NHL rumour roundup: 3 teams like Grabovski

The Washington Capitals' Mikhail Grabovski (above, wearing his Leafs garb) and Oliver Ekman-Larssen are both late for camp due to visa issues.
July 26, 2013, 2:59 PM

Call it the calm after the storm.

Few unrestricted free agents have inked NHL deals since the 24-hour frenzy of signings that began on July 5. But that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning and player agents from churning out vague yet enticing quotes.

Some NHL teams (the Toronto Maple Leafs, for one) have stated publicly that their focus has shifted to trades and signing RFAs, while others (Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres) have made it known that they’re still poking around the open market.

Here is a brief rundown of the latest buzz:

Gary Greenstin, the agent for one of the more interesting UFAs out there, Mikhail Grabovski, has told multiple reporters that three teams are interested in the speedy Maple Leafs castoff. A decision is not expected until August:

Jimmy Murphy of ESPN Boston, citing the ever-chatty “NHL source,” tweeted that there is a team interested in UFA goaltender Tim Thomas, who was not invited to Team USA’s orientation camp. If his Olympic dream has any chance to come true, Thomas must not only sign with an NHL club this summer but play lights-out in the first two months of the season. Sports Illustrated sees the Florida Panthers as one of Thomas’s scant options at this point:

Speculation on defenceman Ryan Whitney has been relatively quiet, but the Edmonton Journal‘s Jim Matheson figures the former Oiler might settle for a one-year pact in the East:

RFA Adam Henrique still hasn’t finished up his paperwork with the Devils, who were busy inking Jaromir Jagr to a bonus-heavy contract:

So the first known professional hockey offer for Mikhail Grabovksi since the Maple Leafs bought him out comes from… the KHL. Grabovski, who played 29 games in the Russian league during the NHL lockout, turned down a deal from Atlant Moscow Oblast. He wants to remain in North America.

That big name the Carolina Hurricanes are targeting? It could be UFA Brenden Morrow. Morrow’s agent, Brad Devine, told The Raleigh News & Observer Wednesday that he spoke with the Hurricanes earlier this summer and the two sides are expected to speak again. Morrow was a teammate of Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller with the Dallas Stars.

In the same article, columnist Luke DeCock writes that the ‘Canes are continuing to “sniff around” UFA defenceman Ron Hainsey.

Adam Henrique, one of the few New Jersey Devils left from last season’s roster that can score in bunches, is a restricted free agent. He could have a new deal in New Jersey by week’s end.

He might be 38 years old and a Stanley Cup champion, but winger Jamal Mayers isn’t ready to hang ‘em up. The UFA ($650,000 cap hit in 2012-13) role player will be looking for his fourth consecutive one-year deal:

Last month Hockey Central insider Nick Kypreos reported that Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was available for trade. On Friday, the Edmonton Oilers were brought up as a possible landing spot for the Alberta-born defenceman whose contract with the Leafs expires at the end of 2013-14.

“Dion Phaneuf should be dispatched as soon as they possibly can, and the story I hear is that Edmonton’s interested. And if they are, tell (general manager Craig MacTavish) to take him and have fun with him,” former Leafs assistant general manager Bill Watters told CHED 630′s Oilers Now. “I find him to be the most overrated, undernourished hockey player in the history of the NHL, and whoever made him the captain of the Maple Leafs should have been fired six years ago.”

Watters was critical of Phaneuf during his radio interview, recounted on the weekend by the Edmonton Journal. The 28-year-old’s current contract carries a significant cap hit of $6.5 million. Both Phaneuf and Toronto’s best scorer, Phil Kessel, will be looking for new contracts this season or hit the open market July 1, 2014.

“I think the Leafs would move Phaneuf; I’m not sure the Oilers want to add on that extra money right now. They don’t have a defenceman making over three-and-a-half million bucks, and they would have to trade one back if they were to do something there. I think (UFA acquisition Andrew) Ference is a really good addition to the group.”

Thirty-two-year-old UFA Andrew Alberts, who registered one assist in 24 games at defence for the Vancouver Canucks last season, is considering re-signing with Vancouver, but is keeping his options open:

Here’s a thought floating around on Twitter: Mikhail Grabovski to the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks’ highest-profile agent, Brian Burke, was of course the hockey man so high on Grabo’s talents that the former Maple Leafs shot-caller inked him to a contract cumbersome enough that current Leafs GM Dave Nonis decided to buy it out. Anaheim is looking to upgrade its second-line centre.

Consider this, however. Grabovski scored just 16 points in 48 games last season (granted, Leafs coach Carlyle used him in a more defensive role that Grabo would have liked). Compare those numbers to Anaheim’s Nick Bonino, the 25-year-old centre who scored 13 points in 27 games and added another four points in seven playoff games. Bonino will be an RFA after 2013-14, but he’s currently playing for just $700,000:

Veteran forward Brenden Morrow, one of the top 10 unrestricted free agents left on the market, has reached out to the Montreal Canadiens, according to a report from The Fourth Period. Former Habs coach and player Guy Carbonneau told Montreal’s 98.5 Sports that there has been “been movement in recent days” between Camp Morrow and the Habs, who “were surprised (Morrow) was open to the idea of playing in Montreal.” Of course, Carbonneau — who is Morrow’s father-in-law — qualified his comments by saying that several other clubs are interested int he UFA.

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told 99.9 The Fan that he is immersed in contract talks with an “upper-tier guy,” a “big-name free agent” hoping to sign him to a one-year pact.

“There’s one guy that has said he will take less on a one-year contract to come to us, because he likes our team and he’d like to play here,” Rutherford said, his quotes first gathered by The Fourth Period. “I’ve been continuing to work on ways to do that.

“We’re going to have to move a player out before we’re able to add a player, and at this point in time I haven’t been able to do it, but the player is still waiting patiently.”

According to the Denver Post, UFA Milan Hejduk will not be welcomed back by the Avalanche. The former captain isn’t calling it quits, however. He wants to land a contract with another NHL team. The Post‘s Adrian Dater reports the Sabres as a possible suitor.

Rumour has it, the Edmonton Oilers are still in the market. Possible targets include Mason Raymond and Brenden Morrow:

Raymond was interested in joining the Calgary Flames, Sportsnet’s Roger Millions reports, but GM Jay Feaster isn’t jumping at the opportunity:

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