Late Night (early morning) NHL Rumors

Hawks looking at Ducks’ Wisniewski

Slumping Panthers might re-think trade deadline plans

Hear and there
Hawks looking at Ducks’ Wisniewski

By Barry Rozner

The Blackhawks are interested in bringing back an old friend.

According to a team source, the club has been talking to Anaheim about ex-Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski, perhaps willing to part with Cam Barker in return.

Wisniewski will be a restricted free agent after pulling in $2.75 million this year, and could jump into the $4 million range next season, which means the Hawks probably wouldn’t re-sign him.

At the same time, they could move Barker’s $3.1 million salary for the next two years, something that seems inevitable between now and next fall as they try to solve a nasty cap dilemma.

A fan favorite during his four years here, Wisniewski is a solid fifth defenseman who would add an edge to the Hawks’ blue line, along with a strong shot from the point.

Meanwhile, Barker fills more of a long-term need for the Ducks, and perhaps a change of scenery would do him some good.

The 23-year-old Barker is two years younger than Wisniewski, but so far hasn’t lived up to his billing as “the next Denis Potvin,” a label courtesy of former Hawks GM Dale Tallon after Barker was selected third overall in the 2004 draft.

Coach Joel Quenneville has obviously lost confidence in Barker this year, taking away playing time and power-play opportunities.

Slumping Panthers might re-think trade deadline plans

Steve Gorten

Panthers General Manager Randy Sexton said before Saturday’s game in Atlanta he strongly felt the Panthers would be “buyers” at the trade deadline March 3, which comes a day after the Panthers start the post-Olympics sprint with a game in Atlanta again.

But even in the Eastern Conference, in which incredible parity exists, they’re in danger of slipping to a point where they have to consider themselves sellers.

Saturday’s 4-2 loss was their third straight and fourth in five games.

The Panthers, who took Sunday off here in Raleigh, have three games left before the break — Tuesday at the Hurricanes, then home Thursday against the Canucks and Saturday against the Bruins.

They were hoping to do more than just survive until the Olympic break, after which they’ll get winger Nathan Horton back from a broken leg. They were hoping to improve their standing with the return of David Booth from a concussion.

“It’s tough when I’ve been back for four games and we lose three,” Booth said. “It’s hurting the confidence a little bit. But you can’t make excuses anymore. You have to be ready to play every night, especially against a (Thrashers) team that had travel problems.”

While he’s played with the same passion and effort, Booth right now clearly isn’t close to the player he was before the concussion. And No. 1 center Stephen Weiss, who’s shared the scoring burden with Horton all season, has been playing with a nagging lower-body injury that finally forced him to sit out Saturday. It’s hoped he can return Tuesday.

Coach Peter DeBoer has grown increasingly frustrated with having to operate without his best forwards, and some of that frustration spilled out after Saturday’s game.

Radek Dvorak ended his 15-game goal drought, but the streaks of Steven Reinprecht (16 games), Michael Frolik (12), Dominic Moore (12) and Rostislav Olesz (10) continue. Dvorak gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead after the first period, but the game was tied entering the third.

Hear and there

In just about every trade talk they’ve had, the Leafs have tried to move Jeff Finger. Apparently, it can’t be done. Odds are, Finger will get paid big league to play for the Marlies next season if the Leafs don’t buy out the remaining two years on the contract Cliff Fletcher signed him to … Wouldn’t Alexei Ponikarovsky be a nice rental part for Washington, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Buffalo or one of about six other NHL teams looking to do some damage in the post-season? He has some skills, can skate, doesn’t have a lot of ego and would be an easy fit for most clubs.