Swimming in Rumours

MINNEAPOLIS — The state of Minnesota is known as the Land of the 10,000 Lakes. If, however, you believe all the rumours swirling around the Minneapolis-St.Paul area in advance of the NHL entry draft Friday and Saturday, it could be dubbed the Land of the 10,000 Leaks.

The intrigue is building. The Ottawa Senators, who own the sixth overall selection in the first round on Friday, are one of several teams interested in trading up into the top 5, even though it will take a hefty price for a club to unload that selection. You can rule out the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, who own the first two choices, from giving up a potential franchise player, meaning all eyes should be on the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are floating their eighth overall choice for a quick fix. The franchise has flopped miserably with countless previous early round selections, including Rostislav Klesla, Nikita Filitov, Gilbert Brule, Jakub Voracek, and are searching for a legitimate first line centre to play on a line with Rick Nash, the most successful draft pick in team history.

“There’s a lot going on, more than normal,” Columbus GM Scott Howson told the Columbus Dispatch. “Teams realize we’re more open to trading a top 10 pick than we’ve been in the past for immediate help. That has generated some interest.”

Howson added that he’s had a “few surprise calls, players that might be available.”

Cue the names:

–Brad Richards, who is being shopped by the Dallas Stars in an attempt to get something in return before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

–Jeff Carter, who could be dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers for financial reasons if the team is successful in signing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (more on that later).

–Paul Stastny, who has three years and $19.8 million remaining on his contract with Colorado. The Avalanche switched gears in a blockbuster trade with St.Louis last season, so it’s possible.

–Jason Spezza’s name has also popped up in connection with Columbus, but he’s not going anywhere. The Senators need more offence, not less, to be competitive next season.

TWELVE PICKS, FOR NOW: The Senators own a league high 12 picks this weekend, but speculation persists that GM Bryan Murray will be active in trying to trade some of them for immediate help. Murray could, for instance, package the club’s 21st pick (the return from Nashville for Mike Fisher) and 35th pick for a potential Top-6 forward. While they also own the 61st pick (the return from Boston for Chris Kelly), the exact return from Chicago for Chris Campoli won’t be known until 48 hours before the draft. Chicago owns three second round picks (36, 43 or 48) and can choose which one to deal to Ottawa. It will be intriguing to see if the Blackhawks deal any of their second round picks.

NO DOUBTING THOMAS: As the Flyers try to sign Bryzgalov before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 — they received his rights in a trade with Phoenix last week — Philadelphia chairman Ed Snider mused about the pursuit of the goaltender. “It had to be done,” he told Philadelphia reporters. “I was part of making it happen. It was hard to sit there and watch the Stanley Cup final, knowing what (Tim) Thomas was doing for Boston.” The Bruins talked about trading Thomas to the Flyers last summer. The speculation is that Bryzgalov is seeking a seven year, $49 million contract, which would give him the highest average salary among all NHL goaltenders.

JUST SAY NO TO JAGR: Detroit, Pittsburgh and a “mystery” team in the Eastern Conference are apparently interested in Jaromir Jagr, the former Penguin great who is mulling a return to the NHL after starring in the KHL last season. No big surprise here, but you can rule out the Senators. “That’s not what we are trying to do at this time,” Murray said in a email message Wednesday.

A SIXTH SENSE?: According to The Hockey News, Ryan Strome is the sixth best prospect. TSN has Doug Hamilton rated sixth. For Pro Sports Blogging, it’s Sean Couturier. Central Scouting also rates Couturier sixth among North American prospects, but doesn’t include Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson and Swedish centre Mike Zibanejad. Those two are ranked 1-2 among European talent.

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