- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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All eyes are on the Boston Bruins now after fellow Eastern powerhouse Pittsburgh upped the ante with a pair of additions.
But it doesn’t change what Boston had planned to do, really.
The plan all along for the B’s was to try to improve both their forward group and their defense corps before the April 3 trade deadline, and that remains the case regardless of what the Penguins did.
"I certainly don’t gauge our strategy on what other teams are doing, but Pittsburgh is a very good team and they’ve made themselves better," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told ESPN.com Tuesday morning. "It doesn’t accelerate anything, you can’t force anything; you try to find a fit and you try to improve your team. The Penguins made themselves better. We’ll see in the coming week in a bit how other teams make themselves better, and we plan on doing the same thing."
The Bruins are believed to have made an offer for Brenden Morrow but lost out to the Penguins. The big fish remains Jarome Iginla, the Flames' captain in play, with the likes of Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles showing interest.
It’s believed the price for Iginla is a first-round pick plus two young assets, a hefty sum, but one I believe the Bruins would be willing to pay.
Regardless, if they can’t get Iginla, there are other possibilities. Keep an eye on Ryane Clowe in San Jose, a pending UFA the Sharks will likely move. He’d fit well in Boston. And while the Dallas Stars are trying to re-sign Jaromir Jagr to keep him for next season, if those talks fail, he’d be another possibility.
Either way, the Morrow deal on Sunday helped loosen up the trade market.
"Certainly, there was a lot more chatter on Monday morning," said Chiarelli. "But that’s how it goes every year. There’s an ebb and flow."
What's up, Mike Smith?
An under-the-radar story in some ways has been the situation of Mike Smith in Phoenix.
The 31-year-old netminder, coming off a sensational 2011-12 season, is slated for unrestricted free agency in July. Sources say there have been talks between Smith’s camp and Coyotes management, but I’d be pretty surprised if Smith signs before he has a clearer idea of the ownership situation in Phoenix.
Which puts the Coyotes in a bit of a pickle come April if the team continues to fall out of the playoff race. The team has gone winless in six games to fall four points behind the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the Coyotes get to April 3 and Smith remains unsigned, what do they do if teams are calling about him? Do they recoup assets or hang in with him, hoping to get him signed before July 5?
It’ll be interesting to monitor.
A pending pursuit of Clarkson
Alexander Semin's signing Monday night further depleted what will be a meager-looking UFA crop come July 5.
But some intriguing names are still left out there, including two of the game’s premier power forwards.
We’ve talked before about Ryane Clowe and how contract talks with the Sharks haven’t produced an extension, so he’s looking likely to be dealt before April 3, and thus perhaps will be free-agent bound July 5.
But another name to keep an eye on is David Clarkson. A source told ESPN.com Monday night that the Devils and Clarkson’s camp have not talked once this season about an extension, which isn’t surprising because veteran GM Lou Lamoriello has often shown he’s content to wait until after the season to get that going with his UFAs. And Lamoriello told ESPN.com recently teams should know better than to phone about Clarkson because he’s not available.
However, if Lamoriello can’t get the center re-signed after the season, there won't be many more desirable players on the market than Clarkson, a top-six goal scorer with toughness and grit. Can you say Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Minnesota? So many teams are looking for that kind of player. It’s a good year to be David Clarkson.
Semin rewarded for stepping up
But the Hurricanes had seen enough of him in this lockout-shortened season to keep him on board long-term. Signed to a one-year, $7 million deal last summer, Semin has produced a point per game, meshing well with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty on the top line.
"He’s given the Hurricanes a dominant first line," veteran Carolina GM Jim Rutherford told ESPN.com Tuesday. "All three of those guys on that line have played well and all deserve credit in their own way as a contributing factor. Alex is an elite player who can put points up, which is always hard to find. Our experience with Alex has been very good, so we’re pleased we could retain him."
Fact is, while some team executives around the league wondered about the term given to Semin, you can’t blame Rutherford for wanting to keep the winger. It’s a thin free-agent crop this summer, and Semin would have been very difficult to replace. In fact, the Hurricanes had been looking for that kind of scoring winger for a few years before finally adding him last summer. So they wanted to keep him.
No doubt, there are those who will say Semin is a bad gamble, that the reason Washington kept him on those one-year contracts is because the Capitals didn’t trust him enough to stay motivated under a long-term deal.
Well, he’s been terrific in Carolina and his teammates like him. Furthermore, nobody batted an eye when Anaheim signed Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year extension earlier this month, and it just so happens that while the Ducks' captain is on fire this season, he had a pair of disappointing seasons (at least by his standards) before this season.
High-end, offensive talent costs money to keep around. Carolina has no qualms about its decision to retain Semin.
A day after signing Semin, the Hurricanes placed forward Jussi Jokinen on waivers Tuesday. In part it's because the Hurricanes feel good about Riley Nash as their third-line center -- Nash was recalled from the AHL on Monday -- but also in part so the Hurricanes can hopefully get another team to scoop up Jokinen's contract. He's got one more year left on his deal at $3 million next season.