NHL Trade Rumors for July 19th

Players still up for grabs

The Sergei Zubov mystery and other intriguing players

Brad Richards on the move?

P.J. Axelsson likely done as a Bruin

Players still up for grabs


As unsigned players start to get a little desperate and begin to drop their prices, this is alsowhen some of the best free-agent bargains tend to be found.

Five of the players caught up in Montreal’s rebuilding process are still out there – Schneider, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Patrice Brisebois and Francois Bouillon. Montreal went into the free-agency period with money to burn, but after dramatically remaking their team, they’re effectively spent out with $52.43-million (all currency U.S.) committed to next season with restricted free agents Tomas Plekanec and Matt D’Agostini still to sign.

The Columbus Blue Jackets also have a number of their ex-players still up for grabs – Michael Peca, Manny Malhotra and Jason Williams. Essentially, Columbus went into the market and grabbed the ex-Duck, ex-Hawk Sami Pahlsson to do the job Peca was brought in for a couple of years ago – and anchor the checking line. Peca is still only 35, but the perception is that there’s been a lot of wear and tear on his frame, even though he did get into 71 games for the Blue Jackets last season and averaging about 14 minutes per night. Malhotra occasionally played on the top line after an injury ended Derick Brassard’s season.

The hope in Columbus is that Brassard and Antoine Vermette will be the team’s two top centres with Pahlsson a solid third. Of the three, the versatile Williams is probably the only one of some interest to the team.

The fact that Tanguay remains available is marginally surprising given that Montreal gave up a first-rounder to get him from Calgary only a year before. But Tanguay’s reputation – skilled, but soft – and the fact that he’s recovering from off-season surgery suggests that any team interested in his services wants him for the short term to start, just to see if he’s healthy and a fit with their team.


The Sergei Zubov mystery and other intriguing players

Allan Muir

He’s exactly what every NHL team needs: a veteran defender with years of experience in the No. 1 role; a silky smooth skater, as adept at leading the rush as he is capable of racing back to break up an enemy attack; a quick-thinking, no-panic puckhandler who delivers that first pass as well as anyone in the game today; a special teams threat who can QB a power play and chew up minutes on the penalty kill.

And, given a chance, he’ll probably work for pennies on the dollar.

So how is it exactly that Sergei Zubov is an unsigned free agent on July 17?

To borrow the memorable phrasing of former American defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Zubov lingers on the market because he is a known unknown. Which is to say all anyone is sure of is that they have no idea what he has to offer.

No one questions Zubov’s talent. The question is whether he can utilize it. Surgery on a sports hernia and a hip limited the defender, who turns 39 next week, to 56 games over the past two seasons with the Dallas Stars; just 10 of them in 2008-09. He last played on November 28, and while doctors have said he’ll be ready to go for the upcoming season, they have in the past erred on the side of optimism with Zubov.


Brad Richards on the move?

Larry Brooks

There is, however, widespread belief that Dallas owner Tom Hicks’ financial problems — his team canceled prospects camp in order to save money — will force the Stars to cut payroll . . . with the cutting to feature former Tampa Bay Conn Smythe winning first-line center Brad Richards, who has two years at $7.8 million remaining on his deal.

It would take a newer new math to figure out how the Rangers could accommodate Richards under the cap, but there is no doubt that Sather will try if Dallas has to move him.


P.J. Axelsson likely done as a Bruin

Kevin Paul Dupont

No surprise, but unless there is a last-minute U-turn, it looks as if P.J. Axelsson has played his final game in a Bruins uniform. Rumor around Causeway Street and Fenway (their winter retreat to the west) last week had it that the ever-affable and dependable winger was poised to sign a multiyear offer with another NHL club.

The Bruins have had only limited interest in bringing back the 34-year-old Olympic gold medalist. If he were interested in accepting something akin to what the Bruins gave Steve Begin (one year/$850,000) as an unrestricted free agent, then he might have a deal here. But at the moment it looks as if he has something much better.

If Axelsson is gone, the longest-tenured player on the Boston roster will be Tim Thomas, who played his first handful of NHL games with the Bruins in 2002-03. Playoffs included, Axelsson has 851 games on his Boston résumé. Thomas: 237. Patrice Bergeron, who came aboard full time just before the lockout, has suited up in the spoked-B 321 times.