Latest on Dan Boyle, Johnny Boychuk, James Neal Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Johansen, R.J. Umberger and more.
BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa reports with the NHL trending away from fighting, free agent enforcers like Boston’s Shawn Thornton, Buffalo’s John Scott, Montreal’s George Parros, Minnesota’s Mike Rupp, New Jersey’s Cam Janssen, Phoenix’s Paul Bissonnette, Edmonton’s Ben Eager and Calgary’s Kevin Westgarth could have difficulty finding new contracts…Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk has one season remaining on his contract and could be in line for a big payday, perhaps $5 million per season. He could fetch a good return if the Bruins decide to shop him this summer…The Pittsburgh Penguins have some roster holes to fill this summer. The depth drops off beyond their top-two lines and their forwards don’t backcheck aggressively enough to help their defensemen…Shinzawa believes the Leafs would be smarter to try to improve defenseman Dion Phaneuf than to trade him…If the Blackhawks re-sign Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane this summer (both have one year remaining on their respective contracts) they could set the value for the top end of the market…Columbus’ star Ryan Johansen is coming off his entry-level deal and could get a lucrative new deal. Shinzawa doubts Johansen receives an offer sheet…Detroit could be a destination for free agent defenseman Dan Boyle, who won’t be returning with the San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The role of NHL enforcer is changing. They must be able to take a regular shift and be as effective with their overall game as they are with their fists…The Bruins already have over $46 million invested in 10 players for 2015-16, of which over $4 million will be deducted by placing Marc Savard or LTIR. This isn’t taking into account the new contracts for players like Torey Krug and Reilly Smith, who will be re-signed this summer, as well as other free agent signings made this summer. They can afford to re-sign Boychuk, but if he’s seeking $5 million per, that could still prove too expensive. …Toews and Kane could each end up pulling in between $9 – $10 million per season on their new deals…The possibility exists for Johansen to receive an offer sheet, but I agree it’s unlikely he’ll get one…Boyle could be a more affordable, short-term blueline addition than going the trade route.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes there could be considerable changes around the NHL this summer. In addition to several teams having management and coaching issues to resolve, Simmons claims players like “Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Eric Staal, Dion Phaneuf, Evander Kane could be in play”. He also wonders if the Penguins will make Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang available…He claims the Leafs are listening to offers for Dion Phaneuf more than they’re actually shopping him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: “In play” doesn’t mean they’ll be moved. Everything I’ve read or heard out of San Jose mentions nothing about Thornton and Marleau being in play. Staal and Kane have popped up in the rumor mill but I doubt they’ll be moved. Malkin won’t be shopped. The Penguins could try to move Letang, though his big contract and health issues dampen his trade value. Sure sounds like the Leafs prefer to retain Phaneuf and try to bring in players to help him. Still, never hurts to listen to offers.
TRIBLIVE.COM/POST-GAZETTE.COM: Rob Rossi believes whoever becomes the Penguins’ new GM must look short and hard term and make some tough decisions. They currently have over 58 percent of their payroll tied up in just six players. He suggests trading James Neal appears the easiest solution, as he lacks a no-trade clause, and recommends trading Letang before his new contract starts in July would benefit the Penguins, even if they get less than full value in return. Ron Cook makes the case for the Penguins to re-sign Marc-Andre Fleury, who has one season left on his contract. Cook believes the Penguins won’t get a better goalie than Fleury in any trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I also believe trading Neal this summer is their easiest option. If they can move Letang they should certainly try, but his new contract and health issues makes that option a tough one. They’ll also have to pick up part of his salary to make a deal happen. I certainly don’t think they should trade Fleury this summer, as there’s little available via trade or free agency to replace him. Still, they could consider pitching an offer to Toronto for James Reimer, who might be the best goalie available via trade this summer. Best to retain Fleury for another season, as at the very least it could buy time to seek a possible long-term replacement.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline reports sources claiming there’s a mutual agreement between Blue Jackets management and veteran forward R.J. Umberger which would place him on the trade block this summer. Umberger is signed through 2016-17 at a cap hit of $4.6 million, plus his full no-trade clause becomes a limited NTC on June 15th, in which he lists 10 teams which he won’t accept as trade destinations. Portzline suggests teams facing sweeping changes this summer (San Jose, Pittsburgh, Vancouver and Washington) could become trade targets, as could Ottawa if they trade Jason Spezza.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Umberger was apparently unhappy over being made a healthy scratch for four games late in the season. With the Jackets, Umberger’s had four straight seasons exceeding 20 goals and 4o points, but his production significantly dropped off the past two seasons. He could be a risky acquisition.