Whether you think he'll be bought out, then signed as a Free agent or traded willingly, the general feeling is that Darcy Tucker will likely end next season on a different NHL team. Moving him really doesn't free up that much cap cash, but players like Tucker can be game-breakers, and as such, retains a good reputation among NHL coaches and GMs.
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So, assuming there are teams out there who would have some sort of interest, who might they be? What sort of situation might Tucker fit into?
Firstly, there are the teams who feel that they are on the verge of greatness and who might feel that Tucker's fire and grit might be a key to winning another round in the play-offs. A team like Calgary, San Jose, or Anaheim might be interested but the price would be a huge factor. San Jose would need to make other moves before they'd look at Tucker, after some flat play-off performances, but the economics would mean he'd have to take a spot from another current Shark...that's very unlikely given the money, unless Tucker were bought out and looking at just making a Cup run....even still - it would not be a given that Tucker would go that far west.
Calgary would be interesting for an Alberta native and Tucker's name still holds a special status there. Mike Keenan and Sutter both have respect for his skills and might jump at replacing a less abrasive winger who could sign elsewhere as a free agent.
Anaheim is a dark horse, but if Selanne and Niedermayer aren't coming back, Tucker's experience and style of play might be very welcome and reasonably priced .
Out East is where the real interest and really interesting options lie. If Tucker were bought-out, imagine him grinning at the idea of taking his buy-out money and relocating to one of the long-time Leaf rivals who sit a short plane ride from his home. Coming back to Toronto to play a stripped-down young struggling Leafs team in a Sabres', Senators', or Red Wings' Jersey.
Pittsburgh might decide replace Ryan Malone with a highly motivated Tucker, especially if they decide that Gary Roberts is finally getting a little to old to play every night. The Rangers might decide that Tucker is a cheaper and more stable alternative to Sean Avery and offer up a spot. Tampa once loved this guy and may figure that he'd be a great addition for a play-off run this year.
Finally Montreal once cheered on Tucker, and might figure he'd be a great fit to balance the European flavor up front. Certainly Carboneau and Gainey appreciate the leadership potential, and would chuckle gleefully at the idea of having Tucker in the line-up for 8 games vs the Leafs next season.
With a buy-out, Tucker would become a top tier UFA this summer. As a trade pawn, with a no-movement contract and some questions about his durability last year, he'd have to bee seen as the final piece in somebody's puzzle before another team would offer fair value and ask him to move.
Really, there isn't likely to be any movement unless Tucker decides he wants to part on good terms - just in case he hopes to return later in his career. He might take a trade with the understanding that his new team will renegotiate a big raise that would be bigger than a buyout combined with the kind of money a Free Agent deal might bring. Or perhaps if Sundin were to sign on with a powerhouse like Detroit, Tucker might accept a trade with an eye to winning a cup within shouting distance of Toronto and returning as a hero in the summer months. With a character guy like Darcy, you just never know. Like many of these players who
faced criticism last season for wanting to stay in Toronto - he knows that bringing a Stanley Cup home to Toronto for the first time in many decades would cement his name in the hearts of hockey fans for generations. That was a tough thing to give up on at this point in his career, a guy like Tucker doesn't give up easy on the ice, that's why Toronto fans love him and other teams wish they had a guy like him.
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