Latest on Niedermayer's decision, Kovalchuk's talks and coaching rumblings

May, 24, 2009

CHICAGO -- We have some time to kill here before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Thought I'd let you puckheads in on some chatter I've been hearing around the league of late.

In Anaheim, I'm told Scott Niedermayer is slated to meet with Ducks GM Bob Murray the week of June 14 to chat about his future. The Ducks obviously hope to have an answer by then on whether or not he plans to play next season. They need to know before heading to Montreal the following week for the NHL draft, where the wheeling and dealing will begin for the 2009 offseason.

So, let's say Niedermayer decides to return. That means the Ducks, who are not a team that will spend to the maximum of the salary cap next season, must shed some salary. The obvious name that's been out there all season is Chris Pronger, and that may still be the case. However, there's another option: Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Yes, he has a no-movement clause, but I doubt he wants to be a backup goalie to Jonas Hiller next season.

We're told Giguere and agent Bob Sauve were going to hash this out at some point soon, if it hasn't already happened. If Giguere decides he's willing to waive his no-movement clause, my guess is Colorado could be a possibility. Giguere has two years and $13 million on his deal, but the Avs are in desperate need of goaltending. And besides, Anaheim will need to take something back in return to make any deal happen. This is all speculation on my part, but food for thought, nonetheless.

In Atlanta, we're told superstar winger and Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk met with GM Don Waddell on Thursday. It was deemed a positive meeting. Kovalchuk is entering the final year of his deal and the Thrashers desperately want to sign him to an extension. They'll try to get that done this summer.

In Minnesota, congrats to Chuck Fletcher on getting the GM job. He's worked a long time for the chance and it's well-deserved. One note of interest, however, is we're told the Wild tried to get permission to talk to Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill, but were denied by Detroit owner Mike Ilitch. That's been the owner's modus operandi every time a team has come calling for Nill, one of the most respected hockey men in the NHL.

Toronto also tried to talk to him last season. Nill, we're told, is fine with it. He signed his contract with the intent of fulfilling it. He's got two more years left. Once the deal is up, if I'm an NHL owner, I hire this guy in a heartbeat.

Sticking with the Wild, we've heard from a few people this weekend who believe San Jose Sharks assistant coach Todd Richards has drawn interest for the vacant Minnesota coaching job. We'll see.

In Calgary, we're not sure what GM Darryl Sutter will do to replace the fired Mike Keenan, but two NHL executives told us Saturday if they were betting men, they'd put their money on Sutter returning behind the bench himself. He was the coach when the Flames went to the Cup finals in 2004.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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