Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Rumblings: Market for goalies, countdown to Ryan O'Reilly decision

By Pierre LeBrun

In a perfect world, the Devan Dubnyk trade is the type of move Nashville Predators GM David Poile would have made at least a month ago.

But the NHL this season is far from a perfect world with the salary-cap crunch handcuffing so many possible trade partners.

With Pekka Rinne having been out most of this season and the timing for his return unclear, Poile long ago wanted to acquire a netminder.

"After we realized that Pekka would be out for an extended period of time, we’ve been trying to improve ourselves in goal, and in order to do that you need a partner to do that with," Poile told ESPN.com Thursday. "But we just didn’t have one. There was no goalie available. This was really the first opportunity. It’s all about timing, I wish we could have done this earlier in the season but it just wasn’t available to us."

With the salary cap going down $6 million for this season and so many teams right at the limit, it’s been tough sledding.

"By my calculation, before we made the deal yesterday there had only been 12 trades in the NHL this season and, with all due respect, not too many of much significance,” said Poile. "It just supports that this is a special year, if you will, with the salary cap going down for the first time in history and everybody just not having a lot of room to make that many moves."

What the acquisition of Dubnyk does signify is that the Preds aren’t ready to pull the plug on the season just yet. They sat eight points out of a playoff spot as of Thursday morning.

"We’re just hoping to get a little bit of a spark here from Dubnyk and other players as well," Poile said.

As for Rinne, the waiting continues.

"We have no timetable," Poile said. "He’s been given the green light to work out. Maybe there’s a shot by the Olympic break? Maybe it’s after the Olympic break? I just couldn’t tell you right now."

Ducks' wish list

What can a team that has won 18 of 19 games possibly need? A right-handed defenseman, that’s what.

The NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, we’re told, put acquiring a right-handed defenseman at the top of their wish list between now and the March 5 trade deadline. There may have been some interest in Dan Girardi, but the New York Rangers right now are in the mindset they’re going to keep the blueliner, hopeful/confident they can re-sign the pending free agent.

In any case, if Anaheim can acquire a right-handed D-man between now and March 5, that would be the goal.

Countdown on O'Reilly

Circle Feb. 28 on your calendar. It’s as of that date that the trade freeze lifts on Ryan O'Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche can move the star player if they wish to do so. The Avalanche weren’t allowed to trade him for 12 months after matching Calgary’s offer sheet last Feb. 28.

There are several teams we’ve spoken to over the past week that are eagerly anticipating Colorado’s decision on O’Reilly. Does the team move him or keep him?

He’s a restricted free agent July 1 whose qualifying offer costs $6.5 million. No small potatoes. Of course the Avalanche can also sign him to an extension for less money if O'Reilly is up for that.

If Colorado wants to seriously upgrade its defense corps, it likely needs to make a quality top-six forward available. Is that O’Reilly, pending UFA Paul Stastny or is there another way to get that defenseman?

If the Avs do put O’Reilly on the trade market (and again, we don't know if they ever will), there would be at least a dozen teams interested. One of them would likely be the Vancouver Canucks, who are said to covet O’Reilly and have depth at defense, which is what the Avs would be looking for. Food for thought …

Market for Miller

It’s whole-heartedly expected that Ryan Miller will be dealt before the March 5 trade deadline, but as of this week, sources close to the situation said there wasn’t a whole lot going on.

Let’s give new Sabres GM Tim Murray some time to get his feet wet and figure out the market place for Miller, who is an unrestricted free agent July 1.

One also suspects that at some point Murray will speak with Miller’s camp led by agent Mike Liut, and that had not happened as of Wednesday evening.

Also, the market needs to better define itself for Miller, who is having an outstanding year, as there’s no real obvious landing spot for him right now.

Before the deadline, either an injury needs to happen to a starter on a contender, or a contender has to realize that adding Miller is the kind of upgrade that could make the difference in winning a championship.

The St. Louis Blues seem quite content with their current goaltending, and why not given how Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have played this season. Both have been rock solid. But don’t you look at the Blues and say to yourself: "Oh my, if they add Ryan Miller that might just be the final piece."

I know I do. But maybe I’m alone in that thought.

Oilers' goaltending

The Oilers hope Ben Scrivens can develop into a dependable goalie and, if he shows enough the rest of the way, they’ll no doubt look to extend him after the season (he’s a UFA July 1).

But even if Edmonton does keep Scrivens, we’re hearing the Oilers still intend on looking for a more established No. 1 and certainly you can expect a guy like Jonas Hiller to be among the names on Edmonton’s wish list if indeed he walks out of Anaheim as a UFA July 1.

Other options for the Oilers in the offseason include the trade route, which for example could include the likes of Carolina’s Cam Ward ...

Neuvirth's future

During the holidays, Michal Neuvirth's agent publicly expressed frustration at his client’s situation in Washington.

Neuvirth has mostly been the odd man out in a three-goalie set with the Caps. Agent Patrik Stefan hopes his client can find a new NHL home.

But where?

One NHL team that we hear has some interest in Neuvirth is the Florida Panthers, given the uncertainty they have in goal past this season with veterans Tim Thomas and Scott Clemmensen both UFAs July 1.

We’re told there hasn’t been any contact between the Panthers and Caps at this point and you figure Florida isn’t in a hurry, really. Thomas is playing well and it’s really more of an offseason issue.

Neuvirth has one year left on his deal after this season at $2.5 million.

Moving Kadri?

Not sure what to make of all the rumblings we’re hearing on Leafs center Nazem Kadri.

A few front-office sources from other teams say he’s in play, but others have told me this week the Leafs are simply listening, not pushing it. So there are conflicting messages there.

What’s obvious is that the young pivot has frustrated the Leafs' coaching staff all season long, which has at least forced GM Dave Nonis to listen to what other teams have to offer.