SUN Hockey Pool

Havlat hungry to stay in Windy City

BRUCE GARRIOCHSUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:53 AM ET

Winger Martin Havlat could be making the Windy City his permanent home.

While there have been trade rumours surrounding the potential unrestricted free agent, the word out of Chicago is Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon and Havlat's agent, Allan Walsh, have discussed a long-term deal.

Havlat, 27, who is in the final year of a three-year, US$18-million contract, has been a force for the 'Hawks this season. He has been one of Chicago's most consistent forwards and is on pace for 66 points, which would his best offensive season since his last year with the Ottawa Senators in 2003-04, when he had 68.

Walsh wouldn't discuss specifics but said there is a willingness on both sides to get a deal done.

"The whole atmosphere around the team is different than it was in the past two years and (coach) Joel Quenneville deserves a lot of credit for that," Walsh told Sun Media.

"At the same time, this is Dale Tallon's team. He brought all the pieces together including getting (Havlat) on board.

"While nobody can predict the future, there appears to be mutual interest in a long-term deal. We've started working on it and from (Havlat's) perspective, he loves the fans, the organization and the city. It's probably one of the best places in the entire league to play. We are hopeful and excited at the prospect of getting a deal done soon."

If that happens, it may be devastating news for Montreal GM Bob Gainey.

Sources say the Habs had planned to make a strong pitch to land Havlat at the trade deadline and, failing that, would go hard after him in the summer.

OFF THE GLASS

There will be interest in Senators RW Chris Neil at the trade deadline. The Oilers, Coyotes, Sharks, Ducks and Bruins are all going to be looking for toughness for the stretch run, which means Neil is going to be a valuable commodity. The asking price will likely be a second-round pick ... New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has been working the phones. The belief is the Devils are willing to move RW Brian Gionta, who is in the final year of his contract.

BRUCE GARRIOCH IS A SUN MEDIA COLUMNIST


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