NHL trade deadline could pass quietly with contenders short on salary cap space

The flurry of deals completed in recent weeks could make the final hours before Monday’s noon PST NHL trade deadline relatively tame, with the Dallas Stars apparently intent on keeping center Brad Richards and most Stanley Cup contenders too close to the salary cap to take on big contracts.

Two NHL team officials said Sunday that the Stars will not trade Richards and want to re-sign the prolific forward before he reaches unrestricted free agency July 1. Richards has a no-trade clause and likes Dallas, but the Stars are for sale and there is no guarantee that a new owner will want to assume a big contract and a plump payroll. Richards has a $7.8-million salary this season and could command at least that much on the open market.

Another complication: the concussion that has kept Richards out of the last six games. He has been skating since Thursday, but there is no timetable for his return.

Richards’ top suitors were the Kings and the New York Rangers, though the Rangers would have to clear salary cap space to add anyone after acquiring defenseman Bryan McCabe and his $5.75-million cap hit from Florida on Saturday.

The Kings, in need of speed and scoring depth, have been interested in Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky, but Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini has insisted that the Kings include prospect Brayden Schenn in any deal. That’s a deal-breaker for Kings GM Dean Lombardi. He has prospects he can use as bargaining chips, including defenseman Viacheslav Voynov, but Edmonton wants NHL-ready players.


The Kings also looked at Florida left wing David Booth, but the Panthers want a prospect and a first-round pick. The Panthers, out of contention in the East, are likely to move several players Monday, including center Marty Reasoner. He could fill the Vancouver Canucks’ need for fourth-line depth.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, sitting just outside the top eight in the West, are buyers and have shown interest in Hemsky. Columbus reportedly likes defenseman John-Michael Liles of Colorado, which has plunged out of playoff contention in the West by losing 13 of its last 14 games. Liles has a limited no-trade clause and might be willing to waive it to get back into a playoff chase. Colorado is not expected to trade center Paul Stastny, who had attracted interest from the Kings, among other teams.

New Jersey Devils center Jason Arnott may be of interest to the Kings and other teams looking for a playoff-tested veteran, but he has a no-movement clause and has said he’d prefer to remain with the Devils during their late and unlikely playoff run.

One player rumored to be on the move has decided to stay put. The Ottawa Sun reported Sunday that defenseman Chris Phillips agreed to a three-year extension worth approximately $9 million to stay with the Senators, who have traded several core players to kick off a massive rebuilding project. Phillips had attracted interest from teams looking for help on defense, which is now a more expensive commodity.

The Chicago Blackhawks, stung by injuries on defense, have been looking for a defenseman and a center but don’t have much salary cap space.

The Ducks, active traders recently in acquiring defenseman Francois Beauchemin, winger Jarkko Ruutu and goaltender Dan Ellis, are unlikely to make a major move Monday.