Updates on Joe Thornton, Dion Phaneuf, Mikhail Grigorenko and Kari Lehtonen.
More speculation on Thornton and Phaneuf.
SPORTSNET: Damien Cox believes the tense relationship between San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson and former captain Joe Thornton can’t continue beyond this season. With Thornton holding a no-trade clause, Cox wonders how Wilson can win…He also claims there’s widespread belief the Toronto Maple Leafs could’ve made a deal at the trade deadline to send Dion Phaneuf to the Detroit Red Wings, but backed off in hopes of landing a better deal this summer. He also claims two other teams have since approached the Leafs about Phaneuf.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not the only person who thinks Wilson, not Thornton, could be departing San Jose this summer… Phaneuf has value on the trade market, but his contract (six more seasons at $7 million annually) is difficult to move. Teams will try to squeeze the Leafs into either absorbing part of his salary, take on a toxic contract in return, or hoping the Leafs are so desperate to shed Phaneuf’s salary they’ll accept a lesser deal. I think the Leafs have a better opportunity to move Phaneuf this summer, when there will be more teams with cap space and thus increasing their chances for a solid return.
Could the Stars part ways with Lehtonen?
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika, responding to a reader’s question about the Stars goaltending, doesn’t expect they’ll part with struggling starter Kari Lehtonen. He believes the Stars priority is to improve their defense and see if Lehtonen “can get his mind game back together.” Heika’s unsure if the Stars might kick the tires on Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen or John Gibson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehtonen also has three more seasons at $5.9 million annually remaining on his contract. He was terrific last season for the Stars, playing a key role in their playoff quest last season. They know what he’s capable of and will likely give him another opportunity as their starter next season. They do need to improve their depth beyond Lehtonen, however, to spell him off if he struggles again. I doubt the Ducks will part with Andersen or Gibson.
Grigorenko on thin ice in Buffalo?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington recently reported Sabres coach Ted Nolan believes young forward Mikhail Grigorenko is running out of chances to make a positive impression regarding his future with the club. Though only 20, Grigorenko is coming to the end of his entry-level contract and has little to show for his efforts thus far. Harrington suggests the Sabres could simply extend a qualifying offer this summer or try to package him in a trade. He notes the Sabres have interest in Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly, and Grigorenko became a star in the QMJHL playing for Avs coach Patrick Roy with the Quebec Remparts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what GM Tim Murray has in store for Grigorenko, who’s been a big disappointment thus far but still has plenty of years ahead of him to grow into an NHL star. I expect they’ll simply qualify his rights and re-sign him to an affordable short-term deal to see if he shows any improvement next season. Nolan also might not be coaching the Sabres next season, which could also factor into Grigorenko’s future.