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Rumor mill churning out lots of interesting news

by Dan Rosen
The rumor mill is churning at full speed this week and what you believe can largely be based on what media outlet -- newspaper, Web site, Twitter feed or blog -- you choose to read.

Tuesday, for example, Jason Spezza was apparently going to be traded to Columbus, a rumor that has since been squashed by several folks in the know several times. However, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray did say Monday that Spezza "wouldn't object" to a trade. Tomas Kaberle could reportedly be traded out of Toronto soon and Andrew Ladd is apparently on his way out of Chicago because the Blackhawks can't afford to even tender him a new contract, according to TSN analyst Bob McKenzie.

This is just a sampling of what we're hearing as the business side of the game takes over this week. With every notable executive heading to Los Angeles for this weekend's Entry Draft, the general assumption is that the transactions page will be littered with NHL news -- be it from trades or signings.

It already started Tuesday with the retirement of Scott Niedermayer, Tom Renney being promoted to the Oilers' head coach, Boston and Florida pulling off a major trade, Tomas Plekanec signing a monster six-year deal with the Canadiens, and Matt Cooke re-upping in Pittsburgh for three years.

It was a busy day and there is plenty more percolating throughout the NHL right now, but that means fans have several questions about what could potentially happen in the coming days and weeks. Here are five that could be answered by the end of the weekend:

How are the Blackhawks going to handle their salary cap issues?

At least part of this question will likely be answered this weekend when GM Stan Bowman can huddle in a corner with any of his cohorts from around the League. The Blackhawks have a lot of moves to make in order to work with the cap this season, a number that has not yet been revealed but is expected to be around $59 million. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Hawks have $57 million tied up in 14 players. Antti Niemi, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Ladd are restricted free agents, but there's no way the Hawks can re-sign them all, which is why Ladd is reportedly on the trading block now. Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are four more names we're hearing when it comes to trade talk. Sharp is probably too valuable at a $3.9 million to get rid of and Bolland ($3.375 million) is probably too valuable because of what he can do as a third-line center, but Versteeg ($3.083 million) and Byfuglien ($3 million) could be shopped. Bowman could choose to dump Cristobal Huet and his $5.625 million in the minors, which would take his cap hit away. Finding a taker for Brian Campbell and his $7.1 million salary would also make Bowman's life easier.

What players that weren't at a Stanley Cup parade this year are on the trading block?

GMs are saying there will be plenty of trading done at the draft tables this weekend, and several big names could be changing zip codes. We've already seen one big deal go down between the Bruins and Panthers with Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell going to Boston for Dennis Wideman and the No. 15 pick in this year's draft plus a third-round pick next year. Speaking of Boston, the emergence of Tuukka Rask has put Tim Thomas on the block and teams like San Jose and Philadelphia could be interested. Maybe Flyers forward Jeff Carter could be going to Boston? As we wrote earlier, Spezza could be dealt out of Ottawa. And, Brian Burke has said interest in Kaberle has gone up considerably. Again, perhaps Boston could be in the mix now that it dumped Wideman. There has been some talk coming out of Minnesota that Brent Burns could be available for a top-six forward.

Who could re-up with their current team before July 1?

Unless their rights have been traded -- a la Nashville dealing Dan Hamhuis to Philadelphia last weekend -- teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own potential unrestricted free agents until 11:59 a.m. ET on July 1. A minute later and they become fair game on the open market. The Canadiens didn't want to see Plekanec go to the open market, so they signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract Tuesday. The Penguins also don't want to see Sergei Gonchar become available to 29 other teams, nor do the Devils want to Paul Martin to test his value in the free agency waters. But, it could happen that way. You have to assume the Flyers are serious about Hamhuis and won't let him get to the open market, not after trading Ryan Parent and a late-round draft pick for the right to negotiate with him. Now that Wilson said Nabokov is not in the plans, perhaps that means Patrick Marleau could ink a new deal with the Sharks soon? Wilson wants to allocate his cap space intelligently, so he couldn't sign both Nabokov and Marleau. If the Flyers can't find a better option in goal, Michael Leighton could return as well.

What big names will hit the open market?

Ilya Kovalchuk is not likely to sign with New Jersey before July 1, though the Devils could opt to trade his negotiating rights before then. It might not be worth it, though, if Kovalchuk is serious about entertaining offers from the KHL, too. Ray Whitney is another one that is pretty much a lock to be on the market at noon on July 1, but again, Carolina might try to get a draft pick for his rights. The same holds true for guys like Marty Turco, Chris Mason, Anton Volchenkov and Alexander Frolov. Turco, Mason and Volchenkov are definitely not returning to their respective teams (Dallas, St. Louis, Ottawa). There's a small chance the Kings could get Frolov back, but it has to be at their price.

Will Modano and Selanne join Niedermayer and Blake in retirement?

Already the Hall of Fame's Class of 2013 is shaping up to be pretty stellar with the retirements of Blake last Friday and Niedermayer on Tuesday. Teemu Selanne and Mike Modano are both contemplating the end of their playing careers as well. If they also head off into the sunset, the Hall doors should open to all four of them in three years. Selanne said he will return to the Ducks if they are serious about winning, but you have to wonder what he's thinking now that Niedermayer is out. Maybe he waits to see what Anaheim GM Bob Murray can do via trades or free agency before making his decision. Modano is not going to be back in Dallas and he has said he'll find it hard to wear another sweater, but he also plans on waiting until July to make a decision on his future.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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