Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s most luminous player, could be traded to the St. Louis Blues as early as Tuesday, ESPN reported Sunday night.
The network, citing sources with both teams, said the Los Angeles Kings superstar would be traded for rookies Patrice Tardif and Craig Johnson, 19-year-old prospect Roman Vopat and a 1997 first-round draft pick.
Tardif formerly played at the University of Maine.
However, ESPN added, the financial end of the deal is not settled, and that issue is more than a formality. The Blues have been slashing their payroll and Gretzky wants a multiyear contract for at least $7 million a year.
He is earning $6.5 million this season, the NHL’s top wage earner, and likely would sign a three-year deal worth at least $21 million.
If the Kings do not trade Gretzky by the March 20 trade deadline, they risk losing him without compensation. Gretzky, 35, becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Toronto Sun reported Sunday that Gretzky’s trade to St. Louis was “on the verge of completion late (Saturday) night.” The Sun added that “some last-minute technicalities could delay its announcement until Tuesday.”
While all of hockey buzzed with the possibility of the imminent departure of the game’s all-time scoring leader, the Kings insisted no trade had been completed.
“There is no deal in place with any of our players,” general manager Sam McMaster told The Canadian Press said from Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Kings play the Jets on Monday night. “We have spoken to the St. Louis Blues about a lot of our players in the last week, including Wayne Gretzky.
“We have stated before that we would entertain trade offers for any of our players, including Wayne Gretzky. But nobody has been traded.”
Blues general manager and coach Mike Keenan said Friday he wouldn’t be surprised if the March 20 trading deadline came and went without a Gretzky deal.
“I really am not pursuing anything,” Keenan said. “It’s up to them to make their own decisions and to make the call on it. They certainly haven’t indicated to anyone in this league what their intentions are.”