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Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Midweek rumblings: Kaberle rumors, GMs patient in Buffalo and Anaheim

By Pierre LeBrun

Kaberle rumors persist

For whatever reason, the Tomas Kaberle trade rumors have picked up again over the past week. That's news to the man who holds the key to any trade for the star Toronto defenseman because of a no-trade clause.

"There's no reason for any talk to commence," veteran agent Rick Curran of the Orr Hockey Group told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "Nothing has changed from our standpoint. So whatever the media has initiated and tried ... I can assure you it's certainly not coming from me and I know it's not coming from Tomas. ... My understanding of the situation is that unless we were to initiate conversation, then there shouldn't be one."

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has repeatedly gone on record, including with ESPN.com, as saying he would not ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause. When the Feb. 28 trade deadline rolls around, everyone involved in this situation will obviously have to have another chat. But if Kaberle wants to ride it out and walk away July 1 into unrestricted free agency, that's his right and his call.

Besides, with star blueliner Dion Phaneuf suffering a leg injury Tuesday night, Kaberle is hardly expendable at this point.

Buff-a-low

Somewhat overshadowed by the drama in New Jersey, at least on a national level, is the equally stunning start to the season for the Buffalo Sabres.

The defending Northeast Division champs carried a 3-7-2 record into Wednesday night's game at home against red-hot Boston, good for 14th place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of those famously maligned Devils.

The team that brought home the Vezina Trophy (Ryan Miller) and Calder Trophy (Tyler Myers) last season can't buy a win. This is a team I had pegged for another playoff berth, and I'm not the only one who is surprised at what has transpired.

"Yes, I'm somewhat surprised," Sabres GM Darcy Regier told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "It's hard to put a finger on what it is. I don't think it's just one thing, but generally, we haven't played well enough. It's something we have to rectify."

Regier is as patient as they come among the league's 30 GMs and, for the most part, it has served him well. Panic trades are not in his DNA. The offseason is usually when he does his personnel work. But, yes, he's looking around.

"Working the phones is happening now," Regier said. "I think that's something that happens in the background for most managers regardless. It's one thing to work the phones, and it's one thing to get something that works for you. And there's times where maybe you're looking a bit more than others. ... For now, we're going to continue to take a patient approach and I'll continue to talk to my [GM] counterparts and hopefully we can right this season in the near future."

When a team that has high expectations struggles in the opening month, the question that gets asked is about the coach's job. Of course, this isn't just any old coach, it's the NHL's longest-tenured bench boss in Lindy Ruff, a former Jack Adams Award winner. Personally, I don't see how replacing him could possibly solve anything, and it's not something on the GM's mind, either.

"No, it's not," Regier said. "We've been through a lot of these situations together and we'll get through this situation, as well."

If the losses keep mounting, a trade seems like the most obvious path, even for the ultra-patient Regier.

Dire Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks are off to another shaky start at 4-7-1 (14th in West), and it hasn't taken long for the coach watch to start with Randy Carlyle. GM Bob Murray quickly jumped on those rumors, telling local media Monday his coach was safe, a comment he reiterated to me Tuesday.

"I've got a good coach and he's got a hell of a record," Murray told ESPN.com. "He's won a Stanley Cup. He knows how to win."

The message from Murray is simple: The coach isn't going anywhere, so the players have to play better, or else there might be trades.

"They've got some time still ... but eventually, at some point, I've got to say, 'What the heck is going on here?'" Murray said.

Reading between the lines, here's my take on all this: Carlyle doesn't have a job for life if the losing continues, but Murray is going to move some bodies before he considers canning his coach. I could be wrong, but that's my read.

In the meantime, Carlyle and Murray need to light a fire under their players. The Ducks got waxed in a one-sided loss to San Jose this past Saturday night and lost the previous night at home to a New Jersey Devils team that can't beat anyone else these days.

"As troublesome as people might think the San Jose game was, more troublesome to me was the flatness coming out against New Jersey last Friday night," Murray said. "That should have been two very desperate teams. But the first eight minutes, there was only one desperate team -- New Jersey."

The penalties have been damaging. The Ducks lead the NHL in penalty minutes per game, and that has to stop. "Our guys have to play hard and play smart," Murray said.

This GM is aggressive when it comes to trades. He's not scared to make one. I know from talking to other teams that Murray has been busy on the phone over the past few weeks. If the Ducks don't start winning, you might see a move or two before the end of November.

Contract talks in the desert

Contract talks with the Coyotes' two prized UFAs-to-be, Ilya Bryzgalov and Ed Jovanovski, are still on hold until Matthew Hulsizer's bid to buy the team is signed, sealed and delivered.

"I'm waiting for ownership to get settled and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later," Coyotes GM Don Maloney told ESPN.com. "Once that's done, we can take a look at our free agents."

Maloney spoke to the agents for Bryzgalov and Jovanovski before camp, basically telling them to hold on until the ownership mess was taken care of.

"Everyone understands our situation," Maloney said. "Unless a deal was just phenomenal for us ... I mean, we can still sign deals, but it would have to be a terrific deal for us. No one is giving us a bargain-basement deal just yet."