But the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers are also going to make sure it doesn’t derail their big-picture thinking, either.
"It depends what it’s going to cost us, we’re going to look at everything, like we always do," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said by phone Monday.
"We’ll make a decision based on what the cost is and if it affects our future or not. Those are the two most important things. We want to make sure we don’t give up too much for a player we might not sign. It has to be the right fit. But we’ll look into it, we’ll see what makes sense."
I wouldn’t read into that that rental players are off the list. A year ago, Tallon traded for pending unrestricted free agent Jaromir Jagr and then re-signed him. And that was for a team that missed the playoffs.
I think pending UFAs are absolutely possible again this time around but, as Tallon said, for the right price.
While Tallon would not venture into names, I will do so for him. I believe there’s no question Andrew Ladd is a guy on his target list if and when the Winnipeg Jets make him available -- which is no sure thing yet -- and if the price isn’t exorbitant.
Ladd would be a tremendous fit in Florida: A guy you can plug in anywhere in the top nine, a gritty leader who would bring character and a Cup ring to the mix.
Tallon has already traded for Ladd once in his career, getting the 6-foot-3 winger from the Carolina Hurricanes in February 2008 in exchange for Tuomo Ruutu. So there’s a shared history there in Chicago.
But again, some key questions still to be determined.
Are the Jets actually going to end up trading their captain? No question that the Jets will first try to take another stab at signing him before that. I expect both sides to talk again within the next two weeks. Both sides already are ready to do six years, but can they find the right salary range?
And even if the Jets do put him on the trade market, there will be a long list of teams in the mix competing with Florida.
But man, what a fit for the Panthers in my mind. Just perfect.
Simon Despres is back in the Anaheim Ducks lineup after a three-month injury absence and star Cam Fowler should be back after the All-Star break. That means the Ducks have decisions to make on their deep blue line. The easiest solution would be to send Shea Theodore back to AHL San Diego but he’s played so well since being called up. The other possibility, of course, between now and Feb. 29 is that the Ducks deal from their area of strength on defense to augment the offense up front. And I think that’s something Ducks GM Bob Murray has put much thought into.
The Vancouver Canucks woke up Tuesday two points out of a playoff spot. How they fare over the next three weeks or so will impact some decision-making in particular on pending UFA Radim Vrbata. If the Canucks are still very much in playoff contention, I think they’re willing to hang onto Vrbata for the stretch run even if it means losing him for nothing on July 1. Gaining cap space is a tool for a big-market team like the Canucks. I think Vancouver plans to be a player July 1 with up to $15 million coming off the books. Pending UFA winger Loui Eriksson, for one, would look great playing alongside the Sedin twins next season. But whether it’s him or other high-profile UFAs, I think Canucks GM Jim Benning will go fishing this summer while he continues to rebuild the foundation. It’s that delicate balance of trying to retool for the future while also staying competitive in the present. San Jose has done it the last few seasons. Vancouver is trying, too.
Columbus star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is out for the third time this season with the same sore groin.
"Anybody who said he wasn’t concerned would be lying," Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said over the phone Monday. "But it’s been assured to us that it’s not something that’s not chronic like a knee injury where you could expect it to get worse and worse after a re-occurrence. But that’s not the case with soft tissue here. We’re doing everything we can to make sure he comes back stronger and better than ever and hoping that this doesn’t occur again."
It’s worth noting that Bobrovsky also suffered a groin injury last season. The former Vezina Trophy winner’s injury issues the last two seasons have had a major impact on the team’s seasons being derailed. Just ask Montreal how that feels. The point is, the Jackets need their $7.425-million-a-year star netminder healthy next season when it’s time to care again about winning.
The Jackets had their best run this season when Bobrovsky finally found his game after a brutal start. But then the groin injuries started. This roster is better on paper than what the win-loss record shows. But like most teams in this league, when you get inferior goaltending over too long a stretch, it’s going to deep-six you. The Jackets now are looking at picking up a nice draft pick in June. But the predominant storyline heading into next season is whether Bobrovsky can stay in net. If he doesn’t, they’ll be right back here again.
Team Canada's World Cup management staff met for 4.5 hours Tuesday in Vancouver and whittled down their list to 18-20 players for the first batch of 16 players that need to be announced by March 2. The debate is whether to name two or three goalies March 2 and leave as much flexibility on defense and forward sports for the final seven players to be named on June 1.