Mule kicked

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Detroit Red Wings offense recently suffered a significant blow when winger Johan Franzen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks, sidelining him for up to four months.

Don’t expect GM Ken Holland to look outside the Red Wings organization for help. He told the Detroit Free Press there’s no 30-goal scorer comparable to Franzen available either in the free agent or trade market, leaving Holland no choice but to look toward the young players in his system, which included recalling Justin Abdelkader from the minors.

Holland told the Sporting News he had no interest in signing former Red Wings winger Brendan Shanahan, who was released by the New Jersey Devils and is now an unrestricted free agent.

If Shanahan were the same player he was four years ago, Holland would likely snap him up. However, if Shanahan were that player, the Devils wouldn’t have cut him in the first place.

• The contract status of Atlanta Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk will remain a topic of interest throughout this season.

Kovalchuk is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer and the longer he goes unsigned the more speculation will grow over the course of this season about his availability – especially if he remains unsigned by the March 3 trade deadline.

The Thrashers went through a similar situation with star forward Marian Hossa two years ago and wound up shipping him to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline when contract talks reached an impasse.

Kovalchuk staged a holdout prior to signing his current contract and recently said he wasn’t in any rush to sign an extension, but talks are continuing between his agent and Thrashers management.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen suggested the odds were “70-30” in favor of Kovalchuk re-signing at some point in the season.

If Kovalchuk does hit the trade block later this season, don’t expect the Edmonton Oilers to make a pitch.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal responded to a reader’s question suggesting the Oilers make the same offer to the Thrashers for Kovalchuk they made this summer for Dany Heatley – forwards Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano and defenseman Ladislav Smid.

Matheson noted, however, Heatley was under a long-term contract whereas Kovalchuk could still walk via free agency if he were traded this season, making such a pitch risky.

It remains to be seen if the Thrashers have better luck in extending Kovalchuk than they did with Hossa, but the fact talks appear to be going well bodes well for a potential re-signing.

Kovalchuk seems intent on maintaining his wait-and-see approach to determine if the Thrashers are a serious playoff contender before putting his signature on a new contract, which could take until mid-season at the earliest.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for and Eishockey Magazine.


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