Rumblings: Decision time for bubble teams
February, 28, 2014
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyThe return of Pekka Rinne would be the best acquisition the Preds could make at the deadline.We lead our blog for the second day in a row with a bubble team that’s in a tough spot: the Nashville Predators.
Just four points out of a playoff spot on Friday morning, do they pull the plug or keep up the fight?
Enter veteran GM David Poile.
"I talked to almost everybody before the Olympic break; I’ve probably spoken to half of the teams this week," Poile told ESPN.com Friday afternoon.
"Everybody knows from my standpoint what we have available. I’m certainly aware that we’ve come from nine points out of the playoffs to four points out. That gives us a chance to make the playoffs. I know we have to leap over some teams to do it, so the odds are against us, but hope springs eternal.
"From my standpoint, I don’t consider myself a buyer, I don’t consider myself a seller. I could just be neutral given where we are."
The most impactful move for Nashville might be just under its own nose.
Star netminder Pekka Rinne, out most of the season with a bacterial hip infection, was slated to play for AHL Milwaukee on Friday night.
"What might be the best trade-deadline acquisition for us might be Pekka Rinne," Poile said, "if he’s able to come and play with us soon."
Rinne will be re-evaluated sometime early next week to determine where he’s at after a few AHL starts.
Meanwhile, center David Legwand is a pending unrestricted free agent and there’s no extension in sight at this point. But because he has a full no-movement clause, Poile is limited in his ability to explore the trade market.
So unless an offer comes along that both blows Poile away and is something Legwand wants, he might just be staying put and helping the Predators’ playoff push.
Finally, I had to ask, because every once in a while Shea Weber’s name gets thrown out there. It’s probably because he’s due a $13 million signing bonus again this summer, and some people wonder if the budget-conscious Predators would entertain offers in June before that payment is due.
Forget it, says Poile.
"We’re not trading Shea. We’ve told that to everybody. People ask and it’s their right to ask, but we’re not trading him," Poile said firmly.
"Our defense is young, it’s got a great future. We’ve got Pekka coming back at some point."
I had the Predators in the playoffs this season when I made my September predictions. I love the blue-line corps but had counted on a healthy Rinne. This team isn’t that far away. No reason for Poile to be blowing things up. A trade here and there? Possibly. But I don’t foresee anything drastic.
Ducks goalie chatterAnaheim GM Bob Murray came out strongly earlier this season in this very space and said he was not going to trade Jonas Hiller despite the fact that he’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Ducks may lose him for nothing.
You don’t deal your No. 1 goalie when you’re a Cup contender.
But a couple of sources around the league on Friday suggested Murray might be willing to move another goalie.
Now, I can’t see prized youngsters John Gibson or Frederik Andersen going anywhere. So by process of elimination, I’m guessing Viktor Fasth might be had for the right price. He is signed for another season at $2.9 million, which is quite affordable for a guy who has shown he's capable of No. 1 duties and at the very least would give a team tremendous insurance in goal behind an established starter.
Keep an eye on that one.
Capitals working on moving EratThe Washington Capitals are another bubble team that I don’t think will be active on the rental market for pending unrestricted free agents, but if there’s a hockey deal to be head, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them act.
In the meantime, Washington’s priority is an old one turned new again.
Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty ImagesMartin Erat still wants out of Washington, a request Caps GM George McPhee is trying to grant.
"The only thing I’m working on that has to be done is moving [Martin] Erat," Caps GM George McPhee told ESPN.com Friday morning.
"There are some teams interested. He still wants out. I’d love to be able to do it this weekend. But we’ll see."
Erat asked for a trade early in the season and remains steadfast on getting out despite getting more playing time as the season has progressed. He also asked to be dealt out of Nashville last season.
Meanwhile, there were rumors over the last month that the Caps might be the mystery team involved in the Ryan Miller derby. I don’t see that. While McPhee refused to comment on it, my own read on it is that the Caps need/want to give Braden Holtby every possible chance to be their No. 1 goaltender and figure out once and for all what they have in him.
Sens interested in StewartWe have reported before that the Ottawa Senators have made it a priority to acquire a forward before the deadline.
The Senators have inquired with the St. Louis Blues about Chris Stewart, according to a source. But the asking price appears to be too high at the moment, so nothing is imminent.
Stewart and his $4.15 million salary are signed through the 2014-15 season.
Markov's futureHad a chance to catch up with former NHLer Sergei Berezin, who is now representing his pal Andrei Markov in contract talks with the Montreal Canadiens.
It’s clear that term is an issue given that Markov is 35 and any new deal would count against the cap regardless of whether he plays through it.
There were reports this past week that offers had recently been exchanged. It’s believed the Habs offered a one-year deal and that Markov’s camp opened at four years. My guess is Montreal might be willing to go to two years. Maybe. But certainly not any past that.
"I can’t say much -- we agreed not to say much -- but talks are ongoing and Andrei wants to stay in Montreal," Berezin told ESPN.com Friday. "We’ll see where it goes. He’s played 13 seasons with Montreal. He wants to finish his career in Montreal."
I can’t imagine the Habs would move Markov if he’s unsigned by Wednesday’s deadline, not with the team sitting in a playoff spot. I mean, I never say never because they could get blown away by an offer. But it would really surprise me.
Berezin has temporary certification from the NHL Players’ Association as an agent while the union reviews his application to become a full-time agent.
"We’ve been long friends for 15 years if not longer; we grew up in the same city in Russia," Berezin said.
They played briefly together in Montreal near the end of Berezin's career.
"He’s like family to me. I train him in the summer," Berezin said.
Flyers interested in KeslerNo shortage of teams interested in Canucks center Ryan Kesler, and you can add Philadelphia to that list. Mind you, the Flyers could be just as interested in Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler.
Have to imagine that the Canucks’ asking price in any Kesler deal would start with Brayden Schenn, and I’m not sure the Flyers would go there.
Edler would actually address Philly’s more pressing need, upgrading its blue line. But again, how much does Vancouver want?
Good friend Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted Thursday night that he believes the Penguins talked to Vancouver about Kesler, as well. I wrote Thursday about Detroit and Columbus as obvious fits.
Again, when it comes to Kesler, who has two more years on his deal at a bargain $5 million per year, there is lots of interest.
This is Vancouver’s big chip to play, whether it’s now or in June, in terms of reshaping their roster and getting younger without going into a full-blown rebuild.
Sabres' selling listESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance and my TSN teammate Bob McKenzie reported that Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has submitted a list of eight teams he doesn’t want to be dealt to as part of his modified no-trade clause.
So add Ehrhoff to the long list of Sabres in play.
I spoke with an NHL team executive before the Olympic break who suggested Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers could also be had for the right price.
New Sabres GM Tim Murray intends to be a busy man in reshaping his team before Wednesday’s trade deadline, but also in the offseason.
Frankly, there are few untouchables. He’s massively open for business.
Oilers' selling listEasy to figure out what names are available in Edmonton; most of them are pending unrestricted free agents, led by winger Ales Hemsky, who I hear is getting decent traction on the market.
It’s a guarantee he gets dealt before Wednesday. He’s a nice Plan B for those teams that strike out on Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson. Hemsky can still play; I thought he looked good in Sochi for the Czech Republic.
Veteran Oilers winger Ryan Smyth is also a pending unrestricted free agent and could move. I think he’d be a terrific addition for one of the top contenders. He’d accept a fourth-line role on a Cup contender and his character goes without saying.
Nick Schultz is also an unrestricted free agent and will likely be moved as a depth defenseman addition to a contender.
The Kings and Oilers were in heavy talks on center Sam Gagner before the Olympic break, as we reported, but that deal fell apart because Edmonton balked at eating so much of the money on that contract, which still has two more seasons.
Hurricane watchThe Hurricanes have dropped two straight coming out of the Olympic break, and overall they have lost four of five in regulation this month.
Next up? Games in L.A., Anaheim and San Jose before Wednesday’s trade deadline, about as tough a schedule as there is.
The Hurricanes are five points behind Philadelphia for the last playoff spot available in the East, so don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of selling going on before Wednesday. Money is always a consideration with small-market Carolina, and I suspect there will be an interest to lighten the payroll a bit.
Whether the Hurricanes can find a taker for Tuomo Ruutu (two more years at $4.75 million per) or deal one of their three goalies, you get the sense that something’s got to give in Carolina.