agency is about overpaying in terms and in dollars,” Howson said. “And it’s not going to change this year. We would like to be active (on Friday). It depends on who’s available.”

There will likely be a handful of signings this week, but as of now, Vancouver’s Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa, Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen, Montreal’s James Wisniewski, Boston’s Tomas Kaberle and San Jose’s Ian White all have expiring contracts and will be unrestricted.

Wisniewski and White were both available in trade last season. The Blue Jackets weren’t interested, but that could change.


New York Rangers likely won’t find a taker on NHL trade market for defenseman Wade Redden: sources

If the Rangers are hoping to draw inspiration from the Chicago Blackhawks’ trade of defenseman Brian Campbell and his albatross contract to the Florida Panthers at the NHL draft over the weekend, they should be prepared for disappointment.

Multiple sources consider it unlikely that Glen Sather will be able to find a taker for 34-year-old blue-liner Wade Redden, who spent all of last season in the AHL, to get his $6.5 million cap hit off the books. Redden has three years left on his contract.

“No chance,” was the way one source put it to the Daily News, while another was hardly enthusiastic about the Blueshirts’ chances of swinging a deal, noting that while Redden did not play a single NHL game this past season, Campbell had five goals, 22 assists and a plus-28 rating for the Blackhawks.

The 32-year-old Campbell, who was traded for Rostislav Olesz on Friday night, is signed through 2015-16, with an annual salary of more than $7.1 million. His presence on the roster will help the Panthers reach the $48.3 million minimum team payroll next season, and Florida is not alone among teams that will need to take on big contracts to reach that level – Colorado and Phoenix stand out as teams that might struggle to climb to the salary floor.

Despite the Coyotes’ extensive history of deals with the Rangers, most recently the Michal Rozsival-Wojtek Wolski swap in January, there is no indication that GM Don Maloney would want any part of Redden, who told The News in February that he would like to avoid spending another full season in the minors, and could void his contract to become a free agent if the Rangers send him back to Connecticut.


Jets weighing their options

A Chicago connection led to a big deal between the Blackhawks and Florida Panthers, but did it nearly lead to a trade with the Winnipeg Jets?

While Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff did have a few discussions with former boss Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks GM, nothing really materialized — at least not yet.

“Stan and I chatted on a couple of things, but Stan had some big things on the go that were maybe a little bit not in the direction I was looking at at this point in time,” said Cheveldayoff. “We had some good conversations, they gave me some good support along the way and we had a good couple of laughs.

“We’ll have to wait for our first Chicago-Winnipeg deal.”

Bowman and the Blackhawks were able to unload the contract of defenceman Brian Campbell in a trade with the Panthers (whose GM Dale Tallon was the GM of the ’Hawks before he was replaced by Bowman) and moved winger Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a first round pick on Friday.

Cheveldayoff said he had a number of “feeling out” discussions with other GMs who were trying to gauge where things were at in terms of the Jets’ roster.

However, Cheveldayoff wou
ld neither confirm nor deny a report that the Jets were among the teams that kicked the tires on Kenora product Mike Richards before the Los Angeles Kings acquired the former Philadelphia Flyers captain in a package deal that included former Brandon Wheat Kings centre Brayden Schenn.

One published report said the Flyers were looking for a package that included Evander Kane, Winnipeg’s first round pick (seventh overall on Friday) and possibly second-year centre and 2010 first-rounder Alexander Burmistrov.


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