PRINCE OF PUCKS: Fedorov rumors flying

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The end of the first round of the playoffs is not only the end of the season for some unfortunate teams, but also the start of trade and free agent rumors for those same clubs. With perennial Cup contenders like Detroit and Colorado making unexpectedly early exits from the postseason, the rumor mill is churning more busily than usual at this time of year. The ' shocking first-round elimination at the hands of the Anaheim raises questions as to which potential free agents could be back next season. Team captain is expected to return for one more season, while it's anticipated the Wings will cut veteran winger loose after his sub-par performance this past season. Defenseman , obtained from the Buffalo in an early-season trade, might be expendable if management decides to bring up a defenseman from their farm club. The status of popular grinding forward is also unknown. The one player most Wings fans are concerned about is center , who rejected a five-year, $50 million offer from the club earlier this season and is believed to be seeking $12 million per season. Wings management wants to re-sign him, and Fedorov stated his desire to remain with the club. However, the club's concerns over the impending labor war between the league and the NHLPA in 2004, and the impact re-signing Fedorov could have regarding other free agent Wings players, has cast a shadow over his contract talks. If the Wings cannot come to terms with "Feds", it's believed the New York will happily ante up the money he's seeking. There is some talk that Fedorov would prefer signing with either the L.A. or one of the Florida-based franchises. However, the and have two of the lowest payrolls in the league and aren't expected to make a pitch for expensive free-agent players. The , meanwhile, have been losing money for years, even opening their books to audit to the fan-site letsgokings.com to prove it. They'd look hypocritical pleading poverty only to fork over $12 mil per season for Fedorov. The New York Post's Larry Brooks claimed the Carolina , who had signed Fedorov to a restricted free agent offer sheet in 1998 only to have the Wings match the offer, would make a strong run at signing the center again. Brooks based this on the heated rivalry between owner Peter Karmanos and owner Mike Illich, but Karmanos and GM Jim Rutherford were quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer as denying they would sign Fedorov or any other big-name free agent. The have made re-signing Fedorov their "top priority", but given the factors involved, it may not be easy to do. Turning to the Colorado , it's expected that GM Pierre Lacroix will take a pass on re-signing defenseman . The blueliner rejected an offer from Lacroix earlier in the season, which apparently didn't sit well with the general manager. Of bigger concern, however, is the future status of veteran goaltender . After years of stellar play, there are concerns now over his age and his health, particularly his ailing hips. The Denver Post reported RDS analyst and former NHL coach Jacques Demers as suggesting Roy would indeed retire this summer. If Roy does decide to call it a career, it's expected the Avs will plunge into the free agent market to find a short-term replacement. The Post suggested Colorado might sign Phoenix goalie , however, he still has a year remaining on his contract with the . In Toronto, where disappointment over the inability to win the Stanley Cup is a rite of spring, rumors are popping up over the status of several players. Defenseman , lured out of retirement last summer by a trade from Florida to Toronto, is now hinting he may retire again. Underachieving forward is suggesting he may forego the final year of his contract with the Leafs in order to play hockey in Sweden next year. Veteran forward , who quit the club midway through the first round, isn't expected back. There is also talk forward , who's a restricted free agent, won't be offered a new contract. The wackiest rumor of the playoffs thus far had to be from Brooks of the New York Post, who suggested the Leafs might be interested in forward . While the Leafs did try to deal for Lindros two years ago from the Philadelphia , his stock has dropped dramatically since then. Besides, the Leafs' real need isn't for a second-line center, as Brooks claims, but for a top-caliber defenseman who can play a strong two-way style for 30 minutes a game. Another almost annual passage of spring is the Edmonton bowing out in the first round to the Dallas , and this year was no exception. GM Kevin Lowe isn't expected to make any major shakeups in the off-season to his young roster, but it's believed the club will lose veteran forward to unrestricted free agency. Former GM Glen Sather may attempt to bring Marchant to the N.Y. , and a report in the Toronto Star suggested the Buffalo might also try to sign the Buffalo-native. Meanwhile, New York GM Mike Milbury was very unhappy over his team's performance down the stretch and in their first-round series loss to the Ottawa . He vowed an examination of the reasons for his team's poor play and hinted changes could be in the offing. Peter Botte of the New York Daily News suggested the Isles could try to find a forward who can play on 's line by shopping All-Star defenseman . There was widespread unhappiness in St. Louis over the first-round elimination of the high-priced , sparking calls for change by the fans and media. General Manager Larry Pleau suggested they could be in the works, although he wouldn't elaborate what they might be. The status of goaltender , a restricted free agent obtained at the trade deadline, is uncertain. While "Ozzy" stated he'd take less money to remain in St. Louis, there are rumors of management's unhappiness over his performance since coming over from the . In Boston, where the Stanley Cup drought is now at 31 years, there isn't expected to be much change in the way the conduct their usual frugal ways. Goaltender is due for UFA status this summer, and GM Mike O'Connell said he'd like to re-sign him. However, Hackett is now hinting at retirement, but won't make any decisions until he's spoken with his family. Finally, disappointment over the early ouster of the Washington could bring about a summer of change for the club. Team owner Ted Leonsis claims he won't make any major alterations to the lineup, but his team faces the possibility of losing two key defensemen to free agency. Veteran was upset with head coach Bruce Cassidy over his ice time being cut and angrily stated he wouldn't return next season, although he later calmed down enough to say he'd think it over. Meanwhile, the Caps apparently aren't happy over the type of deal being sought by , which could see him test the free agent market. Naturally, the Caps' early playoff exit brought about more whispers of being shopped in the off-season, with one report suggesting he could end up with the Phoenix . However, Jagr's $11 million per season salary makes the trade market limited, meaning the wouldn't even be in the running. Expect Jagr to be back with the Caps next season. At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector for the latest NHL rumors from around the league and buy his book.
Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Oilers, Hurricanes, Kings, Islanders, Rangers, Avalanche, Blues, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Coyotes, Ducks, Panthers, Jason Woolley, Darren McCarty, Sergei Fedorov, Luc Robitaille, Steve Yzerman, Todd Marchant, Alexei Yashin, Roman Hamrlik, Greg de Vries, Ken Klee, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Burke

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