Cross Checks: Alex Hemsky

The Columbus Blue Jackets are open for business.

GM Scott Howson has seen enough and signaled his intentions in a solid column by Bob Hunter in Wednesday’s Columbus Dispatch.

I reached out to Howson on Wednesday to follow up, and his feelings certainly had not changed. The GM was willing to forgive his lineup in the opening six weeks with so many faces missing because of injury or suspension, but since then it’s been mostly a healthy lineup and the Jackets have remained stuck in the basement.

"We haven’t played well in the last 2 to 3 weeks and it’s given us a little bit more clarity," Howson told ESPN.com.

So trades are coming.

"We’re going to be open to discussions, yes," Howson said. "There’s nothing imminent right now; I don’t have anything on the burner right now. But certainly between now and over the next couple of months, we’re going to be very active, yes."

Rick Nash isn’t going anywhere, but what about Jeff Carter?

"I have no intention of trading Jeff at this point," Howson said.

That’s not going to stop other teams from calling about Carter, however.

Otherwise, Howson will be open to almost anything. While the GM refused to name specific players, one has to assume Derick Brassard will be in play, given the controversy earlier in December with the forward’s agent, Allan Walsh, hammering coach Scott Arniel over the usage of his client.

Brassard has two more years on his deal past this season, paying him $3.2 million a year.

Your typical rental players should be available, the likes of Vaclav Prospal, Sammy Pahlsson and Kristian Huselius, all unrestricted free agents July 1.

Either way, interesting times are ahead in Columbus.

Oilers on the move?


If you’re looking for a big name who could possibly move by the Feb. 27 trade deadline, circle Ales Hemsky.

He’s an UFA as of July 1, and with the kids ruling the roost in Edmonton, word is around the league the Oilers might be willing to move Hemsky, although it hasn’t been totally ruled out that they might try to re-sign him as well.

Hemsky has all-world talent, but it doesn’t show up on a consistent basis, and health is always a factor.

Still, given that he’d be a traditional rental player, you will see a number of clubs willing to take him on for the rest of the season if and when the Oilers decide to put him on the market.

The Kings had interest in Hemsky last season before settling for Dustin Penner in a deadline-day trade with Edmonton. If the Darryl Sutter renaissance is successful in L.A. and the Kings are in a playoff spot come February, it wouldn’t surprise me if they came sniffing around on Hemsky again. They need an upgrade on the wing in L.A. -- whether or not the Kings fix that this season or next summer is what remains to be seen.

Another club that could come calling on Hemsky is Detroit. The Red Wings have cap space and will be an aggressive team come the trade deadline. They’ll look at all kinds of options, but I believe Hemsky will be among the names on their shopping list.

Weber contract talks could open soon


With Jan. 1 rolling around, the Predators and the camp for Shea Weber will be allowed to talk contract.

As per collective bargaining agreement rules, because the Nashville captain is on a one-year contract, the two sides have to wait until Jan. 1 to begin talks on a new deal.

Preds GM David Poile told ESPN.com Tuesday that he expected to chat with Weber’s people "sometime in January."

Poile added, however, that the more urgent matter remains Ryan Suter because he’s an UFA July 1, whereas Weber will be a restricted free agent.

The plan, if it wasn’t obvious, is to be able to go to their franchise player in Weber once/if Suter joins star goalie Pekka Rinne with a contract extension to show how serious the team is about competing. It makes sense to approach it that way because in the end, Weber’s deal will be the most difficult to negotiate. Better have the other two in the bag before commencing that one.

So the pressure point now is on the Suter talks with the trade deadline approaching.

"David and I continue to talk, but there’s nothing new to report at this point," Neil Sheehy, Suter’s agent, told ESPN.com Wednesday.

If Suter is not signed by Feb. 27, what does Poile do? He decided not to move Dan Hamhuis a few years back because the team was in a playoff spot only to see the top-four blueliner walk away in free agency. That aggravated Poile; I don’t think he could stomach that again. I think he deals Suter if there’s no extension signed by the trade deadline.

Tick-tock, tick-tock ...

Bruins will have work to do


Boston GM Peter Chiarelli has done a remarkable job managing his cap and payroll, the Stanley Cup champs returning to the ice this season with a near identical roster and with cap space to boot.

But the work never ends.

Earlier this season, Chiarelli took care of his top priority when he extended center David Krejci to a three-year, $15.75 million deal. Krejci would have been an UFA July 1.

The Bruins still have six players headed for unrestricted free agency in forwards Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell as well as blueliners Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk.

Like any team right now, the tricky part is to try to guess at what the CBA is going to look like next season with the expectation that if the owners and league get their way (and the players will have a big say in that), the salary cap will go down, which means less money to spend on players. So you have to be careful in handing out extensions right now.

"We have six UFAs and we are sorting out our future expenses (new system)," Chiarelli told ESPN.com via email Wednesday. "So, nothing new except that we will try to sign as many as financially responsible and possible."

Just a guess on my part, but I think Kelly is the next player to get signed. Kelly, a versatile two-way forward, is on pace for a career-high 49 points. His career high was 38 points in Ottawa in 2006-07.

Trade winds blow in Carolina


Whether they’ve been buyers or sellers over the years, the Carolina Hurricanes have usually been an active team ahead of the trade deadline and often much before the actual deadline day.

And they have five pending UFAs on their roster who could be in play: defensemen Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek as well as forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Here’s the catch for the Hurricanes right now, however: They can’t just go ahead with straight-up salary dumps in January in any trade because it risks moving them below the payroll floor. According to capgeek.com, the Canes are at $51.4 million in payroll with the league’s floor set at $48.3 million this year.

Any deal they make in the short term has to be more of a hockey deal. Instead of just getting a draft pick or a prospect in return, they’ll need to get an NHL roster player back.

If they decide to wait right up until the Feb. 27 trade deadline, by then the cap hit (and payroll hit) should be minimized, so they can go ahead and make any kind of deal they want.

Lots of teams, as always, will be looking for defensemen, so veteran Canes GM Jim Rutherford will be a popular phone call with his colleagues around the league.

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