Saturday, June 23, 2012
Luongo, Nash survive trade winds at draft
By Pierre LeBrun
PITTSBURGH -- Roberto Luongo remained Vancouver Canucks property as the NHL draft weekend wrapped up. Same went for Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Really, no surprise on either end.
Neither blockbuster trade was ever much dependent on the timeline related to the draft -- the Canucks certainly are not that interested in a first-round pick as the chief asset in return for Luongo. They want players who can help them now while their window to win the Stanley Cup remains open.
Although you could argue the Blue Jackets, meanwhile, should have been trying to garner as many first-round picks as they could, the reality is that the first-round picks who would have been in play from the front-runners -- the Rangers, Flyers or Sharks -- weren’t high enough in Friday’s first round to compel the Jackets to make a move.
Instead, much to the chagrin of the Nash camp, the Jackets almost certainly will wait until July 1 unfolds and try to recoup interest from teams that strike out on UFA star winger Zach Parise.
But what might frustrate the Rangers to a degree is that Parise has said he won’t sign with them. He wouldn’t do that to the Devils. Thus, New York isn’t terribly thrilled this Nash thing is dragging out, although not nearly as annoyed as the Nash camp itself. In a smart move, the Rangers opened a dialogue with Anaheim on winger Bobby Ryan.
A Plan B is a necessity.
Other clubs also interested in Nash include Ottawa and Carolina. The Senators want to stay in the mix even though their best hook is now gone. With the Jackets drafting two goalies Saturday, plus trading for Sergei Bobrovsky on Friday, I doubt the Jackets would have interest in either Robin Lehner or Ben Bishop at this point. Still, the Senators can stay in by changing their possible offer. It might surprise some that the Hurricanes are in the mix, especially after picking up Jordan Staal Friday. But a source confirmed that Carolina is intent on staying in the race for Nash.
While you can expect Nash to be dealt sometime in July, it’s harder to tell with Luongo.
Two teams have clear interest in Luongo: Florida and Toronto. Both teams held dialogue with Vancouver at the draft. But both the Panthers and Maple Leafs were unimpressed with the opening asking price from the Canucks. Way too high, was the reaction. But that’s natural in these discussions. It’s only a starting point.
But what it also tells you is that the Canucks aren’t going to buy in to this theory that they have to simply take whatever they can to get rid of Luongo’s monster contract. He’s still a top-level goalie and the Canucks are adamant they will make a hockey deal, not a CBA dump deal. You can’t blame Vancouver for that. Simply put: If Toronto gets Luongo, for example, it makes the playoffs next season, in my opinion. Think that shouldn’t be motivation enough for the Leafs?
Know this from the Panthers: They’ve decided this weekend they’re going to see this Luongo thing through. They’re going to focus on it seriously.
Know this, Part 2: Canucks GM Mike Gillis also will see this through. He’s not giving Luongo away. If the proper deal isn’t there this summer, he’s prepared to have Luongo come to camp and wait until a team gets serious into the season before the trade deadline. The question is, would Luongo be OK with that?
The question now is not which teams will bid on Parise come July 1, but rather which teams won’t? The latter might be a shorter list.
Detroit, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and several other clubs will chase this year’s No. 1 UFA forward.
But don’t forget New Jersey. The Devils still have a shot at retaining their star captain.
"We’ll certainly do anything that can be done," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told ESPN.com Saturday. "It’s mutual on both sides. We have to find a way."
Lamoriello chose not to trade away Parise’s rights this weekend, which is par for the course. He never deals away UFA rights. Nor did any team approach him asking about the rights.
"No, because they know better," Lamoriello said, smiling.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, are expected to be major players July 1 -- for both Parise and Ryan Suter.
Easier said than done, given the competition and interest.
Either way, an interesting time for the Wings in the post-Nicklas Lidstrom world.
"We’re transitioning from a different group of Red Wings to a young group of Red Wings," GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com Saturday. "That’s why we signed Darren Helm, we think he’s coming into his prime years. But as we get into July 1, we’re obviously going to explore the market just as we have every year. We’ve got more cap space, but I don’t know, we’ll see what happens."
Is Ott next?
Mike Ribeiro was shipped out Friday by the Dallas Stars, and now we wait and see if the same will happen to Steve Ott as the club tries to reshape its core a little and get younger.
A source told ESPN.com that Ott is getting plenty of interest, just as he did before the trade deadline.
Maybe it’s just me, but Ott’s size and versatility as a second- or third-line winger would be just what the Montreal Canadiens need. He’s a perfect fit for a team lacking toughness and size.
Yandle stays put
So much buzz on Friday about a possible Keith Yandle trade and yet, in the end, it didn’t materialize. The Phoenix Coyotes received an offer that made them seriously pause, but they opted not to act on it. Several teams inquired Friday, but nothing that made sense to Phoenix. The Coyotes insist they were never shopping him anyway, but willing to listen.
This and that
Highly touted prospect Justin Schultz officially becomes an unrestricted free agent at midnight Sunday. Short of Suter or Parise, I’m not sure there will be a more sought-after free agent than the 22-year-old Wisconsin Badger. Keep an eye on the Edmonton Oilers, but there will be a long, long list of suitors. ... The Panthers met with Jason Garrison’s camp Friday night but at this point, still no contract. My guess is Garrison goes to July 1, and it’s still possible the Panthers move his rights for a 2013 draft pick sometime in the next week. ... Smart move by the Jets to acquire the rights to UFA-to-be G Jonas Gustavsson on Saturday as insurance if the Ondrej Pavelec situation doesn’t improve. Pavelec’s agent, Allan Walsh, met with Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff after Saturday’s draft. ... The Boston Bruins have Tim Thomas’ blessing to move his rights, but as of Saturday afternoon, there was nothing imminent whatsoever, a source said. ... The Canucks and Cory Schneider’s agent, Mike Liut, chatted this weekend but are not close at all on a new deal. I can’t see Schneider signing until Luongo is at least close to being traded. ... The Canucks shopped Marc-Andre Gragnani over the weekend but found no takers. Gragnani hasn’t been given a qualying offer yet by the Canucks. If he isn’t by Monday’s 5 pm ET deadline, he’ll turn UFA July 1. ... And I leave you with this sobering note: The league and NHL Players’ Association are tentatively scheduled to begin CBA talks late this week. Don’t hold your breath: I don’t expect any kind of real progress in talks until September.