By Stu Hackel
Lazy, hazy and crazy are good words to describe this NHL summer so far. After the crazy free agent business we surveyed on Thursday, completed transactions have slowed to a lazier pace as the players on the market and the clubs in need evaluate their potential moves. Meanwhile, the trade scene has turned hazy — it usually is when rumors fly.
But now that the top names in free agency are gone, the biggest trade targets are getting more attention from frantic clubs that were spurned by the likes of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, as are the remaining free agents. So which players, in what Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli calls the “secondary market,” have the biggest targets on their backs?
Let’s start with Rick Nash, whose situation is lazy, hazy and crazy all by itself. The big, scoring winger with a no-trade clause remains a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets a mere half-year after he requested that the team trade him. You want hazy? Here’s what we know, or what we think we know, or what has been reported (take your pick): Nash’s list of preferred destinations supposedly includes the Rangers, Red Wings, Penguins, Flyers, Sharks and Bruins. It’s obvious from looking at his group of teams that — unlike many of the big free agents — Nash is no longer content with being a building block on a rebuilding club. (The ‘Canes prefer to call it “reshaping”). He wants a chance to play for an established club and win the Stanley Cup sooner rather than later. However…
Columbus GM Scott Howson won’t be rushed into a deal that brings back anything less than “market value,” which means he wants at least one impact player in return, and probably some additional pieces as well, considering all the needs the Blue Jackets have. Obviously, it’s a lot to ask. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Hurricanes wouldn’t pay Howson’s asking price, which included exciting young forward Jeff Skinner, so they’ve dropped out of the Nash sweepstakes — if they were really ever in it, considering they’re not on Nash’s list. Howson is reportedly talking to every NHL team anyway, not just the ones that Nash has approved, in the hopes that if he gets a deal he likes, he can convince Nash to go along.
And, as Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch writes, Howson, “won’t trade Nash for less than ‘market value,’ even if the saga drags well into July, even into August, and yes, even into the start of training camp in September.”
Is that crazy? Not if you’re Scott Howson, I guess.
With Nash, the Blue Jackets and the rest of the NHL unable to agree on where the star winger should be traded, lots of attention has shifted to Bobby Ryan. The Anaheim winger doesn’t have the body of work Nash does, but he’s still very productive and consistent (he’s hit the 30-goal mark in each of the last four seasons), younger, and comes with a smaller contract with less term remaining on it. Jesse Spector of The Sporting News believes Ryan is actually a better choice than Nash and if Ducks GM Bob Murray agrees, the price could be just as high. Having upgraded their blue line since July 1, the Ducks still need a second-line center, but if lots of teams are chasing Ryan, Murray can expand his demands.
Another alternative that appeals to many clubs that are looking to add a top six forward is Coyotes captain Shane Doan, and his plight is lazy, hazy and crazy, too. Doan is a UFA who is getting lots of buzz, but on July 1 he postponed considering any offers until this coming Monday. That date, July 9, was the earliest in which the Coyotes’ potential new owner Greg Jamison could gauge whether the various machinations he and the City of Glendale have to go through would clear a path for the team’s sale.
Doan doesn’t want to leave the Coyotes where he’s provided lots of the glue that has kept the players together in the face of the franchise’s never-ending ownership saga — or, more precisely, lack-of-ownership saga. But, as Lisa Halverstadt reported earlier this week in The Arizona Republic, two new petitions could postpone or kill Glendale’s lease with Jamison and their first stages won’t be acted upon until mid-July. Additionally, seven candidates for Glendale City Council, including two who are running for mayor, want the lease delayed pending discussions on whether paying Jamison $10 million to $20 million annually to run Jobing.com Arena is a sound fiscal decision for the city, which is heavily in debt. So if that July 9 date still has relevance and these latest moves push Jamison’s plans further into the future, Doan may decide it’s time to go.
Another target could be one of Doan’s teammates, defenseman Keith Yandle, the highest-paid Coyote at $5.25 million and one of the game’s better offensive defenseman. For some reason — perhaps his salary on this red ink team — he seems to have become a hot commodity on the trade market since the NHL Entry Draft last month. GM Don Maloney wouldn’t rule out dealing Yandle when asked if he would. “Keith Yandle is an assistant captain, a core member of our team and the best young offensive defenseman in the game,” Maloney said in June. “So if we were ever to make a deal, it would have to be something very special.”
Since the Coyotes lost their leading scorer, Ray Whitney, to free agency, perhaps Yandle is bait to get an impact forward, although that would be more like treading water than swimming somewhere. He’d be a lot to surrender on a team that doesn’t score enough.
You’d think the Coyotes and any team that needs offense would be lining up for UFA Alexander Semin but the trashing he took on July 1 on TSN was not an aberration among experienced hockey people. His reputation isn’t good and despite his obvious offensive talents, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in signing him. Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford did mention to Chip Alexander of The Raleigh News-Observer that he’d consider signing Semin to a one-year contract. “We wouldn’t want to get locked in to anything, because we’ve all heard the stories about him. We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term.”
Poor Semin. The guy has averaged 31 goals over the last six seasons and, in a league struggling to score, no one wants him. But with his lazy shortcomings and hazy mind for the game, it’s not crazy that he’s not getting any love from the NHL’s GMs.
There’s also some hazy speculative news on the Canucks trading goalie Roberto Luongo, who supposedly wants to return to the Panthers. The Canucks probably have also heard from the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets — places Luongo would like to play, but only for the visiting team. The Canucks are said to want Panthers goalie Jose Theodore in exchange. Theo has a year left on his deal and Vancouver believes he’d be a good backup for Cory Schneider. The problem is that No Way Jose has a partial No Trade Clause in which he lists 10 teams he can be dealt to without waiving it. The Canucks, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported, are not among the 10 on the list. And does Theo want to be a backup?
Earlier on Friday, Luongo told a Vancouver radio station, “It’s time to move on.” We’ll have to wait to find out if he gets his wish soon or this one drags on lazily through the summer, too.
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