Updates on the Wild, Senators and Devils, plus another NHL UFA ranking.
Latest on the Wild.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo offered up his “to-do list” for Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. Re-signing UFA goaltender Devan Dubnyk and RFA center Mikael Granlund tops the list, followed by trading or buying out aging, oft-injured goalie Niklas Backstrom and determining which of the Wild’s other UFAs (Chris Stewart, Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Leopold, Nate Prosser, Sean Bergenheim and Ryan Carter) to re-sign.
Chip Scoggins believes the Wild must either find a reliable elite player via trade or free agency or hope one of their promising forwards (Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter,Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin) can become one.
Russo notes nothing will happen until the Wild determine the cost of re-signing Dubnyk. Assuming they buy out Backstrom, they’ll have $11 million in cap space. They have a handful of veterans (Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Mikko Koivu) locked into expensive contract which could prove immovable and promising young players Fletcher may be unwilling to part with. He could try to acquire younger talent like Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov or Toronto’s Nazem Kadri. Russo also suggests it wouldn’t be surprising if backup Darcy Kuemper was shopped.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The best course of action for Fletcher, once he re-signs Dubnyk and Granlund, could be to remain patient heading into next season and see if any of his promising youngsters have breakout performances. With limited cap space, he doesn’t need to saddle himself with another expensive deal taking up too much payroll. Among the free agents, perhaps Brodziak could be re-signed. I doubt the rest will be retained. As for Yakupov and Kadri, I doubt they’re available. If they are, however, the Oilers and Leafs will want one of the Wild’s good young players in return, so such a move really won’t resolve much.
Highlights from Elliotte Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts”.
SPORTSNET: It was assumed the New Jersey Devils might shop a defenseman like Eric Gelinas to bolster their offense. Friedman wonders if that’s changed under new GM Ray Shero, who said one way the Devils can improve their scoring is for the defense to be more assertive on the attack…Friedman guesses Devan Dubnyk might accept between $4 – $4.5 million to re-sign with the Wild, but wonders if the netminder might push for $5 million. He also suggests the Wild offer up a long-term deal with a lower average cap hit…The Ottawa Senators must decide what to do with defenseman Jared Cowen. Friedman recommends retaining Cowen rather than risk him shining with another club…It’s believed the Buffalo Sabres have interest in Senators starting goalie Craig Anderson but Friedman wonders if the Sens would move him to a division rival.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if the Devils defense becomes more offensively assertive, it won’t address the fact the club lacks scoring punch at forward. So I daresay Shero will shop a defenseman for a top-six forward…It’ll be interesting to see how things play out between Dubnyk and the Wild. Perhaps they offer him a two-year deal worth up to $5 million per season? It’s expensive but doesn’t put them on the hook for too long if Dubnyk turns into a one-year wonder…Senators GM Bryan Murray is reluctant to move Cowen, so it appears the struggling blueliner remains part of their plans going forward…I’ll be very surprised if the Senators trade Anderson to the Sabres. All the Senators goalie rumors suggest Robin Lehner is the odd man out.
Latest NHL UFA ranking.
USA TODAY: Kevin Allen recently listed his ranking of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. Topping the list is Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green. He’s followed by Winnipeg Jets winger Drew Stafford, Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg, Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette, Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro, Anaheim Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey, Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry and Capitals center Eric Fehr.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No matter how one ranks them, there’s no one who’s a genuine star in their playing prime who can dramatically shift the fortunes of a team. Green used to be that type of player before injuries hampered him. He’s still a very effective defenseman but not that dazzling puck-moving star who was a former finalist for the Norris Trophy. Those days are well behind him now.