Daily Debate: Will mass exodus continue in Ottawa?
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate which player will leave Ottawa next, plus give updates on Tomas Vokoun and Brad Richards:
Burnside: Good day, my friend. Hope you pack your woolies for your trip to Calgary. I am en route to Minnesota and Chicago for Hockey Weekend Across America.
But before all of that, GM Bryan Murray is making good on his promise to clean house. First, he sent Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim for a sixth-round pick Thursday, and Friday he swaps goalies, sending Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson. And there are still a couple of big pieces left for Murray to move.
Chris Phillips has made noises about wanting to stick around, but my guess is Murray will ask him to take one for the team and then try to trade him to Boston or Montreal. He can always re-sign him in the offseason if Phillips really wants to come back.
The player I never hear much about is captain Daniel Alfredsson. Murray has received top value back for earlier trades -- Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly -- and with a dearth of quality offensive players available, don't you think there'd be a market for the classy captain even if he is starting to show his age? Alfredsson has two years left at a very affordable $4.875 million cap hit, so maybe that's why the Sens keep him. But if this is truly about starting from scratch, will Murray have that discussion with Alfredsson if he hasn't already?
Hey, maybe Murray could get Blake Wheeler out of Boston, a useful player who looks like he's on his way out because of the Kelly acquisition. The Bruins also want to add more quality along the blue line and possibly up front. Just saying.
LeBrun: Scotty, I'm on my way to Calgary this afternoon for the Heritage Classic; should be a blast Sunday. To start with the Sens, Murray told me a few weeks ago he and owner Eugene Melnyk decided Alfredsson wasn't going anywhere. That's not surprising because Alfredsson has a job in the organization waiting for him after his playing career is over; he'll be a Senator for life.
But I exchanged text messages with Murray this morning and he indicated he's hoping he's not done wheeling and dealing between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline. I think players such as Chris Neil, Filip Kuba and Alexei Kovalev are available. The New York Rangers were linked to Kuba in rumors yesterday because coach John Tortorella liked him in Tampa, but I don't think the Rangers like his contract at $3.7 million next season.
Phillips, meanwhile, continues to be an intriguing situation. Murray won't pressure him to waive his no-movement clause, so the veteran blueliner holds all the cards. Much like defenseman Bryan McCabe does in Florida.
Burnside: Even though the Panthers are on the very edge of the playoff bubble (seven points out of eighth with two games in hand), GM Dale Tallon has never wavered from his plan of getting as young as possible as quickly as possible. That means players like Cory Stillman, Christopher Higgins and Radek Dvorak will all be available and likely with modest asking prices.
But the Panthers also have two big-ticket items in McCabe and netminder Tomas Vokoun. Both have no-move clauses and it's unlikely Tallon will re-sign either one given his budgetary concerns moving forward. He told me he's been getting more calls as the clock ticks toward Feb. 28.
We've talked about how many teams are looking for defensemen, and players who can pound the puck like McCabe will be in demand as a rental. The one guy whose name keeps popping up is center Stephen Weiss. There are very few pivots on the market, but don't look for Tallon to move Weiss even if he's never evolved into the franchise center the Panthers were hoping he'd be. Florida isn't deep down the middle to begin with, and finding a franchise center a la Jonathan Toews will be one of Tallon's priorities. I think Weiss stays unless a deal blows Tallon away.
Speaking of centers, we were discussing yesterday where Brad Richards may or may not land. Any update there?
LeBrun: Yes, Scotty, we speculated Richards may be a fit in Boston, but a Bruins source told me this morning they would not be a player if and when the Dallas Stars made the star center available. So nix that one.
Burnside: Yes, Habs defenseman James Wisniewski went down after taking a puck to the face last night in Edmonton, but reports are he's en route with the team to Calgary for the Heritage Classic. And even though they did add Paul Mara, who wasn't getting in the lineup in Anaheim, the Habs could sure use some help.
And what about Vancouver? A team that looked to have a plethora of defensemen a few weeks ago has now watched its blue line be decimated by injury. Kevin Bieksa is the latest to go out, with a broken foot. The dilemma for GM Mike Gillis is he can't be exactly sure who will be coming back into the lineup and when. The Canucks have a seven-point bulge at the top of the Western Conference, although Detroit has two games in hand. But the last thing Gillis wants to do is enter the playoffs with any question marks along the blue line. This looks like the Canucks' best chance to win a Stanley Cup, but there's more than a little uncertainty on how the team will proceed between now and the trade deadline.
LeBrun: The word out of the Canucks is they will stand pat for now, confident that most of their injured defensemen will be back for the playoffs. There's hope Dan Hamhuis (concussion) and Keith Ballard (MCL) could be back next week. Regardless of what they say, I still think Gillis will keep a close eye on the trade market for blueliners and make his decision closer to Feb. 28 once he has up-to-date medical information on his blue-line corps. Like you said, it's a Stanley Cup year for the Canucks and Gillis won't take that kind of chance. If his blue line looks healthier in 10 days, maybe he does stand pat.
Well, I'm off to Calgary, my friend. Enjoy the weekend in Minnesota!