Latest on the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars.
Changes coming to Bruins and Penguins?
TSN.CA: Pierre LeBrun reports there could be significant changes coming for the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins if both club miss the playoffs this season. In Boston, those changes could mean replacing head coach Claude Julien (who re-signed a contract extension this year) or GM Peter Chiarelli, who has three years left on his contract. The Penguins shook up their management and coaching staff last summer with little improvement in the club’s performance. Even if the Penguins make the playoffs but get eliminated in the first round, LeBrun speculates they could consider looking at their core, perhaps placing Evgeni Malkin on the trade block.
More on the Penguins, plus Hurricanes and Oilers speculation.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson also believes the Penguins could shake up their roster if they fail to reach the playoffs or make another early postseason exit. He wonders if they could trade Evgeni Malkin as Sidney Crosby isn’t going anywhere, suggesting they offer Malkin to the Detroit Red Wings, who have “scads of good young forwards and defensemen”, or maybe Florida and Colorado. Then again, Matheson also wonders if Crosby could feel he needs a change at 28 and makes it known he wouldn’t be adverse to moving.
Matheson also speculates over possible goalie trade targets for the Edmonton Oilers. He said he heard of talks between the Oilers and Cam Ward last year regarding a possible swap of Sam Gagner for Cam Ward before Gagner was dealt to Tampa Bay and flipped to Arizona. He also wonders if the Calgary Flames might move Jonas Hiller, who has a year at $4.5 million left on his contract. The Flames are “high on Karri Ramo” and promising Joni Ortio…Matheson isn’t sure if San Jose Sharks pending UFA goalie Antti Niemi is a possibility. He speculates the Oilers could look at LA Kings backup Martin Jones or NY Rangers backup Cam Talbot via the trade market. He expects the Oilers will bring in somebody. Joanne Ireland wonders what the Oilers could give up in return via trade. Would they part with the first-round pick they got from the Penguins in the David Perron deal? Do they give up a player? If they trade for a goalie they might not have enough bargaining chips to land a defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yes, big changes could come for the Penguins if they miss the playoffs or get bounced early from the postseason. Could they consider moving Malkin or even Crosby? Sure, anything’s possible. Will they? I doubt it. Before folks go off half-cocked, they must remember the Penguins were among the league-leaders this season in man-games lost to injury. I daresay they wouldn’t be in the current predicament with a healthy Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Pascal Dupuis and Christian Ehrhoff this season. It also doesn’t help the usually-reliable Chris Kunitz has struggled with iron deficiency since the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Malkin and Crosby both have full no-movement clauses and I daresay no intention of waiving them. The last thing the Penguins need is to create an intolerable situation with two long-time stars similar to the San Jose Sharks with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Yes, the Penguins are in salary-cap hell this season, much of it the product of their previous management. Moving out Malkin or Crosby, however, is probably at the very bottom of their list of priorities. Unless Malkin or Crosby request a trade, it’s not worth discussing.
As for the Bruins, I believe it would be a huge mistake to fire Chiarelli, who rebuilt the Bruins into a Stanley Cup contender. Yes, some of his re-signings were expensive and put the club into salary-cap difficulty this season and next, but that was the price of keeping a Cup contender together, and it caught up to them this season. Few folks in Boston bitched about those expensive contracts when they were signed, so spare me the 20/20 hindsight and revisionism. Chiarelli shouldn’t be fired.
Julien, on the other hand, could be past his “best before” date. If the players seem to be tuning Julien out, he could be replaced behind the bench this summer. There will also be roster changes for the Bruins. Most of their UFAs won’t be back, as cap space is needed to re-sign RFAs like Dougie Hamilton, Brett Connolly and Ryan Spooner. They could try dealing away the remainder of Marc Savard’s contract. It’s possible Loui Eriksson could be dealt, but his improvement over the course of this season suggests they could keep him for the final season of his contract. Maybe Dennis Seidenberg gets moved.
Improving the goaltending should be the Oilers priority, and I think they could target Martin Jones or Cam Talbot. The asking price, however, could include the Penguins’ first-round pick. If the Flames decide to move Hiller, I doubt very much it’ll be to their rival up the road in Edmonton.
Latest on the Stars goaltending.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika reports the Stars poor goaltending numbers suggest they need a change between the pipes, but what kind of change remains to be seen. Starter Kari Lehtonen is under contract for three more years at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. They makes him difficult to trade and expensive to buy out. His departure would also leave a huge gap in net, which current backup Jhonas Enroth has yet to prove he can fill. Heika notes the Stars’ goalie numbers, and those of their defense, improved down the stretch this season. “Lehtonen could simply be off this season, and Enroth might be the answer at backup goalie,” writes Heika.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Stars can somehow shed Lehtonen’s contract via trade to free up room for another starter, I think they’ll stick with their current tandem for another season. They could ditch Enroth, but he’s only been with them a short period and was undoubtedly still shell shocked after playing in the shooting gallery that was the Buffalo Sabres’ net for most of this season. I believe Stars GM Jim Nill will put the onus on improving his defense and then seeing if that helps improve his goaltenders’ numbers next season.