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After 'tire kicking,' GMs return to teams

by Shawn P. Roarke and Dan Rosen

Ottawa GM, Bryan Murray, might be able to get one more impact player before the deadline is reached.
NAPLES, Fla. -- The NHL General Managers meeting here at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort were not the swap meet so many had predicted. As of Wednesday afternoon's conclusion to the three-day event only one minor deal -- Jaroslav Modry to the Flyers -- had been completed. 

"Usually by this time, you have gone past concepts and you are down to names and I'm not there with anybody yet," said Brian Burke, the Anaheim GM. "So, either I'm slow or it's a slow-developing market."

Burke believes the market is slow because the trading deadline has been moved up on the calendar, allowing more teams to believe they have a shot to make the playoffs.

But just because there hasn't been major movement yet, it doesn't mean that there wasn't a lot of trade discussions -- "kicking the tires," as more than one GM referred to it -- taking place here during the past 72 hours.

Bryan Murray has been candid about his wish to secure one more impact player for his front-running Ottawa Senators as the club tries to return to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight season. He believes he has made clear progress in that endeavor.

"We have had discussion with several teams on who could be available and I hope that leads to further conversations," Murray said. "There are some good teams and we would like to think we are one of them. Any time you add without subtracting very much -- for the immediate at least -- it gives you a little edge going forward, from the mental point of view, as well as the physical point of view.

"I really believe that we have a good enough team to be a contending hockey team."

Murray also believes his opportunities will increase exponentially as the deadline approaches.

Cliff Fletcher, the interim Toronto GM, is one of the linchpins to any increase in activity going forward. He possesses several coveted players -- most notably Mats Sundin -- and his ability and willingness to move them greatly will impact the volatility of the market. But he agrees that right now, things are moving at a sedate pace.

"It doesn't appear to be too active here right now," Fletcher said. "A lot of people are clearly waiting until they get back and sit with their own staffs and plan their strategy and move forward from there. We have six days until crunch time."

He believes crunch time will deliver the deals everyone craves.

"I'm sure they will, but to what extent, I just don't have a crystal ball," he said.

Boyle Update --Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle, an upcoming unrestricted free agent, is considered one of the crown jewels of this year's potential deadline bounty.

Several teams are waiting to see if Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster can get the puck-moving defenseman signed to a new, long-term deal. Feaster has intimated several times this week that he prefers not to let Boyle reach unrestricted free agency and walk away, without compensation, come July 1.

So, he continues to negotiate with Boyle's agent on a new deal in the hopes of avoiding having to go to market with him later this week.

"We've had some correspondence this week and we will see where it goes," Feaster said. "I think the big thing is Danny wants to stay in Tampa. He likes it there. And we want to keep Danny. So, you hope that is the basis to try to get something done.

"Yet, we recognize, as does Danny, that he is in a very unique position as a highly sought-after guy. If I were to announce tomorrow that we couldn't get him signed and we were going to start the auction, there are a dozen teams that would queue up."

Feaster says the inordinate amount of interest in trading for Boyle does not move the deadline to sign Boyle up. He says the groundwork on potential trades with most of the suitors has been done, meaning Feaster likely can try to sign Boyle right up to Tuesday morning.

Campbell Update -- If anybody knows what Feaster is going through, it is Darcy Regier, the GM in Buffalo. He has his own puck-moving defenseman, Brian Campbell, approaching unrestricted free agency.

And like Feaster, Regier has yet to make significant progress in signing Campbell to a new, long-term deal.

"We'll try to keep things moving," Regier said. "We've exchanged voice mails and text messages. You certainly have to remain optimistic until there is a reason not to be."

Regier admits he has fielded preliminary offers for his star defenseman, but insists they remain on the back burner for now.

"I think the focus is still on getting him signed," Regier said. "You have a sense of what the asset value is and you also have a sense of what he means to your team if you keep him for the rest of the year, as well."

With Friends Like These... -- Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi has been a pretty popular guy here in Naples. His Kings are one of the few confirmed sellers in a market that still is seeking clarity. And, he has some valuable pieces to dangle -- defenseman Rob Blake being the most prominent.

So, it is not surprising to hear Lombardi has been a prime target for discussion with other GMs throughout his time at the Ritz-Carlton.

One writer asked if Lombardi had a lot of "friends" among his fellow GMs this week because of the team-changing bounty he could deliver in a deadline deal.

I don't know if they are friends; not with what they are offering. - Dean Lombardi

"I don't know if they are friends; not with what they are offering," Lombardi said, chuckling.

But he also admitted there was serious interest in Blake.

"He's a top player in the game and I think he plays a critical position," he said.

Blake has a no-trade clause that he is reluctant to waive, according to published reports. Lombardi said none of the interest was concrete enough yet to go to Blake with specifics and see what his final decision on the no-trade clause will be.

Lombardi also said all his other UFAs, as well as other players, are in play for the final six days before the trade deadline.

"If you are doing your job, you are talking about all your players at this point," he said.


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