Is this Mike Green’s last season with the Capitals? Should the Canadiens pursue Phil Kessel? What will the Flames do this summer? Read on for the latest in your NHL rumor mill.
What next for the Capitals?
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance speculates this season was likely the last for defenseman Mike Green with the Washington Capitals. Unless Green is willing to accept a pay cut, he could depart via free agency. Custance also believes the Washington Capitals must re-sign goalie Braden Holtby to a long-term contract extension, as well as determine the cost of re-signing RFA forward Marcus Johansson. Re-signing the former will be expensive and could impact Johansson’s contract talks. Freeing up cap space by trading Brooks Laich and the remaining two years (at $4.5 million annually) is an option, though that won’t be easy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bolstering their second-line is a must. Though the Capitals have significantly improved their defensive game and possess some promising young forwards in Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, offensively they remain a one-line team built upon Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. As the New York Rangers demonstrated, if you shut down that line you shut down the Capitals offense. Adding another skilled top-six winger will certainly help. Green could be willing to accept a pay cut to remain in Washington. While I daresay he’ll consider his free-agent options, he loves playing for the Capitals. How much of a pay cut they want him to accept, however, could prove the determining factor.
Latest on the Canadiens.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Jack Todd reports the Canadiens need to bolster their scoring if they’re to fully open their window of opportunity as a Stanley Cup contender. He believes they need another bona fide scoring winger on par with Max Pacioretty, plus they also need a true first-line center. One who might be available is Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, but the cost would be prohibitive. Todd speculates Canadiens blueline prospect Jarred Tinordi could become trade bait to land a scorer, though he hopes that isn’t the case.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin suggests the Canadiens target Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel, though he doubts that will happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While I agree with much of Larkin’s assessment of Kessel as a good fit for the Habs, I just don’t see it happening. What I do see is Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin attempting to bolster his offense, perhaps by targeting cap-strapped teams trying to shed salary. Even so, the pickings could be slim.
The Blackhawks could offer up Patrick Sharp, but he’s in decline and would be a short-term fix. Bryan Bickell is younger and tougher but also offensively inconsistent. The Canucks might be willing to move Zack Kassian, but he’s a poor man’s version of Bickell. Forget about Malkin from Pittsburgh, as the Penguins have already stated they’re not moving him. They could offer up Chris Kunitz, but he’s also on the downside of his career.
The LA Kings desperately want to shed Mike Richards, but he’s no longer the two-way force he once was. The Flyers want to move Vincent Lecavalier, but the days when the Habs were hot to trot over landing him are over, as is Lecavalier’s effectiveness as a scorer. It’s obvious the Rangers will re-sign Derek Stepan this summer. Forget about signing Martin St. Louis. He wants to retire a Ranger. Besides, his best days are now behind him.
Burning offseason questions for the Flames.
CALGARY HERALD: Kristen Odland notes the Flames could use another blueline workhorse and depth on right wing. Give their cap space (over $25 million), she wonders if they’ll pursue Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey or Winnipeg’s Michael Frolik via free agency. She also wonders if they’ll keep goalie Jonas Hiller (who has a year left on his contract) or trade him. They could re-sign pending UFA netminder Karri Ramo or let him walk. She feels the Flames need to get bigger while remaining speedy and skilled, plus they must improve in the faceoff circle.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t expect the Flames to go hog wild in the UFA market but I could see them adding depth via free agency to bolster their blueline and right wing depth. Given how Beleskey burned them in the playoffs, they could be among his suitors if he tests the UFA market. Unless their plan is to bring in a better starting goalie via trade or free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them stick with Hiller and have either Ramo or Joni Ortio as part of their tandem.