Latest on the Senators, Penguins, Sabres, Canucks, Blues and more in your NHL Rumor Mill.
What next for teams recently eliminated from the playoffs?
SI.COM: Allan Muir speculates over what the future holds for the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins in the wake of their recent playoff elimination. He expects minimal turnover for the Senators, who will re-sign RFAs like Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad and Mike Hoffman. He expects Erik Condra could depart via unrestricted free agency but the Senators could take a gamble and re-sign goalie Andrew Hammond.
Muir expects Blues GM Doug Armstrong will shake up his core by sacrificing players who continually come up short in the playoffs, like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and pending UFA Barret Jackman.
He speculates Canucks pending UFA forward Shawn Matthias will sign elsewhere. He also suggests defenseman Kevin Bieksa might be convinced to waive his no-trade clause if the right deal came along from a contending team.
Muir expects it’s likely Predators UFAs Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen will move, but he expects Mike Ribeiro will be re-signed.
While Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t going anywhere, Muir feels the futures of GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston could be among those up for discussion. He feels the club faces an overhaul, especially with nine players eligible for UFA status this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even the Ottawa media isn’t sure what the Senators will do regarding Hammond and their potential logjam between the pipes…I also expect Oshie and Berglund could be dealt while Jackman won’t be re-signed. The Blues must shake things up…Bieksa claims he doesn’t see himself playing for anyone else, but didn’t fully dismiss the possibility if management were to approach him about a trade, depending upon the destination…Ribeiro will be re-signed, as will Fisher…Over the weekend, the Penguins ownership claimed Rutherford and Johnston will return, so their futures aren’t up for discussion. And speaking of the Penguins…
Latest on the Penguins.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Jason Mackey reports Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said ownership won’t prevent him from exercising contract buyouts this June. Mackey considers winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Rob Scuderi the top candidates.
Joe Starkey looked at the limited options available to Rutherford to bolster his offense via free agency this summer. Michael Frolik or “Rutherford’s favorite” Jiri Tlusty could be available. The best route could be via trade, though it could mean dangling third-line center Brendan Sutter or one of their promising young blueliners as trade bait.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford might get lucky and find a trade partner for Kunitz or Scuderi, but he could be forced to pick up part of their salaries to do so. Still, that could be cheaper in the long run than buying them out. Another free-agent possibility is Winnipeg’s Drew Stafford, though I expect the Jets will re-sign him before July 1. Trading Sutter might fetch a top-six winger, but it will leave a big hole to fill at center on their third line.
Could the Sharks target the Blackhawks this summer?
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Fluto Shinzawa recently speculated San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson might once again target the Chicago Blackhawks, who are in need of shedding salary this summer. Wilson did the same thing back in 2010, signing defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet. The ‘Hawks matched the offer but it created cap issues which resulted in goalie Antti Niemi becoming a UFA and getting signed by the Sharks. Blackhawks wingers Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell are at risk of being traded, and Shinzawa also speculates goalie Corey Crawford might be moved to cut costs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what moves the Blackhawks make this summer. Crawford’s future could depend upon his goaltending performance over the remainder of the playoffs. If he ends up replaced again by Scott Darling, his future in Chicago could be in doubt. The Sharks could certainly make the ‘Hawks a trade target.
Questions linger over Sabres offseason plans.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports the Sabres, for the second-straight year, refused to stage an end-of-season press conference. Among the questions left to be answered by the Sabres are: Will struggling Cody Hodgson become a buyout candidate or will he be given another chance under a new head coach? What’s the strategy for their second first-round pick in this year’s draft? Will they keep Chad Johnson and re-sign Anders Lindback or look toward trades and free agency to address their goaltending? Could the Sabres pitch an offer sheet to a top restricted free agent this summer?
Colleague John Vogl also wonders what the Sabres plans are to address their woeful goaltending for next season. Potential free-agent targets could include Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, “former Sabres Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, San Jose’s Antti Niemi, Calgary’s Karri Ramo and Edmonton’s Viktor Fasth.” Trade options could include Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, New York Rangers’ Cam Talbot, LA Kings’ Martin Jones, “Colorado’s Calvin Pickard, Nashville’s Marek Mazanec and Ottawa’s Robin Lehner.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt Sabres GM Tim Murray or team owner Terry Pegula would’ve shed any light on their offseason plans if they held a season-ending press conference. Still, Harrington and Vogl raise legitimate questions about what the Sabres will do to address their pressing needs for next season. I doubt Dubnyk will become available via free agency as the Wild will re-sign their season savior. They could give Hodgson another chance under a new coach, as his play really declined under Ted Nolan.