Is it time for the Sharks to cut ties with Joe Thornton? Are Brad Richards and Mike Richards buyout candidates?  What’s the latest on Brooks Orpik? Read on for the latest. 

CSN BAY AREA: Kevin Kurz makes the case for the San Jose Sharks to part ways with captain Joe Thornton. While Kurz doesn’t pin all the blame on Thornton for the Sharks’ division semifinal collapse this year against the LA Kings, or for the club’s inability to win a Stanley Cup during his tenure, he feels the club’s leadership group is largely responsible. Kurz also points out the Sharks are turning over its core to younger players, which could mean stripping Thornton of the captaincy. He also feels Thornton’s best chance to hoist a Stanley Cup in the near future rests elsewhere. Moving Thornton, however, will be difficult, as he’s got a no-trade clause in his new three-year contract and has indicated he doesn’t want to play elsewhere.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A player will waive his no-trade clause if he feels he’s not wanted, but he won’t do it for just any club. While Sharks GM Doug Wilson has indicated significant change could be in the offing for the Sharks, it remains to be seen if Thornton will be part of it. If Wilson does shop Thornton there will be considerable interest in him, but his no-trade clause significantly limits potential trade partners, which of course will affect potential return.

Buyout rumors dog Brad Richards.

Buyout rumors dog Brad Richards.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL/NBC SPORTS: James Mirtle reports of speculation the New York Rangers’ limited cap space could force them to buy out Brad Richards, who’s having a strong playoff performance. Jason Brough noted there’s buyout buzz swirling about Kings center Mike Richards, especially if the club hopes to re-sign Marian Gaborik. He also speculates if Richards could be a trade candidate.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have 13 players under contract for a total cap hit of nearly $54 million. If the cap goes up to $70 million, they’ll have only $16 million to re-sign or replace Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore and Anton Stralman. They also have one compliance buyout remaining. Richards has six more years at a cap hit of $6.66 million left on his contract. Something’s gotta give. Another option could be buying out Rick Nash, who hasn’t played up to expectations as a power forward.

As for Mike Richards, his performance has noticeably declined. He has six years at a cap hit of $5.75 million left on his contract. The Kings have over $57 million invested in 18 players for next season, giving them a projected  $12 million in cap space. They don’t have as many players to re-sign or replace (Gaborik, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Dwight King), so they have more wiggle room. Still, if Richards is in decline, it would make sense to shed his salary, rather than have it become a drain over the next six years. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Josh Yohe reports the Penguins management situation has pending UFA Brooks Orpik in limbo. He and fellow UFAs Matt Niskanen, Jussi Jokinen and Derek Engelland are waiting for the club to hire a new general manager before contract talks can begin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Penguins having several promising young defensemen ready to crack the lineup, Orpik could be on his way out.