Updates on Mike Richards, Zdeno Chara, Tomas Plekanec, the Sabres’ goaltending needs and more in your NHL rumor mill.
Highlights from Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts.”
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there is interest in former Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards, who is now an unrestricted free agent, claiming it was his contract and not his play which prevented other teams from acquiring him via trade. It’s believed the Kings were offering two or three prospects to the Calgary Flames and/or Edmonton Oilers as incentive to take Richards prior to his arrest in June for possession of a controlled substance at a Canada-US border checkpoint.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While Richards’ former contract (with its $5.75 million annual cap hit) was the major sticking point, the decline in his performance shouldn’t have been overlooked. If it was, then any general manager pursuing him was seriously deluded if they felt a change of scenery would improve his game. Indeed, in the wake of everything that’s happened since the Kings terminated Richards contract, I doubt teams are an enthralled as they were rumored to be during last season. Sure, I can see a GM taking a chance on Richards later in the season by inking him to a very affordable, prorated one-year deal, but I think they will approach with caution.
Friedman claims hearing a team made an inquiry about Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara last season but was rebuffed. He claims he has no evidence the club ever asked Chara to consider waiving his no-movement clause. If they do shop him, Friedman suggested the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets as destinations, but both clubs have limited cap space to absorb his contract. He believes Edmonton Oilers general manager and former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli loves Chara but doubts the Bruins make that deal. Friedman thinks pending UFA winger Loui Eriksson is a more likely trade candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Forget about Chara going to the Lightning or Blue Jackets. Even if he agreed to waive his movement clause for either club, they simply cannot afford to take on his $6.9 million annual cap hit through 2017-18 with shedding significant salary first. I also doubt he’ll agree to go to the Oilers, even with Chiarelli there. Besides, at his age and with his skills declining, Chara is not what the Oilers need to boost their blueline. I concur with Friedman’s suggestion that Eriksson, a UFA at season’s end, is a more likely trade candidate.
The Bruins have searched for blueline help for some time, and Friedman speculates the Carolina Hurricanes received some calls from other clubs after they lost defenseman James Wisniewski to a knee injury. However, the Bruins and Hurricanes won’t make nonsensical moves for quick fix solutions. Ditto the Buffalo Sabres, who lost starting goalie Robin Lehner to a high-ankle sprain for six-to-10 weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: So, no Luke Schenn or Mark Streit to the Bruins or Hurricanes? As for the Sabres, see my comments below.
Highlights from LeBrun’s latest “Rumblings.”
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports the Buffalo Sabres aren’t shopping for a replacement for sidelined starting goalie Robin Lehner…yet. They’re giving backup Chad Johnston a chance to play and called up Nathan Lieuwen to back him up. They could also call up promising Linus Ullmark at some point. “To me, trading for a goalie and not using who we have here first would be crazy,” said Sabres GM Tim Murray. However, LeBrun believes Murray could change his tune if those three struggle in Lehner’s absence. The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche are looking to move a goaltender. The Edmonton Oilers want to move recently-demoted Ben Scrivens, but the Sabres aren’t interested. LeBrun believes their top need is for a top-four defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a smart move to see how the goalies in your system will perform first before going shopping for help. One of them might step up and surprise. Still, if they struggle over the next two or three weeks, I think Murray puts in a call to the Flames or Avalanche.
LeBrun also noted agent Rick Curran, who represented Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, said there’s no timetable to getting a new deal done. Plekanec is a UFA at season’s end, but has said he’s unconcerned over the fact there’s been no contract talks. While Plekanec loves playing in Montreal and the Canadiens want to keep him, it’ll have to be at the right price.