Tons of Rumors as Free Agent Season Nears

1. Peter Chiarelli, Bruins press on with Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton


3. Plenty of NHL teams will be looking to hop aboard the A-Train when free agency begins Thursday.

4. Gillis must bolster blue line beyond Ballard acquisition

5. Players that the Canucks May target

Peter Chiarelli, Bruins press on with Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton

There was little high news value at the Garden yesterday.

The occasion was the introduction to their new city of Bruins [team stats] top pick Tyler Seguin and recently acquired veteran Nathan Horton. The most significant aspect of the brief press conference – unless you’re counting the impact on jersey sales in the North Station pro shop – was the unveiling of Seguin’s No. 19 and Horton’s No. 18.

Both players expressed pride at becoming Bruins and excitement for the coming season.

“For me personally, it’s a dream come true to come to join such a stable and successful and historic organization,” Horton said. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a joy to be here. I can’t wait for it to start, I’m excited to be a Boston Bruin and be part of the Bruins family.”

Seguin, obviously well-schooled and experienced in dealing with the media, redirected most questions toward a stock answer: That his first challenge is earning a spot on the team.

The choice of number for Seguin was found interesting by some, since he becomes the first Bruin to wear No. 19 since Joe Thornton was dispatched to the San Jose Sharks by Jeremy Jacobs & Co. Turns out Seguin would have preferred to stick with the No. 9 he’s accustomed to wearing, but that is one of the B’s retired numbers and general manager Peter Chiarelli wasn’t about to ask Johnny Bucyk for the OK to unretire it.

“Chief would whup me for even asking,” Chiarelli said with a laugh.

So Seguin went with the number of his idol, Steve Yzerman, a player to whom he is frequently likened.

“Growing up I’ve always loved the number 9,” the remarkably poised and articulate 18-year-old Seguin said. “I used to use No. 97. When I went to the OHL, I used 9 again. But here I can’t get 9. So I’ve always idolized Steve Yzerman. He was No. 19 (with the Detroit Red Wings), so I thought it was best suited for me. I know I’ve still got to make the NHL club, but if people want to compare me to guys like (Joe Thornton), I’d be thrilled.”


By the way, agents are now permitted to seek offer sheets on restricted free agents – as long as neither the player or the club have requested salary arbitration. So the best targets for offer sheets are RFAs with no arbitration rights – James Neal (DAL), Bobby Ryan (ANA) and Marc Staal (NYR) amongst others.

– Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson and Patrick O’Sullivan were all placed on waivers by the Oilers on Tuesday, and are buyout eligible. Other players placed on waivers include the Ducks’ Nathan Oystric, the Lightning’s Todd Fedoruk and New York Rangers’ Donald Brashear, Aaron Voros and Patrick Rissmiller. Jonathan Cheechoo, Petteri Nokelainen, Ales Kotalik, Jim Vandermeer and Ville Koistenen all cleared waivers today and are eligible to be bought out by their former clubs.

– I do not believe the Calgary Flames intend to buy out forward Ales Kotalik. It’s more like, “we can now bury you in the minors, maybe you want to play in Europe instead?” Also, the Flames can’t afford to use valuable cap space on a buyout. The aim is to find a spot for Kotalik, where he doesnt count against cap and someone else pays.

– The Toronto Maple Leafs may have some interest in Marc Savard (BOS) and Mike Ribeiro (DAL) but there is no sense of urgency whatsoever at the moment. Most likely mid-July More likely mid-July depending on how things go in free agency.

– It’s funny how the KHL could be the NHL team’s best friend, now that there are contracted players they are trying to move to offset costs and open up cap room!

– Dialogue between the Penguins and Dan Hamhuis continues. Nothing is carved in stone by any means, but the odds favor Hamhuis going to market on July 1. That does not mean the Penguins would be out of it. Far from it – the player may just want to see everything on the table before making a decision.

– It appears as though the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Nikolai Kulemin are making progress on a new deal. Nothing is done yet, however the two sides appear to be closing the gap. If it gets done, I’m guessing it would be around $2.5 million per year or somewhere a little south of that. Kulemin and his agent have reportedly been looking for a deal closer to the $3 million mark.

Will brother join Koivu? It’s up to Saku

The Wild needs a center or two, but just like last summer, Mikko Koivu said he won’t put any pressure on his older brother, Saku, to sign with the Wild as a free agent.

“It will be his decision,” the Wild captain said Tuesday. “I know his contract’s up again, but to be honest with you, we haven’t talked about that — not once this summer. At the end, it’s his and his family’s decision to do what they feel is best for them.

“Obviously, if he asks about Minnesota and the team and stuff like that, I’ll tell what I feel, but I don’t want to add any pressure to him making a decision by what I say.”

Last July, the Wild offered Saku, the longtime Montreal Canadiens captain, a two-year deal worth about $8 million and a three-year deal worth about $10 million. He instead opted for a one-year, $3.25 million deal in Anaheim to “protect Mikko.”

Plenty of NHL teams will be looking to hop aboard the A-Train when free agency begins Thursday.

NHL executives say Anton Volchenkov, the 28-year-old blueliner, will be in big demand, with at least 10 teams expected to check in.

Volchenkov is expected to be one of the first free agents to move on when the signing period opens Thursday at noon. It’s unlikely Volchenkov will return to the Senators. His agent Jay Grossman, who met with Volchenkov in New York twice in the last month, wouldn’t comment.

The Capitals are expected to make a pitch and the Sharks could look at Volchenkov as a replacement for veteran Rob Blake, who retired last month. The Thrashers, Ducks, Blues and Rangers are also likely suitors.

After turning down a five-year, $20-million deal from the Senators, Volchenkov, who has spent his whole career in an Ottawa uniform, is expected to get $4.5-$5 million per season on the open market.

“He’s going to have options,” said a league executive.

The belief is the Rangers and Capitals are the two teams most serious about signing the shot-blocking Volchenkov, who was drafted 21st overall by the Senators in the 2000 draft.

If the Rangers decide to make the move, it could be bad news for Volchenkov’s former Ottawa teammate Wade Redden.

The Rangers could move his $6.5-million contract to the AHL to clear cap space.

The Rangers have warned Redden he’d better show up at cam
p prepared to earn his money, following two sub-par seasons in New York.

While the Senators may lose Volchenkov, they haven’t closed the door on either winger Matt Cullen or defenceman Andy Sutton.

Gillis must bolster blue line beyond Ballard acquisition

You can always find something of value sifting through the rubble.

When the Vancouver Canucks’ battered, bruised and confused blueline brigade exited the postseason, injuries and indifferent play — especially an inability to defend down low — told a telling tale in being outscored 17-7 in three home-ice losses to the Chicago Blackhawks.

However, the real story in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinal was attrition. Alex Edler was lost in the first period to a right ankle injury, Willie Mitchell had long been lost to a concussion while Sami Salo found the courage to play through intense testicle pain after two pre-game injections to dull the ailment.

That same script unfolded on too many occasions during the regular season.

Despite missing 90 man-games to injury, the back end combined for 171 points. Only Chicago (188 points), Pittsburgh (186) and Washington (179) mustered more and there was resiliency as the Canucks claimed the Northwest Division title.

In 19 games from Jan. 20-March 10 with Kevin Bieksa sidelined by ankle tendon tears and Mitchell lost for the season, the Canucks went 13-5-1.

Makes you wonder how far they could have advanced in the playoffs with a healthy defence.

Then again, you could argue the Canucks weren’t built for postseason success because they lacked the will to grind out third and fourth-line goals and didn’t fall in front of shots nearly enough.

The Canucks ranked 27th in hits last season and 24th in blocked shots.

Players that the Canucks May target

Dan Hamhuis, 27, 6-foot, 208 lbs., $2.5 million

Why yes: Good in all areas if Mike Gillis wants to still massage top-four mix. Good for 30-40 points per season and major minutes. Will hit, blocks shots and has missed just seven games the last five seasons.

Why no: Price point. With negotiation rights now held by Pittsburgh, could command $5 million annually. Canucks had trade-deadline interest, but didn’t want to part with Cody Hodgson and a first-round draft pick.

Anton Volchenkov, 28, 6-foot-1, 227 lbs., $3.2 million

Why yes: Finished eighth among NHL blueliners with 172 blocked shots and tough in his own zone. Averaged 20:41 last season and paired with Chris Phillips to help get Ottawa to the 2007 Stanley Cup final.

Why no: See Hamhuis. Already turned down five-year, $20 million extension and could pocket $4.5-$5 million annually on open market. Durability may be an issue. Played 64, 68 and 67 games the last three seasons.

Zbynek Michalek, 27, 6-foot-2, 210 lbs. $1.5 million

Why yes: Even with a healthy raise, a financial fit at No. 5. Willing to sacrifice his body and led Phoenix in blocked shots (156) and average ice time (22:38). Has missed just 17 games in five seasons with Coyotes.

Why no: Depending on how you read the playoffs, he either got needed experience in a pairing with Ed Jovanovski for a combined minus-11 in seven games or some shortcomings in his game were exposed.

Shaone Morrisonn, 27, 6-foot-4, 217 lbs., $1.975 million

Why yes: In a pairing with Mike Green, the Vancouver native wasn’t afraid to lean on people. Durable. Played 80, 72, 76, 78, 80 games with Washington last five seasons. May take discount for a chance to play at home.