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Friday, January 6, 2012
Trade rumblings: Leafs, Bolts, Ducks in mix


The longer Sidney Crosby sits out, the more rumors will swirl about his future.

There are rumors speculating that he’s either going to be shut down for the season or that his career could be over.

That’s news to the person who manages his career.

"Sidney is doing very well, he’s training, he’s going in the right direction," agent Pat Brisson of CAA Sports told ESPN.com Friday. "The idea of retiring or shutting him down is not even in our vocabulary. Far from that."

"Absolutely zero truth to these rumors," added Penguins general manager Ray Shero to ESPN.com on Friday.

It’s status quo at this point. Shero said that there is no change from what head coach Dan Bylsma said last week: Crosby still has concussion symptoms, and there’s no timetable for his return.

Leafs' trade priorities


Brian Burke has made big deals in January. For example, Dion Phaneuf was acquired on Jan. 31, 2010, and Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner were acquired Feb. 9 last season, three weeks before the trade deadline.

Ryan Getzlaf
Anaheim GM Bob Murray made some waves when he said any player on his roster could be available. Could Ryan Getzlaf be on the move?
Burke likes to get a jumpstart on the competition.

"I do try to get my lineup set well in advance of the deadline," Burke told ESPN.com Friday. "I’ve never been a deadline guy. So January is when I try to make a splash."

How’s it going on that front now?

"We are listening to a lot right now, and there is a good chance something will happen, but I don’t think it’s going to happen today or tomorrow," Burke said. "This is like hunting. Sometimes when you’re hunting, you get a feeling you’re going to stumble on something, or birds are coming in and you get a sixth sense something is about to happen. I don’t sense that here right now. We’re talking to a lot of teams about a number of things -- mostly we’re listening because we like our group -- but I can’t sense if something is imminent or not. Right now I’d say it’s not."

As we always say at this time of year, that can change in one phone call.

The Leafs’ trade priority is to add a piece up front for the top-six group.

"Our forward group is small," Burke said. "If we can add some size up front, we would."

To do that, the Leafs are willing to move a defenseman, the area on the team where they have the most depth.

There have been rumors about the Leafs looking at goaltending, but Burke shot that down.

"Not a chance," Burke said emphatically. "We’re not talking to any teams right now about getting a goalie."

Leafs fans got pretty excited this week with the news that Anaheim star center Ryan Getzlaf might be available. And while Burke refused to get into specific names, you can bet the Leafs general manager would love to get re-acquainted with his former player. But at this point, I don’t see a fit given what Anaheim would want back in any Getzlaf deal. If the Leafs get in on Getzlaf at all, it’s going to be in the offseason, in my opinion.

Yzerman's to-do list


The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the weekend 12th in the Eastern Conference, seven points out a playoff spot and most notably, dead last in the NHL in goals against.

It doesn’t take high-end sleuthing skills to figure out a top defenseman and a netminder top Tampa’s wish list. GM Steve Yzerman made a minor move Friday, acquiring defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Blair Jones. But he’s got bigger moves in mind if at all possible.

"We’re always trying to improve the team, particularly when our record hasn’t been great," Yzerman told ESPN.com Thursday night.

Dwayne Roloson
The aging Dwayne Roloson has struggled this season, so goaltending is obviously on Tampa's wish list.
Talks tend to heat up closer to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, but from where I sit, I think Yzerman will be in a better position to achieve his goals in the offseason. I don’t think he wants to give up a draft pick or a prospect for a rental player, especially with the playoffs in question. Most of the players available at the deadline are expiring contracts. Unless something comes together regarding a young starting netminder or a top-four defenseman, my bet is that the offseason will work better for Yzerman.

"I think I look at both, short term and big picture," Yzerman said. "I’m not going to do something out of desperation that’s going to hurt us in the long run, by trading draft picks and a good prospect or something like that. Any deal has got to make sense for us long term. So that makes it tricky."

The aging Dwayne Roloson has struggled this season, and backup Mathieu Garon is just that, a backup. So the Bolts will need to find a true answer in goal. I’d be surprised if Tampa didn’t inquire about either Cory Schneider in Vancouver or Jonathan Bernier in Los Angeles -- among other young options -- but again, those types of deals seem to adhere themselves more toward the offseason. It just so happens the Canucks are in Tampa on Tuesday. I’d be shocked if Yzerman and Vancouver GM Mike Gillis didn’t at least have a coffee together ...

A top-four defenseman has been on Yzerman’s list since October. But teams just don’t deal those guys away.

"Nobody is trading a top-four defenseman -- nobody, unless you want to trade a superstar to get one," said Yzerman. "Otherwise, nobody is trading a top-four defenseman. They want those guys, and they need them."

Ducks GM makes headlines


Anaheim GM Bob Murray made some waves earlier this week with his comments to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register and Hall of Fame columnist Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times, saying that other than Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, any other player on his roster was available.

Murray, frustrated by his team’s dismal display this season, didn’t back down from that sentiment Friday morning.

"What I said is what I said," Murray told ESPN.com. "Right now I’m listening to everything. It would be very difficult to make the type of deals I want, but I’m listening for sure. I still think we have a decent core here, but we’re maybe going to have to change a piece or two."

Odds are, especially if it’s a trade involving Ryan Getzlaf or Bobby Ryan, it might wait until the offseason around the June entry draft so that more teams can be involved in the bidding and more pieces can be involved.

"But sometimes blockbusters happen at the trade deadline," Murray said. "You never know."

Know this: Murray is going to be ultra-patient with this. He’s not in a hurry and he’s not interested in a total rebuild. He won’t do that to his fans, he said. If he makes a big move or two over the next year, it’s going to be to make the team better both in the short term and long term.

Fact is, almost every team in the league has either already called about Getzlaf or certainly will. But not all of them have the goods to get in on the top floor of those discussions. My belief is that Murray would want a young core player or two in return. Not every team can deliver on that.

Just guessing here, but two clubs that I believe would possibly have a fit for the Ducks are Buffalo and Philadelphia. The Sabres need to do something given how their season has gone, and whether it’s Getzlaf or Ryan, that would be a statement deal for Sabres GM Darcy Regier. The Flyers need a defenseman more than anything with Chris Pronger’s season-ending injuries. Given Murray’s statement that basically everyone is available on his roster, if I were Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, I’d be kicking the tires on either Lubomir Visnovsky or Toni Lydman ...

Blackhawks' wish list


Chicago GM Stan Bowman has been working the phones since late November looking to see what’s out there to help his Cup-contending squad.

But it takes two to tango, and right now there’s nothing imminent, despite his preference to get it done long before the trade deadline, Bowman told ESPN.com Friday.

Specifically, Bowman said Friday, he would like to acquire a 4-5 defenseman as well as a center that could play in his top-six group.

"We’re kind of looking for a guy that is playing top four on another team but maybe on our team doesn’t have to play in that role," Bowman said. "We’d like to upgrade on our third pairing."

Up front, while the Hawks have tried Patrick Kane at center and they know Patrick Sharp can also play center, they’d like to bring someone in to play center behind Jonathan Toews.

"Ideally, I’d like to find a center man," Bowman said. "It doesn’t have to be a top center man, but somebody that can play and complement top players."

If the Hawks can’t find a natural center, they’d settle for a winger that can play in the top-six group, Bowman said.

"We don’t have a lot of holes," Bowman said. "I like our depth in youth as well. These kids we have can play."

But he’s looking for short-term security and depth, which is what all contending teams need to do.

Lupul's dream season


Joffrey Lupul entered the weekend sixth in NHL scoring with 45 points (18-27) in 40 games, a stunning comeback season for a player whose career was threatened by serious back issues during his time in Anaheim.

When he got to Toronto almost a year ago (Feb. 9), he was nowhere near the player he is right now.

"Physically I’m in better shape, I’m stronger, I’m playing pain-free, which is obviously a big bonus," Lupul told ESPN.com this week. "When you have success, your confidence starts growing, and I’m definitely making plays now that I wouldn’t have made a year ago; it wouldn’t have crossed my mind. It’s nice to have that confidence. You just want to keep things rolling now and keep playing that way every night."

Lupul’s parternship with Phil Kessel has produced one of the more lethal 1-2 punches in the league. Lupul said opposing teams key on Kessel, which opens up ice for him. That’s a big bonus, he said.

Perhaps defenses will soon realize Mr. Lupul is worth covering, too.