Updates on the Canucks, Senators, Islanders and Blues, plus the latest Evgeni Malkin and Dion Phaneuf trade rumors.
What Next for the Canucks?
THE VANCOUVER SUN/THE PROVINCE: Jim Jamieson believes the Canucks biggest offseason need is a “dynamic, mobile defenseman.” He considers veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa the top player the Canucks should try to move this summer. If not Bieksa, the next likely is rearguard Dan Hamhuis. Both have a year left on their contracts, are eligible for UFA status next summer and carry no-trade clauses. He also speculates UFA forward Shawn Matthias will be moving on and defenseman Yannick Weber could be the odd man out on their blueline, but feels fourth-line center Brad Richardson could be re-signed.
Tony Gallagher and Iain MacIntyre believe the Canucks have a tough decision to make with Bieksa, suggesting management could ask him to waive his no-trade clause this summer. Bieksa, however, said he doesn’t see himself playing anywhere else next season, though he said he will listen if approached by management about a trade.
Elliott Pap reports Matthias intends to play it cool as free agency looms. While saying he’d love to return with the Canucks, he notes that’s ultimately up to management. Ed Willes notes the Canucks have limited cap space this summer, which could force them to make some difficult roster decisions. He also speculates management might target clubs with cap issues like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston Columbus and Philadelphia.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks need to free up some cap space if they’re going to address their issues, let alone target other clubs with cap issues. With promising youngsters like Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk waiting in the wings, pendings UFAs like Matthias could on their way out. It’s shaping up for another busy summer for Canucks GM Jim Benning. Sounds like Bieksa won’t seek a trade but could waive his no-trade clause for the right destination, though we don’t know what club that might be. His status will add intrigue about the Canucks’ plans following the playoffs, when teams will get busy swapping players again. If not Bieksa, Hamhuis could be the one to go.
What next for the Senators?
OTTAWA CITIZEN/OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren reports young Senators RFAs like Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Alex Chiasson and Calder Trophy nominee Mark Stone are all due raises, especially Stone, Hoffman and Zibanejad. Management must also decide what to do with veterans Chris Neil, Colin Greening and David Legwand, who have term on their contracts. Warren claims the Sens want to re-sign hard-working forward Erik Condra but could lack the salary room to do so. Once-promising defenseman Jared Cowen is a question mark, as he was used sparingly down the stretch and not at all in the playoffs. Finally, there’s the goalie conundrum, as Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner are under contract for next season, but season savior Andrew Hammond is a UFA.
Bruce Garrioch also notes the Senators will have several key players to re-sign this summer. With the Senators also trying to re-sign Boston University free agent goalie Matt O’Connor, Garrioch feels they should retain Anderson (given Lehner’s current status) and resist moving a goalie until the O’Connor situation is sorted out. He expects Hammond will test the UFA market. Garrioch also feels Cowen could become a trade chip this summer after he lost his spot in the lineup to Patrick Wiercioch. The Sens could also try again to move Greening.
Don Brennan believes the Senators need to keep Anderson, Lehner and Hammond for next season, giving the injury history of their regular tandem. Given Anderson’s and Lehner’s health concerns, Brennan believes they currently have low trade value. He feels Hammond should be convinced to re-sign as insurance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have sufficient cap space to re-sign almost all their key players, provided they spend toward the cap ceiling. Given they haven’t done that in recent years, they’ll be trying to shed some salary this summer. Cowen, Greening and Legwand could hit the trade block, though the latter two could become contract buyouts if the Sens are unable to move them. As for Neil, the decision will likely be left up to him, just as it was leading up to this year’s trade deadline.
The goaltending situation is an interesting one. While Hammond did save the Senators season, he has yet to fully prove himself as an NHL starter. Still, as Garrioch and Brennan point out, Anderson and Lehner are frequently sidelined by injury, which suggests one of them should be dealt. However, when healthy Anderson remains a solid starter while Lehner still has promise. While the Sens probably prefer retaining all three, that’s unrealistic given Hammond’s solid late-season performance and UFA status.
Latest on the Islanders and Blues.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance believes the New York Islanders should add a defenseman and a backup goaltender this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Current backup Michal Neuvirth is a UFA this summer. Depending upon Griffin Reinhart’s development, the Isles might not need to pursue a blueliner via trade or free agency.
STLTODAY.COM: Jeremy P. Rutherford wonders if the Blues will try to trade a few of the club’s long-tenured core players. Those include Patrick Berglund, David Backes, TJ Oshie and Alexander Steen, whose sputtering offense was a contributing factor in the Blues opening-round elimination by the Minnesota Wild. Rutherford also wonders about the future of goalie Brian Elliott, who’s under contract next season but was passed over in favor of Jake Allen for the starter’s job in the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those core players, the most likely to be dealt are Oshie and Berglund. Oshie lacks a no-trade clause while Berglund’s kicks in on July 1, giving the Blues a limited window to move him without his permission. Steen and Backes have full NTCs and if they’re unwilling to leave there’s little the Blues can do about it.
Updates on Malkin and Phaneuf.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Pittsburgh Penguins should at least consider trading superstar forward Evgeni Malkin, suggesting teams with young assets and cap space (Nashville, Florida, Calgary) could fetch solid returns for Malkin. Damien Cox claims Peter Chiarelli had interest in Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf while still Bruins GM leading up to his year’s trade deadline. Cox speculates Chiarelli might revisit that interest now that he’s GM of the Edmonton Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins ownership already stated Malkin won’t be traded, and the long-time Penguins star says he wants to stay in Pittsburgh. Musing about possible trade destinations for him is a pointless exercise. As for Phaneuf and the Oilers, if they’re on his list of no-trade destinations, it won’t matter how much interest Chiarelli has in him.