Latest on the Bruins and Hurricanes, a list of free-agent defense targets for the Avalanche and an update on Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.

Bruins’ Eriksson, Smith could be in play. 

BOSTON HERALD: Steve Conroy reports Bruins president Cam Neely and whoever replaces fired GM Peter Chiarelli will have work to do to fulfill Neely’s vision of restoring the Bruins reputation as a tough team to play against. Among the decisions is whether to re-sign struggling power forward Milan Lucic this summer. Conroy expects the Bruins will push to re-sign rugged, but oft-injured, defenseman Adam McQuaid. The Bruins could also shed salary to free up cap space for other additions. Conroy speculates winger Loui Eriksson and recently-resigned winger Reilly Smith could be in play.

CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty also speculates Smith, whose production declined this season, could be available despite his recent re-signing. Haggerty also suggests that contract could give the Bruins piece of mind “at right wing while shopping bigger names such as Milan Lucic and Loui Eriksson”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bruins retain Lucic for the final year of his contract to evaluate his performance. McQuaid will be open to re-signing but it’ll depend upon how much he seeks and how much the Bruins can afford. Eriksson and Smith lack the toughness Neely prefers, which could make them expendable. 

What next for the Hurricanes?

Is a contract buyout coming for Alexander Semin?

Is a contract buyout coming for Alexander Semin?

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander reports Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis acknowledged his club’s inability to score during his recent season-ending press conference. Head coach Bill Peters also noted the need to bolster their defense after trading away Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason at the trade deadline. Alexander speculates that could be done via free agency or trades. Francis also said he’ll open contract talks this summer with captain Eric Staal, who is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency.  Luke DeCock believes the Hurricanes should buy out the remaining three years of struggling winger Alexander Semin’s contract, even though it will be expensive. While Francis said he’ll consider all his options regarding Semin, DeCock believes buying him out is the only realistic way to get the declining forward off their books.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this season, Francis denied speculation he would buy out Semin but I think he has no choice. Francis will try to trade Semin in June and if he can’t find any takers I expect he’ll buy him out before the end of that month. 

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Free agent defense targets for the Avalanche.

THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers recently listed Los Angeles’ Andrej Sekera, Nashville’s Cody Franson, San Jose’s Matt Irwin, Washington’s Mike Green and Buffalo’s Andrej Meszaros as his top-five free agent defense targets for the Colorado Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of the options, the Avalanche have to add an experienced top-four defenseman. They cannot continue to be among the worst teams in shots against and puck possession. 

Niemi would like to stay a Shark.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Chris Pashelka reports pending UFA goalie Antti Niemi said Wednesday he’d like to return with the Sharks next season but he realizes his days in San Jose may be numbered.