NHL Trade Rumors: John-Michael Liles, Phil Kessel and Wednesday's NHL Buzz

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2011

NHL Trade Rumors: John-Michael Liles, Phil Kessel and Wednesday's NHL Buzz

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    So the NHL Trade Deadline is now inching ever so closer, and there's just as much intrigue now as we've seen in years.

    A few big names have already moved and there are still more moves coming.  More big names are involved in trade rumors as we near towards Monday's deadline. As it has for most of the season, what happens between now and then will depend a lot on what the Dallas Stars do with Brad Richards. 

    The latest news is that there really is no new news about Richards. The fate of the Stars might as well come down to a flip of a coin in the next couple of days. Another name to watch will be Chris Phillips.

    If a combination of one or both of them staying or leaving occurs, then it will have a domino effect on the rest of the trade market. It'll either open up or slow down the market for the secondary players like John-Michael Liles and Ales Hemsky. I'll get into that in more detail.

    There's other news surrounding the NHL and the trade deadline, including a host of players put on waivers today, among other things. This is the place to get the latest NHL news and updates.

    So keep reading for the very latest.

Scottie Upshall Suspended

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    The NHL announced late Wednesday that Phoenix Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall was suspended two games for a hit on Philadelphia Flyer Oskars Bartulis.

    The hit occurred during the Coyotes' 3-2 overtime win against the Flyers on Tuesday night, when Upshall hit Bartulis from behind into the boards. Upshall wasn't tossed from the game, but he was given a minor penalty for boarding. NHL.com reported Bartulis left the game with a shoulder injury and was expected to have a MRI today.

Brad Richards, C, Dallas

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    I'm surprised no one at TSN or Rogers Sportsnet in Canada has taken a page out of the ESPN playbook and sent one of their reporters to stake out the Richards' compound in Dallas to see what is happening with Brad Richards. 

    Because really, this is it. Brad Richards is the prize of this trade deadline and he will be the prize come July 1 and the start of free agency unless something major happens. Teams have made it very clear that they want him either now or in July, some more covertly than others. Meanwhile the hockey world lies in wait to see what the Dallas Stars will do with him.

    Not surprisingly, they're playing it very close to the vest. Joe Nieuwendyk appeared on NHL Live today, saying that the team is considering all its options on him right now.

    ESPN's Pierre LeBrun posted the comments on his Twitter, and here's some of what he said, according to LeBrun.

    "I've discussed it with some teams. All options are in play here. It's certainly not my first choice, I've maintained all along that we'd like to keep Brad as a Dallas Star for a long period of time. There's a lot of uncertainty with our side as far as ownership that are a concern for them. But, all options are open."

    Obviously, as I've said the last few days, the Stars are in a tough position, especially in a very tight playoff race in the West. They're definitely a better team with Richards than without, the recent stretch of games they've lost with Richards out with a concussion prove that. The Stars though will have to make a tough decision.

    Do we want to win now, or win down the road?

    The Stars won't know for sure until Monday, and even then it might be up in the air. If Richards is still out with a concussion, then the decision might be made for them. The Stars will have to decide, and it's the biggest decision Nieuwendyk will make as a general manager.

    Personally, I think he stays unless the Stars get a great offer. 

Hall Of Famer Peter Stastny Calls Out Colorado Avalanche

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    Peter Stastny is about as synonymous with the Colorado Avalanche as Mike Piazza is with the Florida Marlins. 

    But, the Avalanche were once the Quebec Nordiques, and the elder Stastny became arguably the greatest player the franchise ever knew during its Quebec days. So when Stastny (a Hall of Famer and the father of Paul Stastny) rips his former organization, it's big news. When you do it the way he did last night, it's bigger news.

    Stastny commented the mega-deal that sent former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson to Colorado and forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to St. Louis "destroyed" the team, among other things.

    Stastny's full comments to a St. Louis radio station, from ESPN.com.

    "This young team was ready to challenge, almost, for a Stanley Cup this season. They were so good. All they needed was some more chemistry, and some synergies. Instead, they destroyed the team. I mean, that was a one-way deal.

    "(St. Louis GM Doug) Armstrong will look like a genius. I don't know what they were thinking in the Colorado organization. I should not have said this, but I'm so, so mad what they've done to this team. They've moved the team about two to three years back again."

    Of course, this wouldn't have been a huge deal if Stastny's son wasn't a member of the Avalanche, and especially if his son wasn't rumored to be on the trading block. One has to wonder what this will do to Paul Stastny's status with the organization now and whether the Avalanche will be more active in looking for a trade partner for Stastny.

    Although one has to wonder (with all due respect to Stastny, who is the better player), if GMs and owners are reportedly balking at Stephen Weiss and his cap hit, what would owners think of trying to acquire Stastny, who's cap hit is nearly double and almost in Brad Richards range?

    It all makes for a very awkward meeting very soon.

Phil Kessel, C, Toronto

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    Drama just happens to follow Phil Kessel around, from forcing his way out of Boston to possibly talking his way out of Toronto.

    Or at least that's the case according to the Toronto Sun, which published a report earlier this week quoting a scout that the Maple Leafs were putting out flyers on Kessel. The rumors picked up enough steam that Brian Burke had to publicly refute them in an e-mail, according to reports.

    We really shouldn't be surprised with the Phil Kessel rumors anymore. I mean, this is the man who went through a severe enough goal drought that he let it slip that Shaq and Kobe talk more than he does to his coach, Ron Wilson. 

    But, despite what Burke says, is Kessel really available?

    It wouldn't surprise me at this point, considering this is the same organization that traded Tomas Kaberle and a couple of days later looked to pretty much acquire a Kaberle clone (and not a cheap one either) in John-Michael Liles. This is the organization that dealt away a draft pick for Aaron Voros.

    This is an organization that still thinks Mike Komisarek is a good defenseman. That should say enough.

    Yet, the Maple Leafs continue to do this. Brian Burke is a very good general manager, but eventually there has to be some sort of a plan or rhyme or reason to what he is doing. Personally, I doubt Kessel is in play, although it doesn't hurt to at least listen right now. I don't think Burke would admit failure that early on the deal and I doubt he's giving up on Kessel either.

    Something has to change in Leafs Nation. Or else it can still get a lot worse before it gets better.

Paul Stastny, C, Colorado

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    Peter Stastny's harsh comments about the Colorado Avalanche and their recent deals have led to speculation about where that leaves the organization and Stastny's son Paul, Colorado's highest-paid player.

    It can't be a great situation for him, considering he was already named in trade rumors in Colorado's apparent firesale. Greg Wyshinski and Rob Pizzo of Puck Daddy Radio were joking about it today on the program, discussing how awkward Stastny must feel in the room now.

    Personally, I can only think what it would be like now in that locker room when Stastny walked in, probably something out of a Michael Scott meeting, save for a bunch of politically incorrect jokes and Dwight Schrute.

    Well there might be some inappropriate jokes, but there's definitely no Dwight. I think.

    Either way, the Avalanche find themselves in a precarious position after Papa Stastny basically glove-slapped them in the media. Will they now trade Stastny or at least attempt to with that $6.6 million cap hit according to capgeek.com (and they thought Stephen Weiss had a high price tag), or do they now stick it to the elder Stastny by keeping his son around on this "destroyed" team.

    I doubt an organization would be that childish (unless it's run by James Dolan, then all bets are off), but the pressure is now on to move Stastny or at least put flyers out there that he's available. Don't be surprised to see the Stastny trade rumors skyrocket now.

Brayden Schenn, C, Los Angeles

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    The Kings have made it pretty clear they want a forward. In fact, it's been one of the league's worst-kept secrets for close to a year. It's also pretty clear that every team the Kings call about a trade are asking about super-prospect Brayden Schenn in return.

    Every time, the Kings have balked, making him basically untouchable. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun echoed the same sentiments today, writing that he feels the only way the Kings would consider dealing Schenn is if it was a sign-and-trade deal involving Richards.

    To be honest, that's the right move on the Kings' part.

    We're seeing a major shift in the NHL right now where teams are much more apt to hang on to their prospects than they have in the past. Now more and more, smaller deals have draft picks being exchanged instead of prospects, which is always a risky proposition, but it's the way things are working now.

    Regardless of all that, if Schenn can be the player he's projected to be and the player he was for Canada at the World Juniors, then he has star potential. It wouldn't be smart for the Kings to give that away for a player who has miles on his tires, so to speak. The Kings are doing things as they should here.

    And considering I can't even recall the last time a sign-and-trade happened in the NHL, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Schenn's not going anywhere.

John-Michael Liles, D, Colorado

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    Now with Tomas Kaberle out of the picture, the Maple Leafs had a hole on defense. So Brian Burke is reportedly trying to fix that whole with a younger, slightly less expensive version of Tomas Kaberle.

    Good, it doesn't make sense to you either.

    Pierre LeBrun wrote today the Maple Leafs "kicked the tires" on Liles, and according to reports from yesterday, the Maple Leafs are very interested in Liles.

    Again, this doesn't make any sense to me. I understand there is a need for a puck-moving defenseman on the Maple Leafs' part who can quarterback the power play. Liles can do that, but I don't get the move.

    Kaberle is a better offensive defenseman who could provide more offensive power and despite all the criticism for his lack of defense (warranted or not), he has a higher career plus/minus than Liles (a career -13), not to mention a higher plus/minus this season (minus-two to minus-six). Obviously plus/minus is not the most telling statistic when it comes to defensive adequacy, but it can prove a point.

    Liles has a $4.2 million cap hit for next season, and if he slides back to what he has been the last couple of weeks, he becomes another albatross on that blueline with Mike Komisarek and Dion Phaneuf that can't be moved. 

    This is a move that should it happen for Toronto, smells way too much of old behavior, and they can't allow the franchise to fall back to what it was doing a couple of years ago.

Alex Semin, LW, Washington

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    The Washington Capitals have not been themselves this season. It was evident early on. It's been evident just by looking at Alex Ovechkin's goal total, and it was definitely evident during 24/7 when coach Bruce Boudreau unleashed a rant that made Rex Ryan look like a Sesame Street character by comparison.

    And the Capitals didn't even get a snack at the end.

    But Craig Custance of the Sporting News suggested the Capitals need to do something drastic, so he suggested the Capitals should trade Alex Semin, the talented winger that the article states has only scored three times since November 28.

    In terms of bold moves, that would definitely be a very bold one (one that Lyle Richardson wrote probably won't happen considering his cap hit), but it's a bold move nonetheless.

    While I wouldn't trade Semin, there's no harm in listening if there are any calls about him.

    Watching the Capitals at times this season, there's something missing. The passion and explosiveness just isn't there like it was, and to me this team needs something to wake it up. Perhaps dangling Semin out there would be the type of message that gets through to Alex Ovechkin and some of the others that no one is safe and any player could be traded.

    Whatever it is, something has to be done.

Nikolay Zherdev, RW, Philadelphia

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    Well the Flyers have gotten their wish and have washed their hands of Nik Zherdev.

    Zherdev was one of many who was placed on waivers today by his club, a list that included Ales Kotalik of Calgary, Marek Svatos of Nashville and Craig Rivet in Buffalo. 

    Then of course there was the Islanders placing Jeremy Colliton on waivers, but I'm guessing you already heard that.

    Out of those, the most interesting name is Zherdev, because he's probably the most talented and has the most upside out of that group. Kotalik is basically a spare part now and Rivet is an older veteran, but teams still think (bless their hearts) they can be the ones who can make it work with Zherdev, who wore out his welcome in Columbus and had the Rangers walk away from his arbitration.

    Not surprisingly, rumors started to fly through the hockey boards about Zherdev being available. Heck, it didn't take long for fans on the Maple Leafs' website to start a thread about the how the Leafs should put in a claim for Zherdev. I guess tells you tons about the quality of offensive production in Toronto these days that fans are pleading for Nik Zherdev.

    But someone will take a chance on him, either by trade or by putting in a claim for him because teams always will take a chance on him with his offensive talent. I'll say what I said earlier this week, just don't expect it to end well with him because it never does.