Cross Checks: Tomas Plekanec
- Daniel Alfredsson expects to be locked out for a “period of time,” but he still fully supports the NHLPA. “Even if this would turn out to be a whole season and I wouldn’t play again, that’s fine with me. I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. But I’d love to play again.” (Ottawa Citizen)
- The Ducks’ Sheldon Souray, going through his third work stoppage, said it would “be utter stupidity and craziness to lose another full season. … Guys are going to lose careers over this. Players are doing what’s right and we feel that for sure. We have a vision and we’re prepared to stick with it.” (Montreal Gazette)
- Olli Jokinen said he honestly was never optimistic the season would start on time and doesn’t think there are many players who were. “If we miss one game this season, I think it’s a shame, with what the players went through, what the fans went through and what the owners went through seven years ago with missing the whole year,” Jokinen said. (Winnipeg Free Press)
- Vincent Lecavalier is getting frustrated by the lockout. “The numbers are showing the league is healthy and since 2004 the league has been better and better each year. There is no reason, I think, that they should put us in a lockout.” (The Tampa Tribune)
- The Flames’ Jiri Hudler was released by the KHL’s Lev Prague to rehab an abdominal muscle injury. (The Calgary Herald)
- Tomas Plekanec has scored seven goals and assisted on seven more in just seven games with the HC Kladno Knights. (Montreal Gazette)
- Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal for SKA St. Pertersburg on Wednesday in his team’s 3-2 shootout victory over HC Neftekhimik. (The Star-Ledger)
- A small group remains practicing in South Florida, paying $350 an hour to rent the ice at the Panthers’ facility. (Miami Herald)
- Several financial planners said most players learned from history to prepare early for a potential lockout and are in much better financial condition to survive a prolonged time without a pay check. (The Globe and Mail)
- Some locked-out players from the Vancouver Canucks will play the UBC Thunderbirds in a charity game. (The Vancouver Sun)
- Jason Jaffray was cleared for full contact by doctors after going through spinal fusion neck surgery on April 18 after taking a check-from-behind in a game in late March. (Winnipeg Sun)
- Leland Irving spent the summer sharing goaltending duties with Carey Price and James Reimer, while facing Jarome Iginla, Shea Weber, Josh Gorges and Cody Franson – a group that made the hour commute well worth it, according to the young goalie. (The Calgary Herald)
- A day after yet another loss, which ignited calls for the firing of head coach Ron Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke says a change behind the bench was not in the cards.
"I’m not contemplating a coaching change," Burke told ESPN.com.
The Leafs are winless in four games (0-3-1) and have won only once in nine games (1-7-1), outscored 35-17 during stretch, to slide out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Burke went on TSN radio in Toronto on Wednesday and suggested the Leafs would look at what’s out there on the goalie trade market, given the struggles of Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer.
But Burke, as of 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday, said nothing was imminent on the trade front.
While Burke refused to discuss specific names, sources confirm the Leafs have talked to Columbus about Rick Nash but my sense is that they were not close on that front.
On the goalie front, it’s believed Toronto has interest in Evgeni Nabokov, but Isles GM Garth Snow told ESPNNewYork.com’s Katie Strang on Sunday that he was not looking to move the UFA-to-be netminder. The Isles and Nabokov’s agent, Don Meehan, have discussed a contract extension over the past week.
As I reported earlier this past week, the Edmonton Oilers and Leafs have also chatted about Nikolai Khabibulin but my sense is that Toronto isn’t keen on that extra year on the goalie’s contract.
- The Boston Bruins are still hoping to add both a forward and a defenseman. A source told ESPN.com on Sunday that B’s have interest in Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi and David Jones -- all three Colorado Avalanche forwards are very much in play. Winnik and Jones are UFAs July 1 while Galiardi is an RFA July 1. The Bruins have interest in possibly dealing for one of them.
- The Winnipeg Jets are in the thick of the playoff race, so they have to be careful with what they’re going to do. I was told Sunday by a source that Johnny Oduya was getting the most traction. No surprise there, he’s a UFA July 1 and would be a good rental pickup for a contender.
- Still no contract extension for Ryan Smyth (UFA July 1) in Edmonton. Talks began Thursday. It’s worth keeping an eye on. Teams like Detroit, Boston and the Rangers have shown interest in adding Smyth but the veteran winger and the Oilers agreed two weeks ago that he would stay put. In return, though, you can’t blame Smyth for likely wanting to get an extension done to give him some security. Look for it to be a two-year deal if it gets done.
- The Minnesota Wild were taking calls this weekend, of course, on goalie Josh Harding, a UFA on July 1. If Ben Bishop netted a second-round pick, Harding should garner a better asset given his NHL experience.
- There was twitter buzz Sunday that Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec was willing to waive his no-trade clause. False, as it turns out.
"I’ve never had a conversation or discussion with [GM] Pierre Gauthier and Montreal regarding a need to address his no-trade clause," Plekanec’s veteran agent, Rick Curran, told ESPN.com on Sunday. "He’s never broached the topic. I had dinner with Tomas last night, as well as Tomas Kaberle, and never once did we ever discuss a trade or anything like that. It’s not an issue whatsoever."
Plekanec is in the second season of a $30 million, six-year contract.
- With teams looking to add goaltending depth, Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov has generated some interest as Monday's deadline looms, but he does not appear to be on the block.
"I'm not looking to move him," GM Garth Snow told ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang via text message Sunday.
- It’s been a tough few days for the playoff-hopeful Calgary Flames, as they were pounded 6-1 by Edmonton and then lost to Phoenix and Philadelphia in the shootout after leading in both those games.
Still, as of Sunday, the Flames were just one point out of eighth place and GM Jay Feaster was holding to his playoffs-or-bust mentality.
Feaster said Sunday that he has no intention of moving top center Olli Jokinen, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"I’ve already met with Olli and told him I am not moving him. I told him I’m not shopping him, and when I do receive calls I tell them he is NOT in play," Feaster said in an email message Sunday.
“We also discussed focusing on getting into the playoffs and then discussing a new deal postseason. He is totally on-side with all of that,” Feaster said.
Jokinen leads the Flames with 50 points.
As for trying to move other assets, Feaster isn’t planning to make any alterations to his roster. In fact, he is hoping to get injured players David Moss, Blair Jones and Chris Butler back in the next two to three weeks.
“We feel our destiny remains in our own hands,” Feaster said.
Stock UpAles Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers: Is the talented Hemsky heating up at just the right time for the Oil to cash him in for some more assets moving forward? Hemsky, who has skill to burn but has had trouble staying healthy, has four goals and six assists in his last seven games. Hmmm. Think L.A. GM Dean Lombardi has noticed? What about Pierre Gauthier in Montreal?
Matt Moulson, New York Islanders: We spend a lot of time hammering the Islanders for their various faux pas, but there are lots of interesting things happening on Long Island, including the high-end work of big forward Moulson. Kudos to GM Garth Snow for getting Moulson under contract as opposed to trading him -- something that had been rumored earlier in the season. Moulson has rewarded the Isles' faith in the form of a three-year contract extension with eight goals and three assists in his last eight games.
Stock DownBrian Boyle, New York Rangers: Boyle has been one of the surprising bright lights for the Rangers this season, chipping in 19 goals from the center position, a thin spot for the boys from Gotham. But Boyle's production has slowed of late with just one goal in his last 10 games. No coincidence that the Rangers have also found points hard to come by in the standings.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens: Plekanec remains the Habs' leading scorer by a wide margin but will need to get back on track to keep the Canadiens pointed in the right direction. Plekanec has just one goal and three assists in his last nine games. Lack of production from him and the team's top line puts additional pressure on a banged-up defense and netminder Carey Price.
- Neuvirth stopped 29 shots for his first NHL shutout and the Capitals spoiled the Hurricanes' first game on home ice. Capitals 3, Hurricanes 0 »
- Niclas Bergfors had a goal and an assist and the Thrashers stopped the Rangers' winning streak at three games. Thrashers 6, Rangers 4»
- Plekanec and Jeff Halpern each had a goal and an assist as the Canadiens extended their winning streak to three. Canadiens 5, Islanders 3 »
- St. Louis scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third and added a late empty-netter to help Tampa Bay win. Lightning 5, Penguins 3 »
- Marty Turco made 33 saves, and Viktor Stalberg scored the deciding goal to help the Blackhawks snap a two-game losing streak. Blackhawks 3, Kings 1 »
- Joe Thornton had his fourth career hat trick and added two assists in the Sharks' victory over the slumping Devils. Sharks 5, Devils 2 »
Editor's note: There's the March 3 trade deadline, and then there's the Olympic roster freeze that runs from Feb. 12-28. Between now and Feb. 12, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun will look at 10 potential trade baits and which teams have a chance to land some much-needed help.
Halak, Price and Plekanec
Scott Burnside: Hello, Pierre. Big news out of Montreal on Monday, with general manager Bob Gainey stepping down and Pierre Gauthier taking over immediately while Gainey stays on as an adviser. Gauthier has a few issues right away, including what to do with his goaltending situation. Jaroslav Halak, the current if nominal starter, could be a restricted free agent in July. And then there's Tomas Plekanec, one of the team's top forwards, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. So, what do you do? Swing a deal? Add talent in the hopes you can go on a long playoff run? Never easy answers in Montreal.
Pierre LeBrun: Well, I think Gauthier showed his hand when it came to his two goalies, Halak and Carey Price.
"We have two very strong, young goaltenders, and they've been a very big part of our team this year," Gauthier said at his news conference Monday. "They give us a chance to win every night. That's a very important thing in a very close league.
"We believe that we can go forward with these two young men, and that's our best chance to get into the playoffs this year. That's a strong position, and we'd like to keep it strong."
So the Habs' plan would seem fairly straightforward for now, unless of course someone knocks their socks off for either goalie. And let's remember the history here. From what a source close to the situation told me, it's not so much that Halak asked for a trade per se earlier this season; he wanted a chance to become a No. 1 goalie, whether it was in Montreal or elsewhere. Gainey, at the time, would have told Halak's agent, Allan Walsh, that Price was the team's No. 1 goalie. So, it left the Halak camp feeling as if the Czech netminder needed to be traded. That's all history for now, with Halak taking over the No. 1 job at this point. I can't imagine how Montreal could deal him now. He has saved the Habs' season.
Burnside: True. I guess the issue moving forward is how you resolve the issue if you really believe Price is the goalie of the future. I'm sure Gauthier will be loath to see Halak walk away July 1 (offer sheet?) and then win 40 games in Dallas or somewhere else, especially if Price continues to struggle with his development. Not suggesting he should move either one, but it's an issue that isn't going away.
Now, if you're Gauthier and you want to put your imprint on the team, do you add a big body up front for a playoff run or shore up the blue line? Or do you look at this team and accept it's likely a seventh or eighth seed, hang on to your young assets and see what happens in the offseason? You know how impatient Montreal fans are, especially after getting waxed by Boston in the first round last season.
LeBrun: What's also interesting in the goalie debate, which is all the rage in Montreal, is what impact a new sheriff will have. Gainey was a huge Price backer. Gauthier? It remains to be seen. I know Price was on the phone with his agent, Gerry Johannson, in the wake of Monday's news. But as Johannson relayed to me Monday night, the kid was cool as a cucumber, as usual. He doesn't get too rattled, and despite not playing much lately, he's not in a snit over it.
"Carey is really happy in Montreal," Johannson told me. "We respect that the Canadiens have smart guys running things, and we know that there's a time and a place for us to have a discussion, and that's in the offseason. Right now, they're doing what they think they need to do to win, and that's OK."
There have been no contract talks with the camps of either goalie. That will be a summer issue. And what a big one. They're both in for raises. That's when I think you'll see a trade.
Burnside: So, if you keep both goalies through the March 3 deadline -- and I agree, it seems like the prudent thing to do -- what do you do with Plekanec? He's a good player and leads the Habs with 58 points. But can you realistically sign him long-term with big contracts already in place for Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri? And if you can't keep him, do you move him knowing he'd be a top rental before March 3? Ultimately, in terms of an asset like Plekanec, I guess Gauthier has to decide what the probability is for the Habs to go on a deep playoff run (modest at best, I think). What would you do, my friend?
LeBrun: Well, I know there was a meeting, very quietly, in late January between Gauthier and Plekanec's agent, Rick Curran.
"We had a lengthy discussion, at which time they expressed a desire to keep Tomas, and our response was that Tomas would be interested in that as well," Curran told me Tuesday morning. "We have a mutual interest in Tomas' staying in Montreal. He was drafted by them, and that would be his preference, to stay in Montreal."
But it won't be easy. There's not a lot of cap room to play with. That $7.3 million cap hit for Gomez over the next four-and-a-half years ... mercy. The wrong center is making money in Montreal. And that's why in the end, Scotty, moving Halak or Price makes sense not only because both of them want to be No. 1 goalies but also because they can't afford raises for both goalies and keep Plekanec. Until tomorrow, my friend.
• You also can get up-to-the-minute trade discussion in Rumor Central.