More on the Hurricanes willingness to pursue Zach Parise if he becomes a UFA, Erik Karlsson’s contract talks, more speculation on where Roberto Luongo could go, and the latest on Antti Niemi and Steve Mason.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Luke DeCock reports of a “none-too-subtle whispering campaign” linking the Carolina Hurricanes to New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise, if he becomes a UFA this summer. DeCock also suggests if they fail to land Parise, they might wait a year and try to sign Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal, brother of Hurricanes captain Eric, if he becomes a UFA next summer. Three players who could be available via trade include Calgary’s Jarome Iginla, Columbus’ Rick Nash and San Jose’s Patrick Marleau, though none have indicated any interest in coming to Carolina. The Hurricanes have depth in young defensemen they could offer up in trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have indicated they’re willing to spend to bolster their scoring depth, particularly a scoring winger for Eric Staal’s line. For now, the best bet is Parise, though it remains to be seen what his intentions are, and if he does become a UFA, if he’d be willing to entertain coming to Carolina. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to convince Iginla, Nash or Marleau to come to Carolina if any of those three become available on the trade market, as it’s believed they’d prefer to go to Cup contenders. As for Jordan Staal, odds are the Penguins could re-sign him, but if they were to trade him, it could be to a Western Conference club. For now, everything is in wait-and-see mode, with the Hurricanes focus likely to be upon Parise. Should be interesting to see what “Plan B” they might have if they fail to land him.

How much to re-sign Karlsson?

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Allen Panzeri reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk appeared to set the stage for potentially difficult contract talks with Norris-nominated defenseman Erik Karlsson, suggesting Karlsson will have to be reasonable with his contract demands. “We can pay you, but it has to be within a reasonable budget”, said Melnyk, who earlier this season praised Karlsson by suggesting the young defenseman could become one of the all-time greats.  Panzeri speculates, based on current salaries paid to top young defensemen, Karlsson’s new salary should come in between $6.5-$7.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Melnyk didn’t specify what he meant by “reasonable” in terms of what his club was prepared to offer Karlsson, but Panzeri’s range would be the correct one. If they can get Karlsson locked up for between $6.5-$7 million per season, the Sens should consider themselves lucky. Karlsson’s agent will not only cite his client’s Norris nomination, but also Melnyk’s comments about Karlsson potentially becoming one of the greats. And if Karlsson wins the Norris, well, the salary just climbed into the $7.5 million range. For more on Karlsson, check out my Kukla’s Korner blog.

FACEOFF.COM/SPORTSNET.CA:  Edmonton Journal columnist Jim Matheson believes Toronto will be the destination for Roberto Luongo, while Mike Brophy makes the case for the Maple Leafs to consider more affordable options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: And the Luongo guessing game, along with it’s little brother, “Will Burke Trade for Luongo?”, grinds on. The earliest we can expect to see something happen regarding Luongo is likely the week leading up to the June Entry Draft Weekend, slated for June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.

CSNBAYAREA.COM: Kevin Kurz wondered if San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi might be of interest to the Columbus Blue Jackets, speculating on the possibility of Niemi being part of a package offer to bring Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash to San Jose.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hat tip to GJ Berg. Kurz warns that Niemi-to-Columbus is purely speculation on his part. Given the lack of promising starters in their system, and the difficulty of replacing Niemi, I doubt Sharks GM Doug Wilson trades him as part of any package for Nash, who might not be willing to go to a Western Conference team, based on rumors which popped up over his potential trade destinations prior to the February trade deadline.

COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline recently speculated on what the Blue Jackets might do with goaltender Steve Mason, who has failed to play up to the promise of his rookie campaign back in 2008-09. Trading him is an option, but a difficult one given his $3.2 million salary for next season and his poor performance.