LOOK AT ALL THESE RUMORS...

 

Most of us who grew up in the 1980s remember the funk classic “Rumors” by the Timex Social Club.  “Look at all these rumors, surrounding me everyday, I just need some time, some time to get away…”  Truer lyrics were never written, especially when it comes to tracking down NHL trade rumors.

It’s interesting to see the amount of teams who are scrambling to get their most prized possessions taken care of in an effort to both save them from becoming free agents in the off season, and most importantly, to quell the millions of rumors always flying this time of year.  Call it their way of “getting away” from all of the media coverage and concentrating on the game at hand.  In less than a week we can all do the same.

As I’ve reported a few times now, March 9, 2006 is the Trading Deadline – the day the rumors end and the moment of truth arrives.  Seemed so long ago at the time I first mentioned it, but the time has arrived.  Let the scramble to the finish begin in earnest.  Which teams are buyers and which teams are sellers?  Which teams are for real and which teams are pretenders?  We’re about to find out, but before we do, it’s always fun to speculate on what may happen.  We’ll revisit this next week and see just how many of these so-called rumors actually materialize.

Before I get to the rumors making the most sense, let’s set the record straight on a few myths circulating through the media and internet (outside of our website that is!).

Owen Nolan is not returning to the NHL this season.  By his own admission, his knee is not healing as fast as was originally planned, and also by his own admission, "It would not be fair to the teams that expressed an interest in my services if I could not give them 100 per cent of my abilities".  Expect Nolan to be available to the highest bidder starting July 1.  Probable destinations are the ones being mentioned right now – San Jose, Calgary and Philadelphia, just to name a few.  Barring a miracle, you can be sure he won’t be returning to Toronto.

Teams can start removing defensemen Phillipe Boucher from their shopping lists.  The stalwart blueliner has been inked to a three year extension with the Dallas Stars.  The deal is reported to be worth $7.5 million, a modest raise of $1.82 million per year on average.  You will recall Boucher was one of the most sought after free agents at the time he signed with the green shirts back in 2002.  "I am very happy to get this new contract finalized with the Stars," said Boucher. "My family and I love the city of Dallas and we are excited to know we will be here for three more years."

With many teams needing help between the pipes, one name you won’t see moved is Manny Fernandez in Minnesota.  Shortly before the Wild took to the ice Friday versus Anaheim, it was announced Fernandez had signed a multi-year contract extension.  No terms were disclosed, which still fuels slight speculation a deal could still happen, although it is highly unlikely, especially if Dwayne Roloson is moved.  With the Wild falling further out of contention thanks to a current road trip drawing blanks, bank on Roloson to be the odd man out before long.  "The Wild's commitment to Manny and his commitment to the team are based upon his play this season and his performance with the Wild ever since he started the first home game in team history on October 11, 2000," GM Doug Risebrough said.  "We see this as a step that will continue to improve our team and help take us to the next level."  We shall see.

Speaking of goalies, did Jose Theodore dodge a bullet by breaking his heel during the Olympics, or did he just embarrass himself even further?  If you ask me, he really has to stop taking that hair tonic, but in his defense, it was a very icy weekend and as I can attest, it doesn’t take much to slip on a patch of ice and injure something.  Given the way Theodore was playing prior to the injury, I’m not sure if this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise or a future ticket out of the perennial hockey hotbed of Montreal.

WHAT, ME WORRY?

Of all the teams who think they need “better goaltending” down the stretch and into the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators are not one of them, all things considered.  Dominik Hasek was injured during his first shift of the Olympics, yet is expected to return in time for the playoffs.  John Muckler has maintained, as he often does, he will not remove a player from his active roster (or injured reserve) for a net gain at the deadline.  Obviously, you need to always listen to a proposition whenever and wherever it presents itself, but if Ottawa can get their opening night roster fully intact in time for April, they have as good a chance as anyone.

Don’t be fooled though.  There are a few rumors involving Curtis Joseph of Phoenix and Martin Biron of Buffalo, and they all point to both goaltenders having a new postal code by 3:00 PM on Thursday.  Some have suggested Muckler would be wise to acquire one of them as an insurance policy, just in case.  If it happens, it will have to be for peanuts (ie, a Draft Pick or a minor leaguer). 

CuJo is the big goaltending name thrown out for good measure.  He could wind up anywhere from Ottawa to Edmonton to Vancouver to even Anaheim, but the concern is at his age what can he possibly accomplish when push comes to shove.  He’s never proven himself as anything more than a one or two round goaltender, the semi-final appearance in 2002 notwithstanding.  Of all the destinations mentioned, Edmonton makes the most sense.  I’ve always been of the opinion he played his best hockey to date as an Oiler, and although it didn’t amount to much more than a few second round appearances, it’s not like they had the team and experience that they have now.  If Edmonton doesn’t land CuJo, look for them to go after Biron.

The biggest name floating around has to no doubt be Florida’s Olli Jokinen.  Having advanced all the way to the Gold Medal game at the Olympics has to have increased his value even more.  Calgary would probably make the most sense (and the best fit).  They need to get Jarome Iginla going for the post season, and getting an offensive weapon like Jokinen would certainly help.  The Flames could send a guy like Matthew Lombardi the other way (this has also made a few rumor mills).  Ottawa was also rumored to be in the mix of teams interested, but read two paragraphs previous to see why he won’t end up there.

It wouldn’t be a trade deadline without Bob Clarke making a splash.  While he’s been very quiet so far, some have suggested Keith Tkachuk’s days in St. Louis are numbered, and Flyer Orange could be his uniform at the end of the day.  Since Keith Primeau won’t be back this season, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  If this doesn’t happen, expect Philadelphia to make at least one notable trade, but Peter Forsberg to Toronto for Mats Sundin is not going to happen, so give it up already.  The Flyers are going nowhere unless Antero Nittymaki retains his Olympic form down the stretch, with or without Tkachuk.  Perhaps a stay-at-home defenseman is in order.

So far, goalie Jani Hurme has been sent to Anaheim with forward Joel Stepp heading the other way to Atlanta, and Columbus sent defenseman Cale Hulse into his second stint with Calgary for forward Cam Severson.  Not exactly trades you’d write home about, unless of course you happen to be the actual players involved.  The Flames actually get a stay-at-home defenseman and someone to add to their depth chart with Hulse, but it isn’t as if they were weak at the position to begin with.

As we do every year, we’ve heard rumors ranging from the borderline possible to absolutely not going to happen.  The real blockbusters traditionally happen during the course of a season.  Let me go on record right now and say if San Jose manages to make the playoffs, the trade of the year is Joe Thornton leaving Boston for some dead weight (at least in the Sharks’ opinion).  If nothing else, it should add some stability to a team which had higher expectations when the season began.

Ian Mendes of Sportsnet brought up an interesting point recently.  Since 1980, there has only been one major deadline trade which was considered to have been instrumental in helping a team win a Stanley Cup.  In 1991, Ulf Samuelsson and Ron Francis were traded to Pittsburgh in a six player blockbuster with the Hartford Whalers, and as it turned out, it was the final piece of the puzzle for the Penguins.  Yet, to win, you need good luck and great goaltending, and you can’t (usually) acquire both at the trading deadline.  With that being said, you really have to wonder why there’s so much stock placed on the trading deadline to begin with, but I will say this – it’s one hell of a fun day.

As I bow out for yet another edition, let me remind you all of my new daily blog, and many thanks for the positive comments from those who take the time to do so.  Congratulations are also in order to Pat LaFontaine who finally had his number 16 retired in Buffalo the other night. 

It’s about time.

 

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