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Calling Fact or Fiction on the Biggest Rumors Buzzing Around the NHL

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIJune 22, 2013

Calling Fact or Fiction on the Biggest Rumors Buzzing Around the NHL

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    The 2013 Stanley Cup Final has been an epic battle so far, and the only thing we know for certain at this point is that either the Boston Bruins or Chicago Blackhawks will be champions by the end of the week.

    That means the draft will suddenly be upon us, and trade rumors that started out as breezy could turn into hurricanes before our very eyes. Some of these rumblings have been going on for the better part of 2013, while other whispers have started over the last week or so.

    NHL offseasons are always chock-full of action. The upcoming couple of months are made all the more interesting by the added element of the compliance buyout. It's impossible to know every player that will be a free agent, because it could literally be anyone.

    Some courses of action are much more likely than others, however. We aren't going to see the Pittsburgh Penguins buy out Sidney Crosby, and there won't be any ridiculous trade attempts involving coaches either.

Detroit Red Wings to Buy out Mikael Samuelsson?

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    The Rumor

    According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Red Wings could use a compliance buyout on Mikael Samuelsson.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    Samuelsson couldn't have been much more of a non-factor for the Wings in 2013. They brought him in to solidify the top-six and to man the point on one of the power-play units. But he spent almost the entire regular season injured and in the press box, suiting up in only four games while notching a single point.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    Detroit isn't in desperate need of cap space at this juncture. According to the report in the Free Press, the team has 20 players under contract for next year while maintaining more than $10 million in cap space.

    Samuelsson is only slated to be a Wing for one more year, and if we've learned anything in these playoffs, it's that depth matters.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fiction. Samuelsson would have to be healthy for Ken Holland to axe his contract. At this point he isn't healthy, so Detroit's hands are tied as far as a compliance buyout is concerned.

Jonathan Bernier Finally Getting Traded out of Los Angeles?

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    The Rumor

    Jonathan Bernier is on his way out in Los Angeles, and according to Renaud Lavoie at RDS, only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild are remaining in the bidding war.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    Bernier has been a blue-chip trade option for the Los Angeles Kings for two years now, and the time has come to finally cash that chip in. He's a restricted free agent, but the Kings could look to move him for an outstanding prospect or load up for the draft by moving Bernier.

    Toronto is looking like the most likely destination for the 24-year-old right now, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly reports.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    It's tough to think of a scenario that would cause the Kings to keep Bernier. They've been dangling him as trade bait since Jonathan Quick became one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, and Bernier asked for a trade last July.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact. It looks like L.A. is going to receive the value it's been looking for in exchange for its current backup. It's just a matter of where he ends up and when at this point. The if factor is pretty much gone.

     

    Update: According to NHL.com, Bernier has indeed been traded to the Maple Leafs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Will Trade Kris Letang

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    The Rumor

    According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Kris Letang could be moved as early as the draft at the end of June. Regardless of when Letang gets traded, Rossi claims that Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero views the star defender as a "must-move player." 

     

    Why It Would Make Sense 

    Shero proved in his handling of Jordan Staal that he isn't afraid to move star players when they aren't willing to sign an extension prior to the last year of their contract expiring.

    He's decided that Letang should receive no more than $6 million per season—with the deals that Mark Streit and Sergei Gonchar recently received, it'd be easy to see how Letang's camp is calling for (way) more cash.

    Given the depth of the defensive prospect pool in Pittsburgh, it's also easy to see how Shero could deem Letang expendable.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    Letang is a 26-year-old Norris Trophy finalist coming off of a point-per-game 2013 season. Defensemen that can post points like that don't come around all that often, and when they do, they are typically the anchor and focal point of the team.

     

    Fact or Fiction 

    Fact. It's tough to determine when Letang will be shown the door, but it's almost inevitable if he insists that his paycheck amounts to more than $6 million a season. Shero is a bold negotiator and knows what he wants to pay his players.

    If the player—Letang in this case—declines that amount, he's made himself expendable. Letang has done just that in Pittsburgh. Shero will receive a coup for the all-world defenseman at some juncture this year.

Colorado Avalanche Set to Pass on Seth Jones, Select Forward?

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    The Rumor

    Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche made waves earlier this week when he informed the Denver Post that the team would pass on Seth Jones and select a forward with the first overall selection at the draft.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    When speaking to the Post, Sakic said that "(the Avalanche) feel those three forwards are just too good to pass up," speaking of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Alexander Barkov.

    While the team does have holes on the blue line while maintaining a seemingly solid top-six group of forwards, the Avs must make the selection they feel gives them the best chance to win over the next decade—not just in 2014.

    Jones is considered the best defender in the draft, but there's some question as to whether or not he'll eventually be viewed as the best player. Colorado wants the best player, and that's who it'll go after at the draft.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    By all accounts, Jones is the kind of guy that teams could build around. He's a workhorse on the back end and possesses all kinds of "intangibles" that would help sell tickets in Colorado.

    It'd be a tough sell to move away from a kid that grew up watching the Avalanche play to select any of the aforementioned forwards.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact. The words of Sakic have been viewed as posturing in an attempt to try and trade down a few spots, but it isn't like the gap between Jones and MacKinnon (etc) is all that wide. The Avs win regardless of whom they select at No. 1.

Coyotes' Days in Phoenix Numbered?

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    The Rumor

    After several years of ownership limbo, the NHL could have finally turned over every possible stone to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona reported that talks are ongoing concerning the arena-management proposal from Renaissance Sports and Entertainment—the group that is attempting to purchase the Coyotes from the NHL.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    The NHL has done just about everything in its power to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. The situation has been a mess from the get-go, and it seems like every few weeks there is a new ownership group in place, rip-roaring and ready to take over the team.

    If this deal goes through, the Desert Dogs will stay in Glendale. The city (as usual) is in no real rush to make a decision on what to do with the team, however, and that may not sit well with the NHL this time around.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    According to Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, Glendale isn't willing to pitch in more than $15 million to make the team work in Phoenix. That's a tough sell to any prospective buyer.

    While there's much more to the ownership fiasco than that, it's clear that the city isn't willing to go to bat to save the Coyotes at this point.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact. The NHL has done everything it can to make a hockey team work in the desert. That effort hasn't been reciprocated by Glendale, to say the least.

    With so many hockey-friendly markets foaming at the mouth for a team, 2014 may be the year the move of the Coyotes becomes a reality.

Carolina Hurricanes Shopping the No. 5 Selection in the Draft?

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    The Rumor

    Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer recently tweeted that the Carolina Hurricanes could look to move their fifth overall selection in the draft if their target is taken by then.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    The Hurricanes seemingly have their preferred player, and (according to Alexander, per CBS Sports) if he's gone by No. 5, then they'll look to trade down and improve their team in a more immediate way.

    If the 'Canes believe they are a team that can make some noise in 2014, then this is a move that makes sense to some degree.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    Regardless of what Carolina believes itself to be capable of, it's tough to imagine it passing on any of the players that will be sitting there at No. 5. Valeri Nichushkin will likely be available at that spot, and he's going to be stellar.

    The "Russian Factor" may scare off some general managers, but the team is set to interview him on Wednesday according to Alexander.

    Igor Eronko of Sports.ru made it known that the KHL had offered Nichushkin big bucks to stay, but he split for the NHL anyway.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    The Hurricanes will have a rare chance to add an elite draft pick to a team that's already loaded with talent. Unless they receive an offer that's just too good to pass up, it'd be best for the future of the Hurricanes for them to use their top-five selection on a lights-out prospect.

    If someone reaches for Nichushkin, that will only mean that another top player will have slipped into their laps on draft day. The Hurricanes can't lose by keeping the pick.

Ilya Bryzgalov Staying Put for at Least a Year?

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    The Rumor

    While the Philadelphia Flyers have made the upcoming buyout of Daniel Briere official, the Ilya Bryzgalov situation is still up in the air. Randy Miller of USA Today reported on June 21 that Ritch Winter (Bryzgalov's agent) had been on the phone with Paul Holmgren (Philly's GM) on four consecutive days to check up on the status of his client with the team.

    As of that writing, there were no imminent plans to buy out Bryzgalov.

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    Holmgren reshaped the entire DNA of his team to make room for Bryz, so only giving him 97 starts as "the man" for the Flyers may not make sense. The spacey goaltender was off a bit in 2013, but he was solid in 2012. Making a decision about his future this summer could be a bit rash—especially considering the 2013 season was a lockout-shortened affair.

    Not exactly the best way to judge a player's future. 

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    Bryz's contract is expensive and lengthy, and the Flyers are in cap hell right now.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact (for the time being). The Flyers were one of the last teams standing in the Bernier sweepstakes, according to CSN Philly. Holmgren obviously isn't standing pat on Bryz, but a move isn't imminent because the only other starting netminder in Philadelphia is Steve Mason.

NHL Close to a Deal That Would Send Players to the Olympics?

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    The Rumor

    Arash Madani of Sportsnet recently reported that the NHL is close to a deal that would send players to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. 

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    Anyone who witnessed the incredible action of the 2010 Gold Medal Game between the United States and Canada knows why sending NHL players to the Winter Olympics makes sense. That tourney featured some of the best hockey to ever take place on the international stage, and 2014 would likely be similar in intensity. 

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    Scheduling compression and injuries to star players aside, there's really no reason to think that sending NHLers to Sochi doesn't make sense.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact. Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told Madani:

    Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll have a formal agreement done. We certainly have our sights that the NHL players will be there, but we still have to get that done with the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.

Vancouver Canucks Looking to Buy out Keith Ballard?

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    The Rumor

    Keith Ballard's agent (Ben Hankinson) recently told Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun: "It will be good for (Ballard) if he does get bought out because he'll get a fresh start somewhere else."

     

    Why It Would Make Sense

    The defenseman is set to make $4.2 million over the next two years and was a healthy scratch for the Vancouver Canucks down the stretch. There's little reason to pay a guy that kind of cash if he's viewed as a depth player.

     

    Why It Wouldn't Make Sense

    There's the off chance that new coach (according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN) John Tortorella wants to keep Ballard around, though it's unclear at this point if the bench boss will have that sort of creative control over the roster.

     

    Fact or Fiction

    Fact. That same Sun article quoted Hankinson saying, "My guess is (the Canucks) are going to push the trade front as hard as they can, probably up to the (June 30) draft, and see where that takes them."

    One way or the other, it looks like Ballard has played his last game as a member of the Canucks.

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