While rumor mills focus on the unrestricted free agent market, there’s no lack of trade speculation involving players currently under contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher has been in full-blown housecleaning mode, buying out the contracts of Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft and dumping underachieving center Kyle Wellwood on waivers.
Media consensus is Fletcher isn’t done, suggesting he could try to pressure Bryan McCabe into accepting a trade, possibly to the New York Islanders, as his wife is from Long Island and it is also where he began his NHL career.
Fletcher denies the reports, while McCabe’s agent insists his client has no intention of waiving his no-movement clause, adding the Leafs GM should go the buyout route if they want to move the defenseman.
That, of course, isn’t a realistic option given McCabe’s expensive contract and the huge cap hit a buyout would leave on the Leafs’ payroll.
Pressuring McCabe by telling him to stay home, threatening to bench him or reduce his ice time next season would put the Leafs into a messy legal battle with the McCabe camp and the NHLPA, which would be an unnecessary distraction to Fletcher’s rebuilding efforts.
It’s also presumptuous to claim the Islanders are interested in landing McCabe when everything they’ve been doing over the past year suggests their front office is more interested in rebuilding with youth and affordable veterans than saddling themselves with an average blueliner carrying a big contract.
If McCabe doesn’t want to leave and if there’s no fit for him on the Islanders or any other NHL team, there won’t be any deal happening.
A better trade candidate for the Leafs would be Pavel Kubina, who currently has a two-month window in his contract that allows Fletcher to shop him anywhere in the league without the blueliner’s permission.
However, Fletcher is reportedly less willing to shop Kubina following his strong performance down the stretch this season after the blueliner refused to waive his no-trade clause at the February trade deadline.
Shopping Kubina makes the most sense, though, since the Leafs already have two experienced puck-moving defensemen in McCabe and Tomas Kaberle and moving Kubina’s $5 million salary would allow the team to add depth elsewhere.
Fletcher said he wouldn’t give Kubina away, but sounded willing to entertain serious offers, which would likely involve a first line center, although that asking price could kill off his market value.
Still, teams that lose out on the bigger name UFA blueliners could have serious interest in Kubina later this summer.
Another defenseman popping up in the mill is Tampa Bay’s Dan Boyle, who was re-signed late this season to a four-year contract with a no-trade clause that takes effect July 1.
The recent focus on acquiring and signing potential UFA forwards by the Lightning’s new ownership sparked speculation they were shopping Boyle to free up payroll for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts.
The rumors were dismissed by new Bolts owner Oren Koules, who was rumored to have had a hand in Boyle’s re-signing prior to his purchase of the Lightning. However, the club’s aggressive pursuit of top six forwards – including the Wild’s Brian Rolston - hasn’t quelled the speculation.
Boyle’s contract contains a no-movement clause he’d have to agree to waive and his agent said the club hasn’t contacted them about doing so.
Several reports in the Boston media in recent weeks speculated on the possibility of the Bruins freeing up cap space for the by peddling veteran forward Glen Murray and the remaining $4.15 million of his contract.
The latest suggestion in the Boston Globe had Murray going to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Mathieu Schneider, calling it a “good fit” for both teams. But in reality it would only benefit the Bruins.
The Ducks are trying to free up cap space to retain restricted free agent Corey Perry and other key free agents, including a possible return of Teemu Selanne.
Swapping one expensive player for another, particularly one whose production has been in steady decline over the past five years, is not a good fit for the Ducks.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays 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.