- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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CHICAGO -- A little break from the Stanley Cup finals to dive into a bit of offseason gossip:
Let’s start with Bryan Bickell, the man I call the Human Cash Register. The pending UFA will be the top priority for the Chicago Blackhawks once the finals are over, with the clock ticking rapidly toward the opening of the free-agent market July 5.
If the Blackhawks are unable to re-sign him, and I’m not saying they won’t, but if Bickell does end up in the market, keep an eye on the Montreal Canadiens. GM Marc Bergevin knows Bickell from Bergevin's days in the Chicago front office and was part of the scouting staff that recruited Bickell. I’m told the Habs covet Bickell, who would bring them the kind of size they’re looking to add for their top-six group, although I don’t think Montreal will overpay, either, with a contract that tips the scales. Still, there’s definitely interest from the Habs.
• Speaking of contracts, look for the Boston Bruins to sign star center Patrice Bergeron to a long-term extension. Bergeron has another season left on his deal but the Bruins will ink him this summer and very likely to the maximum eight years allowed in the CBA when re-signing your own players.
• Jonathan Bernier will finally escape Jonathan Quick's shadow in L.A. A source told ESPN.com Friday that the Los Angeles Kings have spoken with about 10 clubs about Bernier’s availability. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s traded before or at the draft.
• Colleague Craig Custance had a good blog Friday on the Kris Letang situation. To me it’s almost a guarantee that if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t soon sign Letang to an extension (he’s got one more year on his deal), GM Ray Shero will hit the trade market in a hurry after that. Consider how the Jordan Staal situation played out a year ago: Once Staal rejected a contract extension, he was dealt quickly thereafter.
• There were rumblings recently about whether the Montreal Canadiens would contemplate making Carey Price available. Forget about it, not going to happen. No chance.
• And finally, preliminary contract talks have begun between the Philadelphia Flyers and the camp for star center Claude Giroux. The native of Hearst, Ontario, has another season left on his current deal but both sides are keen on getting his extension done this offseason.