TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger have the latest on what's brewing ahead of the Sochi Olympics and beyond to the Mar. 5 trade deadline, including an important date in Ryan O'Reilly's future with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Sochi Olympics will occupy most of our attention for the next month or so, but 10 days after the gold medal is handed out, it's TradeCentre. Give me some names that might move.
Bob McKenzie: Two names that you might hear out there are a couple of veterans from the Dallas Stars and maybe those players are actually hoping to hear their names in trade rumours: We're talking about veteran forward Ray Whitney and defenceman Sergei Gonchar.
Neither of these two players, you could say, are thriving under Lindy Ruff in Dallas right now. It's not a great situation for either one of them. Now, if the Stars decide to move them, Whitney would be a pure rental and would be a lot easier to move, since somebody could pick him up for just the balance of the season. Gonchar has two more years left at $5 million per year on one of those over-35 contracts. That will be a tough one to move.
Pierre LeBrun: One of those contenders looking to add before the trade deadline will be the Anaheim Ducks although you'd wonder what a team that's won 18 of 19 could possibly need.
We're told that they are targeting a right-handed defenceman. That would be the top of their wish-list and one name that I know will have some intrigue is Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers. However, at this point the Rangers are telling teams that they're not moving him, are focused on signing him and are confident at this point that those negotiations will possibly lead to a new deal.
Ryan Callahan is another unrestricted free agent for the Rangers. That negotiation is perhaps not as far down the road, and I don't know if the Rangers can get both done, but Girardi seems more likely.
"California Dreamin'" goes beyond the Ducks. What would the L.A. Kings like to add?
Darren Dreger: They'd like to add some scoring and a bit more skill but the sense is around the Kings that they're going to have to wait, let the money go down a little bit more. So, we're talking about a deal that probably doesn't happen much before the Mar. 5 trade deadline.
They're looking at rental players like Mike Cammalleri, Thomas Vanek perhaps Tomas Fleischmann or even Matt Moulson. That's the type of player the Kings feel would give them a bit of a push going into the playoffs.
Five days before TradeCentre - right at the end of February - is a very important day for Ryan O'Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche. Explain.
McKenzie: It will mark a year since he signed his free agent offer sheet that the Calgary Flames tendered and was obviously matched by the Avalanche. That is when the Avalanche – if they so desire – have the availability to move him in a trade. They've been restricted and haven't been able to do that up until now.
I'm not saying they will, I'm saying that that is the time lapse that if they wanted to trade O'Reilly. Keep in mind that they have to qualify O'Reilly when the season ends at $6.5 million.
LeBrun: So many teams are keeping an eye on what the Avs are going to do with O'Reilly. If he's made available, to me he's a number one player on the trade market. So many teams could use him and one of those teams that covet him – I believe – are the Vancouver Canucks. I would put him at the top of their list, he fits all their needs in terms of finding another centre and they have an abundance of defencemen, which is something Colorado would want to have back in a trade, if they were to put O'Reilly on the market.
If some student were to do a study on which team is talked about most with trade rumblings on Insider Trading it would probably be the Carolina Hurricanes. What's the latest there?
Dreger: Tuomo Ruutu is very much in play. It seems like he has been for the entire season and last year, too. Jim Rutherford met with Ruutu this week and told him he's going to start pushing that trade now. Ruutu has a no-trade clause but he said he'd do his best to work with Carolina.
McKenzie: Rutherford sent a league-wide email saying Ruutu is available, as well as Jiri Tlusty, Riley Nash, Drayson Bowman and Brett Bellemore. The Canucks did the same thing with Dale Weise and the Tampa Bay Lightning did the same thing with Keith Aulie and Tom Pyatt.
LeBrun: One goalie that is available is Michal Neuvirth in Washington. We know his agent spoke publicly about hoping he would get a new home. The Florida Panthers are a team keeping an eye on it. That may be more of a move for the off-season, but they have some interest.
Steven Stamkos has three more weeks to be ready for Sochi. He participated in the morning skate with his team for the first time Thursday. What does this mean as far as his timetable for a return?
Dreger: It's a great sign because up until this point he's been skating on his own and those that have been following Stamkos thought that that was a good sign.
Now, be mindful of the fact that this wasn't a full practice but Stamkos did skate with his team wearing a red jersey and clearly not participating in any sort of battle drills. He was not going full-steam but, as I said, those who were watching this - and that includes Team Canada - are very optimistic with Stamkos rejoining his club and participating in that type of practice environment. They are not optimistic enough, though, to guarantee that he will be in the line-up prior to the Olympic break.
Most believe that he should be ready by a game or two before the Olympics, so we're talking Feb. 4, 6 or 8. But that is not a guarantee.