VANCOUVER -- With all the wheeling and dealing expected to go on this weekend at the NHL draft, what better spot to hold it than GM Place?
As NHL GMs descend upon the home of the Canucks for tomorrow's entry draft, the word is the group of teams holding picks 1-5 -- St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington and Boston -- are getting plenty of calls from clubs looking to improve their draft position.
It's believed the Maple Leafs, Sharks, Flyers, Sabres and Senators are trying to see if they can move up.
"I've had some calls, but nothing that has interested me so far," said St. Louis GM Larry Pleau, who has the top selection in the draft. "I'm sure it's going to heat up a bit more by (tomorrow)."
Sources say the Blues might be willing to make a move if they can get immediate help in exchange for the pick.
What St. Louis really needs is a proven goalie, but it's doubtful Pleau will be able to find a deal with anybody unless he tries to get involved in the sweepstakes for Florida's Roberto Luongo.
If Pleau keeps the pick, he's expected to select U.S. junior defenceman Erik Johnson.
Pleau said he won't give away the future just because the Blues are trying to climb out of last place.
"I don't know about immediate help. If we get a player who is going to help us in two, three or four years that doesn't really matter. We just want to improve our team," said Pleau.
'TENDER MOMENTS: Sources say Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr. has held discussions with several teams in hopes of landing a goalie. The word is the Leafs are looking at Anaheim's J.S. Giguere, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov and possibly Carolina's Martin Gerber, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. If Florida GM Mike Keenan does in fact attempt to deal Luongo, the Leafs are ready to put together a package. Another possibility is Edmonton's post-season hero Dwayne Roloson. He has an offer to return to the Oilers, but is from Southern Ontario and, according to sources, wouldn't be adverse to playing for the Leafs ... Moving Luongo will be tough for the Panthers simply because he's stated that no matter where he plays this fall, he will explore the free-agent market following the 2006-07 season. Luongo told a Florida newspaper yesterday that he wants to finish his career with the Panthers. The Senators would be among a group of teams interested in acquiring Luongo, but the asking price would be W Martin Havlat, D Chris Phillips and Ottawa's No. 1 pick in the draft. With no guarantees that Luongo would last more than one season with the Senators, you can forget about that deal happening.
IN THE LOBBY: Agent Steve Bartlett, who represents Montreal G Cristobal Huet, said he's had good discussions with Habs GM Bob Gainey. Asked if he thought a deal could be done before Huet becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Bartlett said: "I think so, but I don't know. If it doesn't, he'll go on the unrestricted free-agent market. But we've had some good discussions and I'm quite confident we'll be able to get something done." ... Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster is in the market for a goalie. There were whispers he could be close to acquiring Buffalo's Martin Biron ... The Leafs and Senators could end up in a wrestling match for potential free-agent D Luke Richardson, who is an Ottawa native. He would certainly provide a veteran presence for the Senators if they wind up losing Wade Redden and/or Zdeno Chara to free agency ... There's a lot of talk the Canucks will try to move W Todd Bertuzzi this weekend. A good fit might be the Panthers and it just so happens Vancouver needs goaltending help (Luongo) ... If the Oilers do decide to sign Redden as an UFA, they'll have to move D Chris Pronger. That would be tough for Edmonton fans to swallow after the way Pronger performed in the playoffs, but Redden is going to demand a long-term contract worth $6.5 million US a season. With Pronger scheduled to earn close to the same next season, there is almost no way the Oilers could afford to keep both ... Whispers out of Minnesota have the Wild trading RW Marian Gaborik to the Senators for Havlat. That would simply be two teams trading a contract negotiation problem.