Cross Checks: Markus Naslund
Tomas Kaberle trade rumors resurfaced in cyberspace this week, but the defenseman's agent told ESPN.com on Saturday that his client had no interest in leaving Toronto at this point.
Any move would have to go through Kaberle and veteran agent Rick Curran because the D-man has a no-trade clause. At this point, it appears Kaberle has no intention of waiving it, which means he could walk away July 1 as an unrestricted free agent and the Leafs wouldn't receive any compensation.
Kaberle would be a nice fit in Montreal now that Andrei Markov is expected to miss the rest of the season, but again, Curran said forget about it.
Speaking of Markov, I was told Saturday that the Canadiens and Markov's camp, led by veteran agent Don Meehan, are planning on talking in the New Year to see if there's a fit contract-wise. Markov is UFA on July 1.
It wouldn't be a weekend blog without a Brad Richards update, right? Hey, he's one of the most intriguing situations in the league this season, so why not.
I was told this week that the Toronto Maple Leafs are no longer among the top teams on Richards' wish list come July 1. From talking to different people around the league and connecting the dots, I believe his most desirable destinations are Dallas (staying put), the New York Rangers (he won a Cup with coach John Tortorella), Tampa Bay (back to his roots) and the Los Angeles Kings (team on the rise). Never say never in terms of Toronto, because you never know how much money talks come July 1, but I get the sense the Leafs aren't on the radar for Richards and his agent, Pat Morris of Newport Sports.
In the short term, should the Stars try to move him by the Feb. 28 trade deadline -- and, at this point, I don't know how Dallas even considers that given where it is in the standings -- Montreal could be an intriguing possibility. Because of the Markov injury/cap space, the Canadiens have the capability to do it and I think Richards would waive his no-movement clause for a chance at a playoff run in La Belle Province.
But come July 1, I still think the four teams are his top choices. He really does enjoy Dallas, and the only thing hurting his chances there is ownership instability. The next move for Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is to sit down with Tony Tavares, who will soon be announced as the new interim president of the team. Tavares will be the voice of the bank lenders, who now own and operate the Stars. Nieuwendyk's hope is to have a good dialogue with Tavares and get the green light to try to re-sign Richards to an extension.
Michael Leighton played his final AHL conditioning game Saturday night. So, now what?
"We'll get him back, get him checked out and see where we're at," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com on Saturday.
If he's ready physically, the Flyers would activate him from long-term injured reserve. To do that, they would need to clear cap space. They have eight defensemen and 13 forwards on the roster. Somebody would have to be demoted, waived or traded.
Holmgren said the Flyers plan on carrying three goalies for a while, anyway. Given the delicate nature of Leighton's injury (he had back surgery Oct. 11 for a herniated disc), that makes sense. But at some point down the road, the Flyers will finally have to choose. Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky isn't going anywhere, so the choice will come down to Leighton or Brian Boucher, who has also played well this season.
Tampa Bay's goaltending problems are well-documented, but a source told ESPN.com on Saturday the Lightning don't have any interest in Boucher or Leighton.
The struggling Capitals
The Caps carried a four-game winless streak into Saturday night, but I get zero sense of panic from the organization. Quite frankly (and the Caps would likely never admit this publicly), I believe they're happy the team is facing some adversity this season. Last season, everything came so easy to the Caps during the regular season before facing their first real test in the first round of the playoffs (and we know how that ended up). The belief within the team, which is battling a flu bug, is having a few more bumps along the road now will make them tougher mentally.
I was told by a source Saturday that billionaire Terrence Pegula continues to show serious interest in buying the Buffalo Sabres. There is nothing imminent, but the source said something could possibly be in place by the end of this season.
The Wild and their coach
One ongoing storyline in Minnesota has been the future of Wild coach Todd Richards. But GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com on Saturday it's not an area of concern right now.
"We don't think we have a coaching problem," Fletcher said. "Our focus is on our players playing better. We've worked hard the last couple of weeks. We've had players struggling and their game is starting to turn around. We're just trying to get our players to play to their capabilities."
The Canucks and Brian Burke
Given the bad blood between rival GMs Mike Gillis (Vancouver) and Brian Burke (Toronto), it was surprising to see the Leafs GM invited to Markus Naslund's banner ceremony in Vancouver on Saturday night. I'm told owner Francesco Aquilini invited Burke, the former Canucks GM who presided over the team during Naslund's finest seasons. It was a real nice gesture and classy move by the Canucks.
Board of governors note
I spoke with an NHL governor Saturday and asked him what he found the most interesting from the recent board of governors meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. He said he was surprised to learn during a USA Hockey presentation that there were more NHL players from the New York State than Russia. A USA Hockey spokesman confirmed there are currently 25 New York-born NHLers compared to 24 Russians. Things that make you go "hmmmm."
Nordiques fans go to Long Island
More than 1,000 Nordiques fans from Quebec took in Saturday night's Thrashers-Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum. Call me a sucker, but this again shows me there should again be NHL hockey in Quebec City.
I asked NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for his reaction to the Nordiques fans' showing.
"No one has ever doubted the passion of hockey fans in Quebec City," Bettman told ESPN.com via e-mail Saturday.
I believe Bettman would like to put teams back in Winnipeg and Quebec City, but he also wants all 30 teams to remain and succeed in their current markets. All of which leads me to believe that sometime in conjunction with the next CBA, you might start hearing talk of expansion. No one has told me that, it's just a guess.
Praise for Price
Consider Red Wings coach Mike Babcock a fan of Carey Price, telling ESPN.com on Thursday that he believes the Habs netminder is the best in the business.
"Price has been the best so far this season," Babcock told me. "No one had more pressure starting the year. He's really impressed me."
Team Canada in Paris
And finally, here's a neat little note: Team Canada is planning to play an exhibition game in Paris before the April 29 start of the IIHF World Championships. How do I find a way to sell that trip to ESPN.com? Man, I love Paris.