Saturday, February 19, 2011
Weekend wrap: Kovalev draws interest, Leafs look for defense, concussion talks
By Pierre LeBrun
CALGARY, Alberta -- As we get set for the NHL's second outdoor game this season on Sunday, the debate continues as to whether it is one too many.
Well if you think that, you better sit down for this: The NHL is privately kicking around the idea of whether it shouldn't have three or four outdoor games a season, such is the insatiable demand from corporate sponsors and NHL teams to host these things.
Hey, at this point it's just spit-balling among league officials and governors, but it tells you what the appetite is for these events.
Ownership issuesThe ownership situation is getting urgent in Atlanta. We were told this weekend that the league is trying mighty hard to find a new owner who's willing to keep the team in Atlanta. The league's sole focus right now is to keep the team in Atlanta and given its ability to find new owners in Tampa, Buffalo and Phoenix, it's not unrealistic to think the league won't be able to pull it off again. However, should a new owner not be found in the next six to eight weeks, we're told the Thrashers could indeed be up for relocation and Winnipeg would very likely be the new home.
Meanwhile in Phoenix, two sources involved in the transaction believe the sale will close in the next 10 days, so it appears the Coyotes aren't going anywhere.
Kovalev getting interest from PensSens GM Bryan Murray has been a mighty busy man, and he's not done. I was told Saturday that three teams have shown interest in UFA-to-be winger Alexei Kovalev over the past few days, and one of those teams is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Speaking of the Pens, they had interest in UFA-to-be winger Curtis Glengross of the Flames but that was before Calgary got so hot it stopped listening to offers and is focused on trying to make the playoffs.
Ottawa, meanwhile, is trying hard to move defenseman Filip Kuba (who has one more year left on his deal at $3.7 million) so that they have money to re-sign UFA-to-be Chris Phillips. If they can't move Kuba, Phillips has to decide whether or not he wants to move. I believe Montreal is among the teams still interested in Phillips.
Leafs looking for D-manLeafs GM Brian Burke hopes he's got at least another move left in him before the trade deadline. The Leafs have been scouring the market hard over the past few days looking for a defenseman. They kicked the tires on Zach Bogosian in Atlanta but there doesn't seem to be a fit there. They have zero interest in Sheldon Souray, whom the Oilers put on re-entry waivers Saturday (waiver period clears at noon ET Monday).
New concussion protocol to be discussedThe NHL is considering some important changes to the league's concussion protocol for next season. One idea is to force a player to the dressing room to get checked out after he got his bell rung. No more just checking him on the bench. The other more drastic idea also being discussed is not allowing a player back in the game under any circumstance if he looks woozy. Expect this to be discussed at the GM meetings next month in Boca Raton, Fla.
Avs say Hejduk not movingSo what now for the Avalanche after their blockbuster trade with St. Louis? A lot of people are wondering about veteran winger Milan Hejduk because he's an UFA July 1. But GM Greg Sherman told ESPN.com Saturday that Hejduk is not moving.
"We're not trading Milan," Sherman said.
McCabe, Vokoun in play at deadlineBryan McCabe and Tomas Vokoun are both very much in play in Florida. The team discussed contract extensions with both players last month but there won't be any signings. The focus now is trading them. Both players have no-trade clauses, so they control part of their fate. The Panthers hope the Tomas Kaberle deal will help set the price for McCabe. The Rangers are among teams interested in McCabe, but I'm told they don't want to pay anywhere close to the price Boston paid for Kaberle.
Thrashers hold on to BogosianThere's tons of interest in young blueliner Zach Bogosian, but the Thrashers really aren't sure they want to move him. One team offered them two first-round picks plus a prospect, but Atlanta said no because it still wants to make the playoffs this season and would have rather done a true hockey deal for players. Also, blueliner Johnny Oduya (one more year on his deal at $4M) is generating lots of interest. If the Thrashers feel they've fallen back in the playoff race by Feb. 28, they might move him.