Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Rumors Buzzing Around the NHL
It's no secret that this is unquestionably the slowest time of the year for hockey fans.
The vast majority of the top free agents have long since signed, the NHL entry draft has passed and all that remains is for training camps to start in preparation for the 2013-14 NHL campaign.
In the meantime, however, there are still a number of intriguing situations to monitor as all 30 NHL general managers try to put the finishing touches on their respective rosters heading into the season.
While there aren't any superstars remaining on the market, there are certainly some players and prospects who are worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.
Based on the latest rumors floating around the league, let's take at which ones are realistic and which are not.
The Leafs Will Trade John-Michael Liles
Since the Toronto Maple Leafs made expensive splashes by signing David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak to long-term deals worth over $9 million combined annually, Leafs general manager David Nonis seems to be trying to shed at least one high-priced contract before training camp opens next month.
According to CBS Sports' Brian Stubits, Nonis is in the process of finding a team willing to take on John-Michael Liles and his rather ludicrous contract:
Considering Liles' contract, which pays him $3.875 million per season over the next three years, would be awfully hard to move, especially considering his role diminished a ton last season to where he was scratched on occasion.
It's a pity because Liles was once a promising two-way rearguard and that's why he registered at least 31 points in each of his first seven NHL seasons.
But given his contract, and the Leafs' need to shed salary in order to re-sign a couple of key restricted free agents, such as last year's breakout star in Nazem Kadri, Liles' days in Toronto are all but certain to be numbered.
Verdict: Fiction. But only because Nonis is bound to realize there's no trade market for Liles, so he'll be forced to buy out the remaining three years on the former U.S. Olympian's contract.
Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek Will Not Be Buffalo Sabres by the Trade Deadline
Seeing as the Buffalo Sabres have fallen flat and failed to qualify for the postseason the past two seasons, there has been widespread speculation regarding the futures of franchise cornerstones Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek.
Miller, who is just three seasons removed from winning the Vezina Trophy and taking home MVP honors at the 2010 Olympics, is still a top-flight goaltender, but given the Sabres' struggles, it's difficult to see how he fits into Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier's long-term plans.
Jhonas Enroth has emerged as a legitimate insurance plan for Miller and with just one year of a $6.25 million cap hit remaining on the 33-year-old's contract, it seems logical that Regier would move him in order to prevent losing him for nothing on the open market next July.
Which brings us to Vanek.
As Lyle Richardson of The Hockey News points out, the two-time 40-goal scorer lives in Minnesota during the summers, not too far from where he starred as a Minnesota Golden Gopher, so it makes sense that the Austrian sniper would be in favor of a move to the Wild.
For now, the Wild don't have enough cap space to take on Vanek's contract, but that could change if the former All-Star indicates he's intent on leaving the only NHL team he's known.
Verdict: Fact. Vanek may not go to the Wild, but Regier is too smart of a general manager to realize that two stars, who will be on the wrong side of 30 by next spring, are not interested in taking part in a rebuild. Though Miller may not be looking to leave Buffalo now, expect him to be dealt to make way for the 25-year-old Enroth unless Miller signs a new deal.
Ales Hemsky Will Be an Oiler in 2014
For the Edmonton Oilers, the time for the rebuilding phase to end has come, but that doesn't mean that the club is against parting ways with one of its most talented and longest-serving forwards.
Ales Hemsky has one year remaining on the two-year pact the 29-year-old signed a year ago, but at $5 million per season, the slick winger's future with the Oilers is anything but certain, per TSN.ca, in regards to general manager Craig MacTavis and former captain Shawn Horcoff:
"[The] ideal scenario would be to move them on and wish them the best," MacTavish then told The Team 1260 in Edmonton.
Fast-forward to the present and Horcoff is now a Dallas Star, but Hemsky remains an Oiler.
Speaking at Rexall Place during the Oilers' Hockey School on Wednesday, MacTavish addressed Hemsky's future and said he now believes he can be a useful piece for the club.
MacTavish was honest in saying that Hemsky and Horcoff were likely candidates to land elsewhere earlier this summer. He obviously wasn't lying about Horcoff, who was traded to Dallas in July.
But Hemsky is a far different situation, as the sublimely skilled, yet fragile, forward remains an offensive threat. In the eyes of potential trade partners, however, his heavy cap hit seems to outweigh the attributes he brings to the table, at least for now.
Verdict: Fact. Hemsky will be an Oiler by the time the 2014 calendar year begins, but after that, all bets are off.
Mikhail Grabovski Signs with Washington
Since the free agent market opened on July 5, Mikhail Grabovski has been in search of a new team, and to be quite honest, it's extremely surprising the process has taken this long.
That's because Grabovski has been a productive playmaking center for the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past five seasons and figures to be a relatively safe bet for somewhere around 20 goals and 50 points a year.
But Toronto bought out the Belarusian pivot this summer just over a year after signing him to a five-year extension, so Grabovski entered free agency as one of the most skilled forwards up for bidding.
His next destination remains unknown, but CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley believe the Capitals are a likely suitor for the 29-year-old, even if Washington can't offer him the same money he might receive somewhere else:
Make no mistake. Grabovski is not this summer’s Wojtek Wolski, who was desperate to sign with any NHL team last season and failed to prove he belongs.
Because he was a compliance buyout by the Maple Leafs, Grabovski will be paid $14.3 million over the next eight years. So he’s not seeking a home-run contract.
Grabovski isn't going to necessarily be heading to the team that hands him the fattest paycheck. Given Washington's puck-possession style of play, the Capitals would be an ideal landing spot for the former 58-point man.
Verdict: Fact. There are some other teams in the running, but Grabovski has taken his time in making his decision because he wants to play for a contender. If the Capitals can sign him, it will be a move that benefits both parties.
Ilya Bryzgalov Will Be Playing in the NHL in 2013-14
It's amazing to think that just two years after the Flyers essentially shipped Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of Philadelphia in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal, the former Vezina Trophy nominee is having trouble finding a team that will offer him a starting job.
Not only is Bryzgalov without an offer to be a No. 1 goaltender, the Russian Olympian is currently training with a professional team in Sweden in hopes of impressing a team somewhere, according to Yahoo! Sports:
The musical chairs for NHL goaltenders has slowed significantly, with only a few potential landing spots still open. This is not exactly good news for Ilya Bryzgalov, the former Philadelphia Flyers goalie who carries more baggage than a carousel at LAX.
Either biding his time or checking his options, Bryz has opted to train overseas with Eric Granqvist, the goaltending coach for Färjestad of the Swedish Hockey League in ... well, Sweden. He’ll train with the team this week.
As of now, it seems unlikely that Bryzgalov will find a job in the NHL, which isn't necessarily fair if taking only his on-ice performance into account. Either way, he may have to settle for playing in Europe, at least until the stench lingering from his ugly departure from Philadelphia wears off.
Verdict: Fiction. Though he's certainly still a high-end goalie, Bryzgalov's off-ice antics and wildly inconsistent play in net has made him a no-fly zone for NHL general managers, at least for the time being.