If talk turns to action, Bryan Murray could be on the verge of making his biggest move as the GM of the Senators.
A hot rumour in NHL circles has him discussing a three-way blockbuster with the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, Sun Media has learned. While draft picks and other players might also be involved, the principals appear to be a group of five or six that include a couple of veteran goalies and some of the game's most promising stars.
According to insiders, Ottawa would trade netminder Martin Gerber and defenceman Andrej Meszaros to Los Angeles, the Kings would move 20-year-old centre Anze Kopitar to Chicago and the Blackhawks would propel goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and either of young blueliners Brent Seabrook or Cam Barker to the Senators.
On the surface, it seems the deal could be a rare win-win-win.
The Senators appear to be at something of a contract impasse with Meszaros, a restricted free agent with three seasons of NHL experience who is said to be looking for a salary in the $3.5-million (all terms US) range. The 22-year-old Czech was the team's seventh-leading scorer last season and, should he be re-signed, stands as its top puck-moving defenceman. But Meszaros' play has also slipped since his standout rookie season and many view him as Murray's primary piece of trade bait.
Gerber, who is entering the last of a three-year deal that will pay him $3.7 million in 2008-09, has had his ups and downs as a Senator. Moving him now before losing him next July as an unrestricted free agent would be Murray's desire, if he could get a No. 1 goalie back in return. Enter Khabibulin, a 12-season veteran who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning to 2004.
The Senators made a pitch for the 35-year-old Ukrainian at last February's trade deadline and it's believed they've inquired about him again since then. Khabibulin, who will earn $6.75 million in 2008-09, is also slated to become a UFA next summer. Last season, his third in Chicago, he posted a 23-20-6 record with a 2.63 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
The 'Hawks are looking to move Khabibulin, having signed Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5-million free-agent contract earlier this month.
Barker, 22, was the third overall pick of the 2004 draft. Over the past two seasons, he has played just 81 games, including 45 last year, when he had six goals, 12 assists and 52 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is scheduled to make $2,768,587 in the upcoming season. His salary cap hit, however, is $984,200. Barker is an RFA next season.
The better catch might be Seabrook.
Seabrook, 23, carries a contract that will pay him $3.5 million in each of the next three seasons. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder was Chicago's first-round pick (14th overall) in 2003 and equalled his career high with 32 points (nine goals) in 2007-08. The Blackhawks can afford to move one of their offensively gifted blueliners after signing Brian Campbell to a mega-bucks, multi-year contract earlier this month.
Just as the Kings are in need of a starting goalie and apparently looking to build up their blue line, the 'Hawks are hoping to land another top-six forward to go along with the growing crop of talent already in place.
As a sophomore, Kopitar led Los Angeles in scoring last season with 32 goals and 45 assists. He will make $765,000 next season and is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer.