Habs GM on hunt for blue-line help

Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier is pictured in this September 14, 2011 file photo. (MARTIN...

Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier is pictured in this September 14, 2011 file photo. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency Files)

Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:42 PM ET

Pierre Gauthier would never show any signs of panic publicly.

But the talk in league circles is the Montreal Canadiens GM ó who plays it close to the vest and rarely speaks to the media ó is quite concerned with the way his club has struggled out of the gate and is trying to make changes.

The Habs went into Saturday nightís visit by the Toronto Maple Leafs last in the Eastern Conference.

That isnít sitting well in hockey-mad Montreal and Gauthier canít preach patience.

To make matters worse, the Habs have been hit by injuries.

The Canadiens have no idea when veteran blueliner Andrei Markov might return from off-season knee surgery, and sources say the Habs may be willing to part with winger Andrei Kostitsyn to get help.

Making $3.25 million and set to become a UFA on July 1, Kostitsyn, 26, isnít the kind of player everybody wants, but heís coming off a 20-goal campaign and has been one of the clubís best players this season.

Kostitsyn struggles with consistency, but the Habs might be able to fetch a veteran blueliner for him.

The issue Gauthier is facing: Heís not the only GM looking for help on the back end.

Tampaís Steve Yzerman is working the phones as well.

The problem both GMs are finding is teams that have an extra D-man arenít willing to part with them.

AROUND THE BOARDS

The heat on GM Scott Howson has been turned up in Columbus big time. Whether Howson can make changes isnít known, but heíd better hope his team finds its way out of this funk. ďMy guess would be this team had better start winning quick,Ē said a league executive. Acquiring C Jeff Carter from the Flyers hasnít worked out the way Howson envisioned. Carter is week-to-week with a hairline fracture in his foot. Is it true Howson actually tried to acquire C Mike Richards from Philly before he was dealt to the Kings and then ended up with Carter? The rumour is the Jackets offered G Steve Mason and RW Jakub Voracek to the Flyers in exchange for Richards. Voracek landed in Philly as part of the Carter deal. The prediction is Howson will be the first GM to make a trade ... Confirm or deny, San Jose GM Doug Wilson: Once W Dany Heatley turned in his list of teams where he couldnít be dealt and Minnesota wasnít on it, he was moved to the Wild for W Martin Havlat within 20 minutes?

OFF THE GLASS

Apparently, GMs arenít the only ones getting a little tired of Brendan Shanahanís act in his new job as NHL VP of safety. The word is the players arenít exactly thrilled with the length of the suspensions the former NHL star has been handing out, either. According to a third party, one player called on the carpet by Shanahan waived his right to an in-person hearing because he didnít want to sit in the NHL office and be told ďhow bad he was.Ē Shanahan will soon learn this isnít an attractive job ... You have to wonder when W Scott Hartnell is going to become an issue for the Flyers. Heís playing on the third line with a cap hit of $4.2 million for the next two years. Hartnell didnít sign with Philly to play that kind of role. His name has been heard in trade circles, but heíd have to waive his no-movement clause ... The Jets havenít made a decision on rookie C Mark Scheifele, but heís expected to be returned to junior for more seasoning. ďHe was strong in the pre-season, but you can see since the regular season started that heís just not strong enough. He needs more time,Ē a league executive said last week.

WE HEARD A RUMOUR ... OR TWO

The Coyotes arenít actively shopping C Kyle Turris, an RFA who refused to accept a qualifying offer from Phoenix GM Don Maloney, but the club has had calls. The belief is Turris doesnít want to return to the Coyotes and is hopeful somebody will give him an offer sheet that Phoenix wonít match. Sounds like itís a little late for that to happen ... As was reported in this space last week, Calgary GM Jay Feaster isnít wasting any time trying to make changes. The name of W Rene Bourque has been mentioned and he is being shopped along with several other players on Calgaryís roster. Bourque has three years with a cap hit of $3.3 million left on his contract. Donít be surprised if Winnipeg shows a mild interest because the Jets need help up front. ďHis contract isnít bad for what he does,Ē said a league executive. ďHeís a pretty good player.Ē ... Why do I keep hearing the Panthers are going to send D Erik Gudbranson, 19, back to junior before the 10-game mark? He was minus-4 in six games going into the weekend, but the Panthers should accept the growing pains. If that happens, it has to be a money-related decision because they donít want to pay the bonus structure in his contract. It just makes no sense, but stranger things have happened ... The Canucks arenít trying to move D Keith Ballard. Heís been one of their best defencemen this season.

Have a nice Sunday.


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