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Can the Canadiens find a first-line center?

RDS.CA:  Francois Gagnon notes Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin expressing the difficulty in landing a first-line center via trade. While Bergevin claims the last major center to be acquired in a trade was San Jose trading for Joe Thornton, Gagnon points out the Dallas Stars in the past two years acquired Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. He suggests Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin could be available if the Penguins decide to restructure their roster to remains among the NHL’s elite team, though he also acknowledged it would be difficult to acquire Malkin. Gagnon also acknowledges it won’t be easy for Bergevin to find that elusive top-line center.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, the Stars acquired Seguin and Spezza, but only because the circumstances worked in their favor. For starters, at the time of the Seguin trade he was considered a promising player who had yet to reach his potential amid rumors he enjoyed the nightlife too much. The move was a bit of a gamble on the Stars part, though it did pan out better than expected. As for Spezza, there was only a limited number of teams he was willing to accept being dealt to, and the Stars just happened to be on his list.

Yes, Malkin would definitely address the Habs need for a first-line center. He would also address that need for at least a dozen other NHL clubs. Perhaps the Penguins will one day try to move Malkin, but they very clearly stated their intent to keep him several weeks ago and I see no indication they’re changing their minds.

While Bergevin was merely stating the obvious when using his Playstation analogy about the difficulty of acquiringa first-line center, that doesn’t mean he won’t try. He’s a GM who usually plays his cards close to the vest, as he demonstrated with his acquisitions of Thomas Vanek and Jeff Petry.  Bergevin will shop around for a top center but it remains to be seen if he can find one. 

Could the Oilers trade Nail Yakupov this summer for a defenseman?

Could the Edmonton Oilers trade Nail Yakupov this summer for a defenseman?

 Yakupov for Spurgeon?

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance noted the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson suggesting the Oilers offer up winger Nail Yakupov to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Jared Spurgeon. While noting Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has been bold in trading young players before when GM of the Boston Bruins (Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin), he could be more restrained after Seguin blossomed in Dallas.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports the basis of Matheson’s suggestion was an e-mail discussion between the two speculating over possible deals between the Oilers and Wild to address their respective needs. Russo points out there are no sources for this as it was merely two hockey writers chatting about what could make sense for both clubs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Chiarelli will try to bolster his club’s defense via trade or free agency this summer. If he intends to draw upon his depth in talent young forwards, Yakupov seems the likely candidate. We should have a clearer picture of Chiarelli’s plans, and if the Wild could be part of it, in a little over a month’s time, when the playoffs are over and the draft weekend approaches.

Updates on the Flyers.

CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Riday recently responded to reader questions over the offseason plans of the Philadelphia Flyers. When Flyers GM Ron Hextall would like to add a skilled winger, preferably at left wing, to play on the club’s top line, Riday notes there’s not many options available via trade or free agency to address that need. “Left wingers Erik Cole, Scottie Upshall, Curtis Glencross, Sean Bergenheim and Matt Beleskey are all set to become free agents. The top FA right wingers include Martin St. Louis, Michael Ryder, Joel Ward, Justin Williams and Drew Stafford,” write Riday, who suggests their best option could be giving Michael Raffl a shot on the top line next season.  Regarding Vincent Lecavalier, Riday acknowledges he’s a prime candidate to move because of the Flyers’ need to shed salary, but doubts there will be many suitors for the fading star.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall’s priority is to make room for one or two of his promising young blueliners next season. He’ll have an easier time trying to move Luke Schenn or Nicklas Grossmann than Lecavalier, whose contract and declining skills makes him very difficult to trade. If Hextall does go shopping for a scorer he’ll either have to move one of his good salaried players or pursue a more affordable option. I concur with Riday that Hextall’s best option could be Raffl. 

What will the Red Wings do with Weiss?

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan recently reports the Detroit Red Wings must decide in the next four-to-six weeks if Stephen Weiss ($4.9 million per season) remains part of their plans for next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll either have to trade him (which could involve retaining part of his remaining salary) or a contract buyout. The buyout period is June 15-30.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weiss was rumored to be part of the Wings trade-deadline pitch for Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Dion Phaneuf. They could try offering him up again for Phaneuf, or in another deal involving a swap of toxic contracts. Otherwise, their best course of action is a buyout