New GMs look to make splash

Weak free-agent class fuels trade talks

Trade frenzy could replace the free-agent kind this NHL off-season.

With a weak free-agent class — especially at forward — expected to hit the market July 1 and the draft set for June 25 in Los Angeles, GMs have stepped up their efforts to make changes.

While trade talks don’t usually heat up until the Stanley Cup final is over, last week’s GMs’ meetings in Philadelphia paint a different picture.

“I really think a lot of it has to do with the fact that free agency is so weak this year,” said a league executive. “Guys are going to try making changes through trades and there is a lot of talk right now. I believe there’s going to be some deals.”

Sources say there are several teams looking to make changes before July 1:

New Panthers GM Dale Tallon is said to be among the most aggressive. He’s looking for help just about everywhere, but isn’t offering up much. While expensive forwards Nathan Horton ($4-million, all terms US, cap hit through 2013) and Rostislav Olesz ($3.125 million through 2014) are available, it’s C Stephen Weiss and D Keith Ballard who are drawing the most interest. It’s doubtful either of those players will be dealt.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is another new guy on the job who will be looking to make a splash. If the Habs decide to deal a goalie — Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak — the Bolts will likely be there to make a pitch. Unless he can be convinced otherwise, longtime C Vincent Lecavalier will invoke his no-movement clause, so he likely won’t be going anywhere.

Likely to keep pick

The Oilers have the first pick in the draft and GM Steve Tambellini will be fielding a ton of calls from teams asking what it will take to get in on the Taylor HallTyler Seguin sweepstakes. The indications are Tambellini will keep the pick and draft Windsor Spitfires star Hall. The Oilers would like to deal C Shawn Horcoff ($5.5-million cap hit through 2015) and D Sheldon Souray ($5.4 million through 2012), but their salaries pretty much make them immovable.

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