Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate the "tradability" of Alexei Kovalev, plus share the latest on Tomas Kaberle, Joni Pitkanen and John-Michael Liles:
Burnside: How's the weather in Tampa? It looked like it was pretty hot last night when the two best teams in the Eastern Conference tangled and Philadelphia edged the Lightning in a 4-3 shootout.
How did you think Kris Versteeg looked in his first game with the Flyers after being dealt by Toronto on Monday? I saw he got a chance in the shootout, but couldn't beat Dwayne Roloson, another traded player making a big impact with his new team.
Hard to imagine the Flyers doing much more before the Feb. 28 trade deadline given their cap situation, but what about the Lightning? You had a chance to chat with GM Steve Yzerman; will he be looking for defensive help given how wide open the East is with Pittsburgh and Washington both falling back for various reasons? One thing is for sure: There won't be many dull moments between now and the deadline.
LeBrun: Versteeg looked a little out of sorts in the first period, but settled down in the second and third periods alongside Mike Richards. I think he'll be fine in that role. Nikolay Zherdev, meanwhile, took a seat in the press box again last night, and from what I'm hearing, the Flyers are looking to see if there are any takers for him. He just hasn't fit. But while the first-place Flyers picked up Versteeg, the second-place Bolts don't feel the need to necessarily respond.
"We're going to run our team and make or not make whatever moves are necessary based on what we have to do, and I can't react to what another club is doing," Yzerman told a few of us Tuesday. "Obviously giving up draft picks and adding a talented, legitimate player, they've deepened their roster and improved their team, but it really doesn't affect what we want to do."
Yzerman was coy when asked what he was specifically looking for.
"You're constantly trying to improve your team," Yzerman said. "If there's something that would make sense to help us this year or even beyond this year, you'd have to consider it."
With the injury to Mike Lundin (abdominal), I would add another blueliner, if possible, if I were Yzerman. But the GM also made it clear he has no interest in dealing away his first- or second-round picks.
Burnside: Maybe Yzerman will get in on the Tomas Kaberle sweepstakes. A lot of rumors about whether the Toronto defenseman has agreed to a trade and if the only team he'll OK is Boston.
Let me say this about that: Kaberle must really want to play in the playoffs if he's limited Toronto GM Brian Burke to dealing with only one team. I know it's Kaberle's prerogative, but if that's the case, you have to question the man's determination to play hockey at its highest level at the most important time of the season. He hasn't played in a playoff game since the lockout (like the Leafs) and if I'm a GM, I have to worry about committing assets for a player whose priority seems to be getting to the nearest golf course come April.
But I'm more interested in what you think about a couple of other defensemen: Joni Pitkanen in Carolina and John-Michael Liles in Denver. Pitkanen can become an unrestricted free agent this summer and logs a ton of minutes. The Canes are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, but GM Jim Rutherford won't be keen on seeing Pitkanen walk on July 1. I am guessing the GM will look at the market if he doesn't think he can sign him.
Liles was on the block in 2009-10, but has played well for long stretches this season for the Avs. But Colorado is in the tank, and you have to believe GM Greg Sherman will be looking to clear some veteran salary before Feb. 28. Liles might be a nice alternative to Kaberle given his skating and puck-handling skills.
LeBrun: A source close to Kaberle told us last night the defenseman had not waived his no-trade clause for any team, but it's clear the Bruins would fit the bill and Kaberle is among the blueliners the Bruins covet. As for Pitkanen, I don't think the Canes will move him unless they fall further back over the next 12 days.
The Avs have done plenty of falling back, and Liles would be a nice consolation prize for the failed Kaberle suitors. There was a trade last night in which Ottawa sent checking center Chris Kelly to the B's for a second-round pick. And the dismantling Sens aren't done.
"Well I hope there's another one or two moves," Sens GM Bryan Murray told me this morning. "We've got a couple of unrestricted [free-agent] guys I haven't touched yet. It depends what I get offered, obviously, but certainly there's a few more veterans I'd look to move."
Defenseman Chris Phillips is one of those UFAs, but there were no new trade developments there as of Wednesday morning.
Murray indicated veteran agent J.P. Barry of CAA was now helping Stacey McAlpine in representing Phillips and they were discussing things before getting back to him. Phillips has a no-trade clause.
Burnside: The player I'm most curious about in Ottawa is Alexei Kovalev. The enigmatic winger has been a dog in Ottawa, everyone knows that. But there's still something about his skill set and the possibility he could regain his fire over a few short weeks (especially with his contract in Ottawa coming to an end) that will make him attractive to some GM.
I talked to a scout last night that thought he would be a nice fit in Pittsburgh (assuming Sidney Crosby returns at some point from a concussion), and I tend to agree. Can't believe Murray would be asking for anything of value (fourth-round pick? fifth?) to get Kovalev and his salary off the books. Remember, in Kovalev's last 22 playoffs games, all with Montreal, he had 21 points. Hmm.
LeBrun: With every trade, the market price adjusts. Kelly went for a second-round pick, which seems a little high. He's not a rental, having one more year on his deal next season at $2 million. Once again, a non-rental moved yesterday. Francois Beauchemin, Versteeg, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Fisher and Kelly all have term left on their deals past this season. So, to answer your question on Kovalev, the market has yet to yield a price for rentals this close to the deadline. Until tomorrow, my friend.