CHICAGO -- We spent a few hours on the phone Saturday in preparation for Hot Stove on "Hockey Night in Canada." Here's some items of note for you puckheads:
The Lidstrom decision
Nicklas Lidstrom will deliver his decision on his playing future to Detroit GM Ken Holland in the upcoming week. The Red Wings have their fingers crossed that he'll return, but the reality is, no one has a clue what he's going to decide. If he decides to return for another season, the next step will be to sign a contract since he's set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He earned $7.4 million this season, and despite the fact that he remains a great defenseman at age 40, the Wings will hope to get him back for less money.
Penguins GM Ray Shero had a lengthy discussion with Sergei Gonchar's agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, this week at the player combine in Toronto. Gonchar is UFA July 1. There is still no resolution, and term remains an important issue. The Gonchar camp would like two years; but because he's over 35, the Pens are understandably nervous about giving more than a year. The two sides plan to speak again soon.
Thrashers' coaching update
The Thrashers have interviewed Scott Arniel and Don Lever so far in their search for a new coach. They also hope to interview Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay. They will need to wait after the Cup finals to interview Blackhawks assistant coach John Torchetti, which they plan to do. Another coach the Thrashers want to talk to is Billy Peters, coach of AHL Rockford, Chicago's top farm team. There's also an outside chance of an eventual conversation with AHL coach of the year Guy Boucher, although that's not for sure. Arniel, Lever, Ramsay, Torchetti and Peters all have ties to Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, and that's key as he looks to hire a coach he can have a strong relationship with as they work with a young team.
Top draft pick
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini briefly chatted this week at the combine in Toronto. With Edmonton holding the first overall pick and Boston next at No. 2, it'll be interesting to see how things ultimately play out over the final 24 hours before the June 25-26 draft.
Right now, the Bruins remain undecided on which player they like most, Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. But if they do make a decision on either player and feel strongly enough about it, they may phone Edmonton and try to ensure they get the guy they want by enticing them with another draft pick as compensation. We'll see.
As of now, the Oilers' staff is also still undecided on the player they want. In the meantime, Chiarelli has received several calls from other teams inquiring about his pick, but none have been remotely close to being attractive. He almost definitely will not trade the pick; he will, however, listen on his other picks. (Boston has the 15th, 32nd and 45th overall picks this year and four picks in first two rounds in 2011.) Those picks are possibly in play, as the Bruins want to try to upgrade their offense.
There is no official agenda at this point for Wednesday's GMs meeting in Philadelphia. It's expected, however, that the GMs will renew their conversation on what they believe the new head-shot rule should look like next season -- whether there should be a penalty on the ice or it should stay the way it is now under the fast-tracked rule change brought in two months ago, in which supplementary discipline from the league head office is the only measure of blindside hits.
GMs are also expected to be briefed on the Research and Development camp the NHL will hold in August in Toronto, where possible new rule changes will be examined.
But Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has some things he wants to discuss. Among the items he will bring up for discussion is his strong belief there should be no World Championships during Olympic years. The International Ice Hockey Federation will certainly have a say in that, but the fact is, the NHL and NHL Players' Association could at any point choose to pull the NHLers out of that tournament. (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hinted at that in a veiled threat during his state-of-the-league address Friday.)
Burke, meanwhile, wants to discuss some possible rule changes: a modified icing rule, which he's pushed for years, a hybrid solution where the chase for the puck is decided around the hash marks instead of the end boards, thus saving on dangerous injuries; wider blue lines, the theory being it would keep the puck in play more in the offensive zone; and ringette lines in the defensive zone, forcing players to get there before making his outlet pass. Burke believes that with no red line now, it's too easy for defensemen to just hammer the puck off the glass, which he believes doesn't require much skill.
By the way, the inaugural GM award will be announced Wednesday after the GMs meeting. Phoenix's Don Maloney, Nashville's David Poile and Washington's George McPhee are the three candidates.