Updates on Mike Richards, Cody Franson, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Semin, plus the latest on the Leafs, Canucks, Ducks, Stars and more. 

Did a swap of Mike Richards for Dion Phaneuf nearly take place?

Kings and Leafs may have discussed a swap of Mike Richards for Dion Phaneuf.

SPORTSNET.CA: Elliotte Friedman believes a deal between the LA Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs involving Mike Richards and Dion Phaneuf was seriously discussed but the Kings refused to include Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli in the deal…The Anaheim Ducks are expected to go “all in” this season and could make a move by the trade deadline…The Dallas Stars are believed seeking a defenseman with a right-handed shot…The Minnesota Wild are looking at NHL and AHL goalies…Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos said last week his plan is to re-sign with the Lightning. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July 2016 and could seek a deal similar to the eight-year, $84 million deals signed last summer by Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though it’s possible the Kings might find a trade partner for Richards, the reality is his declining performance and $5.75 million annual cap hit through 2019-2020 makes him difficult to move. Rival clubs will either want them to pick up a healthy chunk of his remaining salary or include another key player in the return. I believe the Kings’ only option is to buy him out in June, which could cost them an average of $1.467 million per season for ten years…I expect the Ducks and Stars will make moves before the deadline. The Ducks could also use another right-handed shot on their blueline…For now, Devan Dubnyk is saving the Wild’s bacon…Stamkos will re-sign with the Lightning, probably this summer, and for over $10 million per season for eight years. 

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t decided yet if they’ll be buyers or sellers at the March trade deadline. The next several weeks will determine their status. There’s interest in Leaf UFAs Mike Santorelli and Daniel Winnik, with the Pittsburgh Penguins having made an offer last week for him…Pierre LeBrun reports Cody Franson’s camp believes the Leafs will soon make an offer to the pending UFA defenseman, but LeBrun doubts the Leafs will make an offer close in dollars or term for what Franson can get on the open market. There could be plenty of interest in Franson if he hits the trade block before the deadline… Dreger also claims the Vancouver Canucks have reached out to the Boston Bruins with interest in defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

TORONTO STAR: Dave Feschuk reports Cody Franson is acknowledging he faces an uncertain future with the Leafs. Though he’d prefer to re-sign with them, it admits it’s a possibility he could be dealt at the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m calling it now: Cody Franson will be dealt at the March trade deadline. Winnik and Santorelli could also hit the block if the Leafs continue their current tailspin.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports two Bruins scouts attended the Canucks recent game against the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins need wingers and could have interest in Canucks winger Zack Kassian. Kuzma wonders if the Canucks might ship Kassian to the Bruins for pending UFA blueliner Matt Bartkowski.

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports the Vancouver Canucks have taken goaltender Jacob Markstrom off the trade block as they’re impressed by his play with their farm team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canucks GM Jim Benning said he’s replace the sidelined Kevin Bieksa with Frank Corrado, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to land another experienced defenseman. The Canucks also need another top-six forward. The Bruins scouts couldn’t have been impressed with Kassian’s poor performance against the Ducks. 

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: TSN’s Darren Dreger wondered if the St. Louis Blues might trade for Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul or Arizona’s Antoine Vermette…Dreger doesn’t believe the Leafs are strongly pursuing Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly…Bob McKenzie believes the bidding will be “fast and furious” leading up to the trade deadline on Carolina’s Andrej Sekera, Toronto’s Cody Franson and Arizona’s Zbynek Michalek. This trio of defensemen are eligible for UFA status this summer and playing for non-playoff clubs… Pierre LeBrun would love to see Jaromir Jagr dealt to the Montreal Canadiens but doesn’t expect it to happen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why anyone would want the injury-plagued Lupul and his $5.25 million cap hit through 2018 is beyond me. As for the Blues, they shipped Maxim Lapierre yesterday to Pittsburgh for Marcel Goc, so maybe that’s their big depth move…The Avalanche don’t have to move O’Reilly this season. If they do, there will be considerable interest in him…Jagr’s not coming to Montreal. I don’t see how he’s a fit with the speedy Habs. 

NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford cites a series of tweets from Raleigh News & Observer reporter Chip Alexander noting the growing frustration Hurricanes coach Bill Peters feels toward expensive, underperforming forward Alexander Semin. Alexander wonders if demotion and a contract buyout could be in Semin’s future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Semin’s like Mike Richards, a declining forward with a contract too expensive to trade. He has three more years at $7 million per season left on his contract, and I believe the Hurricanes have no choice but to buy him out in June.