Evgeni Malkin's potentially season-ending knee injury could put Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero into the trade market seeking a short-term replacement.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazettereported that once Malkin is placed on long-term injury reserve it'll provide additional salary cap flexibility for Shero to bolster his depth at center, which is now depleted with Malkin out and team captain Sidney Crosby sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, meanwhile, suggested New Jersey's Jason Arnott or speedy Oilers winger Ales Hemsky as trade targets while acknowledging neither could fully replace Malkin's skills.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson wondered if the Penguins might have interest in Ottawa Senators winger Alexei Kovalev. Matheson noted the Penguins “had him once before and he wouldn't have any trouble fitting in.”
Kovalev's seemingly indifferent play over the past three seasons combined with his $5 million salary doesn't appear to be a good fit on a Penguins team that, under coach Dan Bylsma, follows a strong work ethic led by its young stars.
It must also be remembered the management has changed since Kovalev's days in Pittsburgh, so one shouldn't make any assumptions based upon nostalgia. He's also no longer the skilled sniper he was during his Penguins heyday.
Shero won't panic in this situation. Jordan Staal has returned to the lineup and for now can move into the first line center role until Crosby's return in late February or early March. The Penguins also have good goaltending and a solid blueline corps, so they can play a more defensive style while Shero shops around for one or two affordable scorers by the trade deadline.
SOURAY READY TO RETURN?
After spending this season buried in the minors, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray might return to the NHL.
Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector reported Friday the New York Rangers had been scouting Souray in Hershey, where he's been playing on loan from the Oilers. The Rangers are in need of a hard-shooting defenseman and could have interest in plucking Souray off re-entry waivers if they like what they see.
The Journal's Matheson, however, reported Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said he's yet to be contacted by a rival club expressing interest in the veteran defenseman and until that happens, Souray will stay put.
Spector noted if Souray is claimed through re-entry waivers the Oilers will be on the hook for half his remaining salary for this season and next. He's earning $4.5 million per season with a cap hit of $5.4 million.
It's possible Tambellini could avoid that by leaving Souray in the minors and try to trade him in the off-season, but at this point it might simply be best for the Oilers to cut their losses and let him go via re-entry waivers rather than risk having to pay out his full salary again next season.
According to the New York Post, there's no indication the Rangers are in a hurry to claim Souray as they must ensure they leave enough cap space next season to not only re-sign key free agents such as Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, but also to possibly pursue Dallas center Brad Richards in next summer's UFA market.
CapGeek.com indicates the Rangers have $15.7 million in available cap space, which could increase to more than $18 million if the salary cap rises to $62 million next season as expected, with 15 regulars under contract. That’s assuming they keep defenseman Wade Redden buried in the minors next season.
Unless the Blueshirts dump more salary, having Souray's $2.7 million biting into that available space won't leave much to re-sign their key players and still pursue a top free agent talent like Richards next summer.
Ottawa Senators center Mike Fisher and Edmonton Oilers forwards Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky are reportedly attracting considerable interest around the league, but landing any of those players could prove expensive.
The Journal's Matheson reported that sources said the Nashville Predators had interest in Hemsky, leading Matheson to suggest the Oilers might listen if the Predators were willing to part with top prospect Ryan Ellis and a first round pick for Hemsky.
That asking price, however, would likely be too rich for Predators GM David Poile, who admitted he's looking to improve his team, but only if the deal makes sense.
Matheson wondered if the L.A. Kings might have interest in either Penner or Hemsky, but it remains to be seen if Kings GM Dean Lombardi is willing to part with a good young player like Wayne Simmonds along with a high draft pick or prospect to land either guy.
The Ottawa Sun, meanwhile, reported the Predators, Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning could take a look at Fisher, but if, as the article suggests, the asking price by the Senators is “two top young players plus a high pick” none of those clubs are likely to bite.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.