Suggesting some moves for the Lightning, speculation over a possible return of Phil Kessel to the Bruins and the type of player the Flames could pursue.

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Suggested moves for the Lightning.

Could the Lightning consider moving Ben Bishop in a year's time?

Could the Lightning trade Ben Bishop in a year’s time?

ESPN.COM: In the aftermath of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, Craig Custance listed three keys to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offseason. First, of course, is re-signing captain Steven Stamkos, who is a year away from unrestricted free agency. Custance speculates it could be an eight-year deal worth $11 million annually. He also recommends the Lightning give backup Andrej Vasilevskij more playing time. The sooner Vasilevskij proves himself as a starter, the sooner GM Steve Yzerman can at least consider trading Ben Bishop, who’s making nearly $6 million per season, while the Bolts have several young stars due significant raises in the next two years. Custance also believes there’s a case to be made for trading defenseman Matt Carle, though his contract ($5.5 million annually through 2017-18) won’t be easy to move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Re-signing Stamkos will eat up a significant chunk of long-term cap space for the Lightning, who must re-sign Vasilevskij, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette within the next two seasons, with the biggest hit coming in 2017. They could trade Stamkos but that’s highly unlikely to happen. Some of his critics will point to his goalless performance in the Cup Final as reason to move him, but his GM is Steve Yzerman, who went through his own share of postseason disappointment in his playing career before winning three championships. I doubt Yzerman will use Stamkos’ Cup Final scoring drought against him. If Vasilevskij proves himself as a starter next season, perhaps moving Bishop is the way to go. Moving Carle is another option. As Custance points out, it won’t be easy but it’s also not impossible. Perhaps teams with cap space seeking blueline depth could be willing to take him on. 

Latest on the Bruins.

CSNNE.COM:  Joe Haggerty noted a recent report from TSN’s Bob McKenzie in which the Boston Bruins were among the preferred trade destinations for Toronto Maple Leafs winger (and former Bruin) Phil Kessel. Haggerty considers the pros and cons of a possible return to Boston for Kessel.

NBC SPORTS: Jason Brough also noted the report on Kessel’s trade list, but also pointed out the winger could still block a trade if he prefers to remain with the Maple Leafs.

BOSTON HERALD: Steve Conroy recently examined the options facing the Bruins regarding restricted free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who could receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Among the options to avoid that possibility is trading him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While it’s interesting that Kessel included Boston on his list of trade destinations, his $8 million annual salary likely prevents a return to the cap-strapped Bruins. Given the Bruins desire to play a physical style, I don’t think Kessel would fit into that game plan. As for Hamilton, the Bruins can avoid an offer sheet by re-signing him before July 1. We must also remember that, just because Hamilton can receive an offer sheet, it doesn’t mean he’ll sign it. I’ll be very surprised if the Bruins trade Hamilton simply to avoid the possibility of an offer sheet. 

Latest on the Flames. 

SPORTSNET 960 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Elliotte Friedman reports the Calgary Flames could seek a physical scoring forward like Boston’s Milan Lucic or St. Louis’ David Backes. Friedman also said the Flames won’t be pursuing Toronto’s Phil Kessel. He also doesn’t see the Flames pursuing a smallish forward like Carolina’s Jeff Skinner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have considerable cap space and are expected to pursue a trade this summer. Adding someone like Lucic or Backes could be a good fit, but the Flames must also ensure they don’t take on a player carrying too much salary as they’ve got to re-sign Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan within the next year. I also doubt they’ll pursue someone who has only a year left on their contract and is a year away from UFA status like Lucic or Backes.