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The clock is ticking toward Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, and the focus centers more and more on the Los Angeles Kings.
Ever since they lost out on Ilya Kovalchuk last summer, the cap room has been there, sitting and waiting to use for a sizable addition up front. The idea was to scour the market and jump on a chance to add a top-flight winger.
The early-season target was Jarome Iginla, but the Calgary Flames told Los Angeles their captain wasn't going anywhere. The Kings then spoke to the Dallas Stars about James Neal, but the price tag of Jack Johnson was too high for them.
|Marquee free agent Brad Richards signed a $60 million, nine-year contract in July.|
Now, the deadline is almost here and the Kings still haven't made their move. They have targeted Brad Richards, Ales Hemsky and David Booth, in that order. The Kings really covet Richards, but it's a complicated situation because of the star center's concussion (he skated again Saturday but there's still no timetable for his return) and no-movement clause, plus the fact he is property of a rival Pacific Division team.
Still, expect the Kings to monitor him right to the deadline. The New York Rangers are also quite interested in Richards. Despite Saturday's acquisition of Bryan McCabe, a source told ESPN.com the Rangers could still swing a deal for Richards, but it would be "tricky" cap-wise.
A source close to the situation figured this will be a Monday trade, if there's a move at all. The Stars won their second straight game Saturday and are very much alive in the West playoff race. GM Joe Nieuwendyk may look at what he's being offered Monday and decide that keeping Richards is a better investment for his team's playoff run, even if that means losing him for nothing July 1. The Stars have not yet gone to Richards with any offers, but it will have to happen soon, possibly Sunday night.
I still think July 1 is the best play for Richards. One NHL GM I spoke with Saturday said while he can't make a play for him now, he'll certainly get into the fray July 1. And this is a team that hasn't been remotely linked to Richards this season. Translation: July 1 will be a bonanza for Richards, who will clearly be the top UFA in a weak market.
If Richards doesn't pan out for Los Angeles, what then? We've been telling you all along about the interest in Hemsky. But until the Oilers move off their demand of prized Kings prospect Brayden Schenn, forget about it.
People in the media are speculating over Sidney Crosby's return, but the truth is, no one knows, not even him. It doesn't look good since he's been out nearly two months; but, at this point, no one has made the call to shut down his season.
"Sidney is still not symptom-free," his agent, Pat Brisson, told ESPN.com on Saturday. "We have to go a day at a time. Anyone in the media speculating that his season is over is jumping the gun. No one knows. That's the truth. All we know is that we have to be extremely cautious."
Thanks to a tip from my "Hockey Night in Canada" colleague Elliotte Friedman, I was able to confirm the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators exchanged a call over the past few days. A source told us one of the names that popped up during the conversation was Chris Phillips, but it didn't go very far. Nothing real serious at this point.
The Senators still aren't sure what they'll do with Phillips. There were more contract talks Saturday between Ottawa and his agent, J.P. Barry, but both sides still can't bridge the gap. Meanwhile, the Sens lost Montreal as a potential trade partner for Phillips. I'm told the Canadiens phoned Ottawa on Thursday and said they couldn't wait anymore, so they instead dealt for Brent Sopel.
The Leafs continue to covet Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles, but Colorado isn't totally sure it wants to move him at this point.
Meanwhile, regarding Toronto winger Clarke McArthur, the Leafs have taken calls on him from other teams while still holding out hope they can sign the RFA-to-be. The Leafs and McArthur's agent, Don Meehan, held contract talks earlier this week, but still weren't close as of Saturday.
Don Meehan and Craig Oster of Newport Sports met with the Predators' brass Thursday in Nashville and had serious contract discussions regarding Shea Weber. The Preds have their ownership house in order and attendance is up. Now, the biggest priority is to sign their star captain and franchise player, who is set to become a restricted free agent July 1. We'll see if they can get it done.
• Despite internet chatter linking the Red Wings to veteran goalie Ty Conklin, I'm told Detroit will not him off waivers. Chris Osgood is about 7-10 days away from returning. They don't want to carry three goalies and then have to send down a skater.
• My Hot Stove colleague Eric Francis chatted with the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and they told him neither center Paul Stastny nor captain Adam Foote will be traded.
• After losing Nick Boynton on waivers Saturday, the Blackhawks are more resolute than ever to pick up a depth defenseman if they can.
• Why Marco Sturm? The Caps believed they needed a little more offensive punch and hope he can provide it. They thought it was a risk worth taking since they gave up nothing. Plus, the Caps can still make another move if something pops up that interests them.
• The Phoenix Coyotes are looking for defensive depth before the deadline.