Rangers in the market for top forward

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

Desperate to make the playoffs, the Rangers are beating the bushes for a top-six forward.

While they’d prefer a centre, league sources told Sun Media yesterday that GM Glen Sather is so anxious for help up front, he’s looking at acquiring injured Canucks winger Pavol Demitra once he gets healthy.

Demitra has scored 301 goals over a 15-year career, but hasn’t played this season after complications from off-season shoulder surgery forced a second operation. He hopes to return after Christmas.

When healthy, Demitra can be explosive — 10 seasons of at least 20 goals — and could be a good fit on a line with winger Marian Gaborik. The two are best friends and played together with the Minnesota Wild.

Demitra, who has a cap hit of $4 million (all terms US), is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, which gives Canucks GM Mike Gillis added incentive to make a deal.

The Rangers started off the season strong, but have looked only so-so lately. Indications are Sather wants to ignite the team despite the risks associated with acquiring the banged-up Demitra.

“They want to do something,” said a league executive. “They are talking to everybody right now.”

Off the glass

The NHL didn’t waste any time informing the Bruins that C Marc Savard’s seven-year, $28.05-million extension inked last week will be investigated. It’s the latest in a line of probes into cap-friendly, front-end-loaded contracts that includes Vancouver G Roberto Luongo, Philly D Chris Pronger and Chicago RW Marian Hossa. The 32-year-old Savard will make $7 million the first two seasons, $6 million in the third year and $5 million in the fourth. Then, his salary will drop dramatically to $1.5 million in Year 5 and just $525,000 in each the final two seasons. The cap hit: Approximately $4.2 million a season. The NHL is looking into whether early retirement was discussed — Savard will be 39 when the deal expires in 2017 — but the Players’ Association isn’t co-operating ... The talk is the Oilers are sniffing around to see if there’s any interest in D Sheldon Souray, who has three years left on a contract that carries an annual cap hit of $5.4 million. There are whispers Souray, 32, was offered as part of a package in a four-player deal with an Eastern Conference team.

Around the boards

New Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is going to have some work to do to get the club back on track after taking over from the fired John Stevens. There are whispers of infighting in the dressing room, but captain Mike Richards denied yesterday he has an issue with Pronger. The players weren’t surprised by the coaching change. “You heard rumours, you heard talk,” Pronger said. “I don’t think it was something new that came out of the woodwork. When a team is struggling and not playing up to expectations, changes are made. Whether it be a trade, whether it’s a coach being fired, whatever the case may be, things happen. We’re in the business of winning hockey games. We haven’t done that in the last few weeks.” ... Speaking of the Bruins, they quietly hired former Avalanche GM Francois Giguere as a scouting consultant ... Next coach poised to be fired: Andy Murray. The Blues bench boss shouldn’t get too comfortable these days. He declared last week he will no longer coach the power play. The word is that raised a lot of eyebrows in the organization ... The word is Panthers GM Randy Sexton is ready to hit the panic button. He can’t afford to miss the playoffs and has called every team in the league looking to deal.

Have a nice Sunday.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Rumours

Poile’s position

GM David Poile of the surprisingly competitive Predators has a couple of big issues to deal with before the trade deadline in March.

G Pekka Rinne, 27, who has taken over the No. 1 job, is making just $725,000 (all terms US) this season, but is a potential Group III unrestricted free agent on July 1 because of his age. The Predators can’t afford to let Rinne, who is ranked No. 12 in the league with an 11-6-1 record going into last night’s game vs. the Wild, just walk away in the off-season. Poile would like to sign Rinne to a long-term deal, but that will come with a significant raise.

Then there’s D Dan Hamhuis. He’s making $2.5 million, is a looming UFA and is one of the club’s top blueliners. The thinking is the Predators won’t be able to keep him, so they’ll likely move him at the deadline. That won’t be a problem for Poile; plenty of teams will be looking for a blueliner for the stretch run.

Just Say the Ward

The last-place Hurricanes are getting ready to dump salary.

At the top of the list is D Aaron Ward, who’s making $2.5 million and scheduled to become a UFA. The 36-year-old is going to attract interest. The Sharks, Senators and Blue Jackets are all looking for help on the blue line. Ward hasn’t performed up to expectations and GM Jim Rutherford is likely going to try to position himself for the best chance at the first overall pick in the draft.

Sources say several teams have called regarding veteran Ray Whitney, but Rutherford would likely give the respected winger the option of deciding where he wants to go.

O’Brien, anyone?

The Canucks are expected to move D Shane O’Brien, whom GM Mike Gillis has been offering around the league. Nobody is sure exactly what Gillis wants in return, but knowing him, it’s probably too much. O’Brien might be able to help a team like the Sharks. — Bruce Garrioch


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