Latest on the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks, plus updates on Evgeni Malkin, Dion Phaneuf and Antti Niemi.

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What next for the Red Wings?

Has Jimmy Howard played his final game for the Red Wings?

Could the Detroit Red Wings trade Jimmy Howard?

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance believes re-signing coach Mike Babcock, upgrading the defense and mapping out struggling starter Jimmy Howard’s future are the three offseason keys for the Detroit Red Wings. Custance speculates they could let aging playoff rental Marek Zidlicky depart via free agency and believes Nashville Predators’ pending UFA Cody Franson could be a great fit with the Wings. He also feels they’ll have to find a place for Howard and his $5.2 million per season contract if they believe Petr Mrazek is the real deal as their starting goalie.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not sure how great a fit Franson could be with the Red Wings, given how much his performance plummeted after joining the Predators in February. If they feel Mrazek is ready for prime time (which his playoff performance against the Lightning certainly suggests), they’ll try to trade Howard. He has a full no-movement clause until July 1, after which it becomes a modified no-trade. 

 Latest Senators speculation.

OTTAWA SUN/OTTAWA CITIZEN: Bruce Garrioch and Ken Warren reports the Senators have made a contract offer to pending UFA goaltender Andrew Hammond. If Hammond is re-signed, the Senators will have three goaltenders under contract, which could require a trade of Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner to resolve. Garrioch claims the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres could be in the market for a netminder this summer. Warren reports GM Bryan Murray said the club’s budget will be higher for next season but they still won’t spend to the cap ceiling. Murray is also reluctant to trade young defenseman Jared Cowen, who will require surgery for a sports hernia.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Hammond re-signs with the Senators, my guess is they’ll shop Robin Lehner once he’s fully recovered from his concussion. While Lehner is younger than Anderson, the latter is a proven performer, especially in the playoffs. Cowen’s sports hernia certainly explains why he was used sparingly down the stretch and didn’t dress in the playoffs. 

Updates on Malkin, Phaneuf and Niemi.

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston cites colleague Elliotte Friedman’s belief the Pittsburgh Penguins should consider trading Evgeni Malkin. Johnston lists St. Louis, Nashville, San Jose, Calgary, Vancouver and Florida as clubs which have the depth in young assets to interest the Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To paraphrase “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”: why is this still a thing? Despite Penguins ownership recently claiming Malkin (along with Sidney Crosby, GM Jim Rutherford and head coach Mike Johnston) will return next season, some in the media seem to be almost begging the Pens to reconsider. Malkin has a full no-movement clause and has already stated his wish to remain with the Penguins. It’s reminding me of a rumor several years ago claiming the Penguins were shopping Malkin to the Kings. Evgeni Malkin’s trade status: why is this still a thing?

EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently weighed in on a rumor from Sportsnet’s Damien Cox suggesting the Edmonton Oilers could be suitors for Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. While acknowledging Phaneuf could help the Oilers’ woeful blueline, Staples points out his hefty cap hit ($7 million annually) makes little sense for Edmonton. He doubts the Leafs are willing to pick up half of Phaneuf’s salary, plus the length of his deal (which has six years left) could create a cap crunch in a few years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spot-on assessment by Staples. Sure, the Oilers could say screw the cap hit and pursue the Leafs captain, but I doubt that happens unless the Oilers ship out a couple of expensive contracts in the deal and the Leafs pick up a sizable chunk of Phaneuf’s contract

CSNBAYAREA.COM: Kevin Kurz recently reported there’s been no serious contract discussions between the San Jose Sharks management and pending UFA goalie Antti Niemi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt the Sharks have any intention of re-sign Niemi. They’ll likely look elsewhere for a new starting goalie. 

Markstrom a marked man?

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma reports Vancouver Canucks third-string goalie Jacob Markstrom could become a trade candidate this summer. He notes the Canucks still need picks in this year’s NHL draft and believes Markstrom, a restricted free agent, could fetch a third rounder.