Interview with Fox Sports and The Hockey News trade expert Lyle “Spector” Richardson

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - Save & Share - One Comment


Longtime Fox Sports and The Hockey News trade rumor expert Lyle “Spector” Richardson answered a few questions Tuesday about Evgeni Nabokov’s return to the NHL, the Sharks goaltending tandem of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, which potential defenseman are available on the trade market for San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson, how many NHL teams are looking for a defenseman, and the possible trade market for right wing Devin Setoguchi among other topics.

More of Spector’s analysis can be found at spectorshockey.com, foxsports.com and thehockeynews.com, and on twitter @spectorshockey.

[Q] Evgeni Nabokov’s North American agent mentioned that the former Sharks goaltender wanted to return to the NHL, and there are rumored to be a few teams interested in him. What have you heard to this point?

[Spector] Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Bodreau was interviewed in the Washington Post. He said they are not going after anybody else. They are going to stick with the young goaltenders they have got. That does not surprise me, they have been sticking with (Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov) since the summer. During the summer they were thought to be in the running for Nabokov, but they opted to pass on him and Marty Turco, and other guys that were available this summer. I am not surprised they are going to do that now. They are going through a rough couple of weeks right now, but it is far too early in the season to start shopping around for a replacement for Neuvirth or Varlamov.

They are going to stick with both of those guys now, but when we get around the trade deadline that might change. They are certainly not going to make a move like that right now.

[Q] Do you think there is any misdirection from teams, he would have to clear waivers?

[Spector] No one is really going to come out and say anything at the present time. I don’t doubt that there are many teams interested, and the Tampa Bay Lightning apparently are one of those teams that have been in touch with Nabokov’s agent. I don’t think that is surprising to anybody because their goaltending (has been poor). Dan Ellis and Mike Smith combined have the worst save percentage and goals against average in the league. Everything else is going well for the Lightning in spite of their goaltending. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Lightning go after them, but he would have to clear waivers first so it is a bit of a gamble. If you sign him, it obviously will be a one year, prorated contract. I don’t think there are going to be many teams at this point willing to commit beyond this season to him. He is going to have to accept that if he wants to come back, have a good year and bump his value up for next summer.

[Q] I think that is the big question, how much is his value going to be, how much will he accept as opposed to what he wanted last summer.

[Spector] We both know he left $6 million on the table back in Russia to come home for family reasons. I think he will be realistic. I will be surprised if he gets a contract for over $3 million. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets $1.5 to $2 million prorated to the end of the season.

[Q] There has already been some talk in San Jose, but that door has closed. Looking back on GM Doug Wilson’s decision to go with Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki, how do you gauge that decision to move off of Nabokov this offseason? Both Niemi and Niittymaki have had bright spots and a few hurdles, but both are trending upwards and gaining confidence.

[Spector] A change had to be made. I think it was obvious to Doug Wilson, to the management, and to the coaching staff that they had gone as far as they believe Nabokov could potentially carry them. For what he was going to be seeking on the free agent market, they had to resign Marleau, Pavelski was also resigned (and Setoguchi). I don’t think there will be any second guessing of what they did. Niemi and Niittymaki have had their rough patches, but they have played well too.

If Niemi has found his game, it is kind of understandable why he had a rough start. He leaves Chicago, where he won the Cup, where he was comfortable, and now you are thrown into a new environment all over again where you have new teammates. You have to learn your way around. Yes, it was going to be an adjustment. He does seem to have picked up his game in recent weeks. If he gets back on track, and if he helps the Sharks in the playoffs, I certainly see (San Jose) trying to keep him onboard longterm. I have heard some people speculate they will try to bring back Nabokov, I really don’t think that is going to happen at this point. That ship has sailed.

[Q] I agree, although GM Doug Wilson has been extremely respectful in discussing the change in direction with fans. The big question that has come up in recent weeks, it has almost been assumed by many insiders that the Sharks are going to make a play for a defenseman before the trade deadline. That may still be an open question, but what options are available if they do make a move? There is a logjam in Toronto, Vancouver will eventually make a move, Marc-Andre Bergeron is a free agent defenseman looking for a team.

[Spector] That is the tough thing for them, determining what direction they will go in. We know from Doug Wilson’s recent interviews that they are still missing that presence that Rob Blake brought to their roster the last couple of years. They would like to try to find a defenseman with the same kind of style, the same kind of leadership, of course good luck finding that. Everybody is looking for a defenseman like that.

You mentioned (Vancouver Canucks defenseman) Kevin Bieksa is out there, Marc-Andre Bergeron is out there. He will help you quarterback your power play, but he may not be the kind of guy you want out there in an even strength situation. You can’t rule out the possibility that they will deal with teams that nobody expects them to deal with. If you consider St. Louis, they have some additional defenseman. Perhaps they would be willing to make a deal there, although I realize they are in the same conference, but then again so was Vancouver (in the Ehrhoff/Lukowich trade).

You have to look around, wait and see what is available. I don’t think they are going to make a significant rush right now, but mid-January when we are 4-6 weeks out from the trade deadline, I think that is when we will see Doug Wilson start beating the bushes for real to see what is out there, what he could possibly bring in as a rental player at least for the rest of the season.

[Q] Plus he is giving a long in-season audition to one of his younger defenseman, Justin Braun. If you were going to put a rough figure out there, how many NHL teams are looking to trade for a defenseman right now?

[Spector] I would probably say right now there are 6-8 teams for sure that would be interested in finding a defenseman they need. Boston and Ottawa for sure looking for defense, New Jersey could use one as well. In addition to San Jose, Anaheim is supposedly still in the market though I am beginning to get the sense that their interest may be waning. Columbus has been in need of a skilled puck moving defenseman for some time. One team to keep an eye out for if you are looking for a potential trade partner is Minnesota. Their offense still needs some help. They are struggling right now, they run the risk of sliding out of the playoff race if they are not careful. They have depth on defense they could deal with. St. Louis is another team with depth on defense they could deal with.

[Q] The Sharks have had some development up front as well, former Boston University captain John McCarthy (led BU to NCAA Championship), and a healthy Torrey Mitchell have been playing well. That has lead to some trade rumors involving San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi, who has missed a few games with injury. What teams would be in the market for a young, quick power forward like Setoguchi?

[Spector] I think Setoguchi would still have considerable trade value, especially as we get closer to the trade deadline. As you said, he is young, he is only a couple of seasons removed from 30 goals. He has the potential to get back to that form again. If the Sharks were looking to put him on the market, and get a decent puck moving defenseman in return, he might be able to attract what they need.

[Q] Any thoughts on the Los Angeles Kings acquiring Marco Sturm after he cleared a physical?

[Spector] I really don’t think the Kings are done. The Sturm trade was a good one, I don’t think that is their one move and that will be it. Kings GM Dean Lombardi will definitley keep his eyes and ears open up until the trade deadline. That is when the quality players will be available, the weeks leading up to the end of February. I definitley don’t think they are done. In terms of the Sharks, that is when I think the best time will be for them as well.

[Q] It seems like in the NHL, the number of huge, blockbuster trades get smaller and smaller every year.

[Spector] That is the salary cap for you.

[Q] It is just a little unusual that you have San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson pulling off enormous trades — Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Dany Heatley. I think Doug Wilson is a very underrated GM, he just doesn’t get the same level of publicity East Coast or Canadian teams receive because there is not a big media mechanism here in San Jose.

[Spector] Exactly. The Sharks do not get as much coverage as they deserve here on the East Coast or in Canada, so when these deals happen… I have been saying for 5-6 years that Doug Wilson is one of the best general managers in the league. Look at the deals he has made. More often than not, he has come out on the winning side, and he is landing big time players that have had a positive impact on the club.

[Update] Would Tampa Bay Lightning be interested in goalie Evgeni Nabokov? Sure, but … – Damian Cristodero for TampaBay.com.

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Time December 20, 2010 at 12:57 PM

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