Let the speculation begin

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

With all the influential people in the National Hockey League heading to Vancouver for the annual swapmeet, rumours are flying around the hockey village.

Some of them may be the creations of fertile minds, but they all seem to make sense. That's why they get passed along.

Here then, with no guarantee of authenticity, is some of the speculation that's making the rounds.

Todd Bertuzzi: The Vancouver Canucks, current holders of the Most Disunited Dressing Room Award, want to unload him. They won't buy him out, but they would like to deal him to a team willing to take on his $5.27 million US salary. That's the rub. In today's hockey, you can award big contracts, but the players in question must give a proportional return. Bertuzzi does not come with guarantees. The guy who could get the most out of Bertuzzi, and who traded for him once before, is Mike Keenan of the Florida Panthers.

Roberto Luongo: His is the name most often mentioned as likely to be traded, so a lot of people link his name with Bertuzzi's. It certainly would solve the Canucks' most pressing problem -- goaltending. But would Bertuzzi be enough? It now appears that Luongo could be moved this week and there are other enticing concepts out there. There has been speculation that Luongo could go to the Los Angeles Kings and that three Canadian teams -- Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto -- would be interested in his services. Who wouldn't? The problem is the price.

Chris Pronger: Once again, this is a player Keenan acquired in the past. Apparently, Pronger feels that he has served his sentence in Edmonton and should be released for good -- in fact excellent -- behaviour. But he has a monster contract with four more years at $6.25 million and Panthers owner Alan Cohen is not known as one of the league's free spenders. Still, if the Panthers keep Luongo, they will be in the same salary range.

Rob Blake: After years of high-level, not to mention high-priced, service, Blake is leaning towards making a decision based upon quality of life. He's a free agent and there are those who believe that when Joe Sakic signed at a reasonable price this week, he did so to allow the Colorado Avalanche to keep Blake. But Blake has a fantastic home in Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles and feels that he would like to see more of it. Therefore, an offer from the Kings would be well received. There's another possibility. Anaheim isn't exactly next door to Manhattan Beach, but it's not very far either, and there are those who think Blake could be a waterfowl by next season.

Patrik Elias: He's a free agent of remarkable skills and there is speculation that he will join the Ottawa Senators. But it would take some fancy juggling by the Senators who are going to reward their loyal fans by staying well below the salary cap this year so they can increase profits. If the Senators get Elias, they almost certainly would have to lose a high-level defenceman. And in today's hockey, forwards are a lot more easily acquired than defencemen. Instead, there is speculation that the New York Rangers could reunite Elias with Peter Sykora, a dynamic combination when they played for New Jersey. Rangers coach Tom Renney seems to get the most out of Czech players -- never an easy task -- and the Rangers have lots of cap room.

Jason Arnott: The speculation is that he's coveted by the Montreal Canadiens, a team badly in need of a forward who couldn't ride in the Queen's Plate. Arnott is coming off a great year and he's highly regarded by Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau as a result of their relationship on the Dallas Stars. As an aside, it appears that Sheldon Souray wants to leave Montreal, so the Canadiens will be in the market for a defenceman as well. Money doesn't seem to be a problem in that part of the world since owner George Gillett paid himself a $72-million dividend.


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