Latest on Ryan O’Reilly, Cam Ward, Antti Niemi, Jonathan Bernier, Jeff Petry and more in your NHL rumor mill.

Could the Avalanche soon move Ryan O'Reilly for a defenseman?

Could the Colorado Avalanche soon move forward Ryan O’Reilly for a defenseman?

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculates the Colorado Avalanche could be nearing a decision on using forward Ryan O’Reilly as trade bait to land a defenseman…Friedman doubts the Minnesota Wild pursue Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, citing his salary for next season. He suggests watching the Vancouver Canucks, who have Eddie Lack as a backup and Jacob Markstrom in the minors. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher denied interest in Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth and Friedman speculates Fletcher hasn’t found a suitable goalie target yet…He wonders if the Detroit Red Wings might target Enroth to shore up their goalie depth with starter Jimmy Howard sidelined by a groin injury…Friedman claims some teams have interest in Edmonton Oilers forward Matt Hendricks but isn’t sure the Oilers will move him.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun claims he knows Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will try to add a piece at the March trade deadline to put his team over the top in the playoffs…Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving told Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 his club would like to get ahead of the March trade deadline craziness in regards to possible moves by his club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless there’s a deal which can help the Avs reach the playoffs this season, I think it’s a better idea to wait until the offseason to move O’Reilly, when there will be more teams with cap space willing to deal… I wonder if the Wild could have interest in San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (see below)…I expect the Wings will stick with Mrazek for the time being and see how he performs. If he struggles, that could push the Wings into the goalie market should Howard be out long term…Curious to see what the Blackhawks could do by the trade deadline. Do they add another forward or a defenseman?…If the Flames decide to ship out any players before the trade deadline it’ll be pending UFAs like Curtis Glencross, but I suspect that happens only if they fall out of playoff contention. While they could try to bolster their roster for a run at the playoffs, they won’t part with their young players. 

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance reports the Red Wings aren’t panicking with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson sidelined, intending to use call-ups Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum for now and relying on their strong defensive play…Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray might be willing to move one of his goalies (Jhonas Enroth or Michal Neuvirth) before the trade deadline. San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi could also be available…Recent contracts for Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov could affect the Toronto Maple Leafs’ efforts to re-sign netminder Jonathan Bernier…The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t opened contract talks yet with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff but it’s expected they’ll attempt to re-sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Enroth or Neuvirth will be dealt by the trade deadline. Niemi could also hit the block, but only if the Sharks feel fully confident in Alex Stalock as a starter…Bobrovsky won a Vezina trophy, Varlamov was a Vezina finalist. Bernier won’t get anything comparable to them. At most, he gets between $4.5-$5 million per season…The Penguins have limited cap space for next season, which could make it tough re-signing Ehrhoff to a long-term extension. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes pending UFA defenseman Jeff Petry’s days with the Oilers are numbered, believing he’ll be shipped to the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins or another club seeking a right-handed defenseman. Matheson feels Petry could fetch a draft pick and a prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be stunned if the Oilers re-sign Petry or retain him past the March trade deadline. 

MIAMI HERALD: George Richards reports Florida Panthers pending UFA forward Tomas Kopecky hasn’t had contract talks yet with the club but has expressed interest in staying. Head coach Gerard Gallant is a fan of Kopecky’s defensive game.