NHL News and Rumors – September 9, 2009

Devils may try Elias at center

Kessel pursuit resumes

It’s down to two: Jim Balsillie vs. NHLDevils may try Elias at center


That hole at center remains the center of intrigue among the Devils.

Even as Jacques Lemaire said yesterday that he’ll “probably” try Patrik Elias as the second-line center, the potential acquisition of Patrick Marleau or Mike Comrie remained the buzz among Devils players golfing at their alumni tournament yesterday.

Comrie, the former Islander, is an unrestricted free agent whose opportunities may be dwindling with camps opening this weekend. Marleau has been removed as Sharks captain, and has long been rumored to be the San Jose component of a three-way deal with Ottawa, for Dany Heatley, with New Jersey shipping out more youth.
Lemaire said he’s skeptical about wingers moving to center. “If they’re capable of doing it, I have no problem. But you don’t see too many of those,” he said. “It’s so different, so different. It’s a totally different game.

“Elias is a guy who could play center. He’s good enough for that.”

Travis Zajac played between Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner on New Jersey’s top-scoring line, but some observers believe that a top center with Elias, and now, Brian Rolston, might make magic.


Kessel pursuit resumes


Staring at a huge hole in the depth chart at forward — and with coach Ron Wilson uncomfortable discussing who his top line might include — Brian Burke again has turned his gaze towards Phil Kessel.

Whether the Maple Leafs general manager takes the conventional trade route with Kessel, or goes where many teams fear to tread and sign him as an restricted free agent, remains to be seen.

But Burke, who is now talking openly of chasing a playoff spot a season after most hockey minds saw a patient five-year rebuild as the only way up, is taking one last stab at making a deal with his salary cap-challenged comrade Peter Chiarelli in Boston, before NHL camps convene later this week.

The Bruins are within $2 million US of the $56.8-million salary cap, while Kessel is believed to be looking for in excess of $4 million per season.

It is believed, however, they would match any offer sheet and try to stay under the cap by any other means.

A late-afternoon call between Burke and Chiarelli did not move a potential deal along. Beyond Saturday, Burke thinks no club will be in dealing mode until after pre-season games determine team strengths and weaknesses.

Burke played coy with the media yesterday, agreeing his weekend trade for a 2010 second-rounder puts him “in position to influence things that might happen” with a first, second and third pick to compensate a team’s RFA.

But he also said: “I do not contemplate an offer sheet with Phil at this time” and said he might eventually trade one of those high picks for a scorer or one of his surplus defencemen. That would exclude Tomas Kaberle, unless he waives his re-activated no-trade clause.

Burke also ruled out any more surprise comeback guests at this camp after granting a tryout to Jason Allison.


It’s down to two: Jim Balsillie vs. NHL

Kevin McGran

It’s officially down to a two-horse race – BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie vs. the NHL – in the sweepstakes for the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes after a day filled with legal twists and turns, many of them bad for the league.

Ice Edge LLC officially pulled its $150 million (all figures U.S.) offer off the table, leaving the NHL and its $140 million bid as the only buyer who would keep the Coyotes in Phoenix as the team heads into an auction starting tomorrow.

But the news wasn’t all positive for Balsillie and his attempts to move the team to Hamilton. His new, improved $242.5 million bid – including $50 million to the city of Glendale if it would drop its opposition to the sale – met with silence from politicians worried about losing the team.

“Glendale is deferring to the court and the NHL to determine the merits of this and the other bids,” Glendale spokesman Gary Husk told the Star in an email.

In Glendale, politicians went in camera yesterday to discuss the Coyotes situation, saying any deal could only be ratified in a public meeting.

The withdrawal of Ice Edge – a group of Canadian and American investors working with Wayne Gretzky – was noted in a footnote in a statement from league commissioner Gary Bettman.