NHL Trade Rumors: Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel and Latest League Buzz

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2013

Jan. 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA;  Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) on the bench during a stoppage in play against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In this abbreviated NHL season, the action happens quickly both on and off the ice. This means that trade talks happen early and a slow start for any player could mean they're finding a flight to meet their new team sooner rather than later.

The season is only a few weeks old and some of the biggest names in the league could be on the move, with equally big teams looking to do business.

The Toronto Maple Leafs may be fielding offers for top forward Phil Kessel, while the defending champion Los Angeles Kings still have not found a trade partner for backup goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Oh, and what's the story with Roberto Luongo? Will he stay with the Vancouver Canucks or finally be dealt?

It's been a busy day in hockey and it's only going to get busier in the near future. A lockout-shortened season means that GMs have little time for patience, which should make for an interesting trade season even though the deadline is not until April 3.

Mark my words, NHL fans. It may seem intense now, but the water is far from boiling yet.


Los Angeles Kings Seek Buyer for Bernier

The Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions and fortunate to have one of the best goaltenders in the world in Jonathan Quick as their starter. However, backup Jonathan Bernier is another story.

Bernier has appeared in just one game this season, a 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on February 2, and he gave up four goals on 21 shots. It's just one game, but it was bad enough that Kings GM Dean Lombardi could be ready to make a move.

According to John Hoven of MayorsManor, four teams have shown a strong interest in the 24-year-old, but the Kings' asking price is high.

Excuse me?

Granted, it's understandable why the Kings would want a lot in return for Bernier, as he has been a reliable backup each of the past two seasons and holds a career record of 20-18-0 with a 2.54 GAA.

However, the fact remains that Bernier is just that: a backup. Unless one of the four teams is absolutely desperate for help between the pipes, chances are he's only going to be playing once every few games. The only real bargaining chip that Lombardi has is that Bernier was the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft, a year that also saw Claude Giroux, Jordan Staal and Jonathan Toews enter the league.

That being said, it's going to be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Los Angeles is not desperate for help at goalie, but the speculation could soon rise to a distracting level.


Are Phil Kessel's Days in Toronto Numbered?

Phil Kessel has what it takes to become a great forward, but consistency has always seemed to be an issue for him. Despite that, he managed to score a career-best 37 goals and dish out 45 assists (also a career best) for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.

This season has not been so kind to Kessel. He has six assists in 10 games, but has yet to score a goal.

As Spector's Hockey tweeted via TSN's Darren Dreger, teams have shown interest in the dynamic winger and Toronto GM Dave Nonis has been listening to offers. No deal is imminent yet.

It may be hard for some fans to swallow, but trading Kessel could actually be the right move for the Leafs. He is supposed to be one of the team's most reliable goal scorers, but went three consecutive games without scoring on eight different occasions last season. The overall numbers may be good, but Toronto needs consistency, which Kessel lacks.

Just the same, Nonis would be wise to listen to any and all offers for Kessel. All inconsistencies aside, the man can still play and could fetch a good amount of talent in any trade.

This is one to look at with a wait-and-see approach, but expect a move to be made if Kessel does not score in the near future.


The Latest on Luongo

Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis wants to trade Roberto Luongo, but nobody seems to be taking the bait. The 33-year-old has gone 3-0-2 with a 1.53 GAA this season, but has a heavy contract valued at $64 million over 12 years. He is currently in the third year of the deal, which carries a cap hit of $5.3 million.

It's clear that Vancouver wants to go in a younger and cheaper direction with Cory Schneider, but that cannot happen until one team shows interest in taking on that monster of a contract.

Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun reports that the Flames will not make any calls about Luongo and the Canucks probably wouldn't even make a deal with Calgary since both teams share a division.

It also does not help that another goalie-needy team in the Washington Capitals seems uninterested in Luongo's services. As TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted, the team has "no appetite" to talk to Vancouver about Luongo and will "ride it" with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.

This means one of two things.

Either the Canucks will have to be willing to pay most of Luongo's contract in a trade or they will just be stuck with him. That's not a bad thing, since he is still effective, but the money is a bit much.

This issue is definitely one to watch. Luongo's going to be playing hockey somewhere this season, but just how much longer he remains in Vancouver is a complete mystery.


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