Storylines worth watching this summer, plus the latest on the Blues, Red Wings and Maple Leafs. 

Offseason storylines worth watching.

Note: My comments are italicized. 

Will the Lightning re-sign Steven Stamkos this summer?

Will the Lightning re-sign Steven Stamkos this summer?

ESPN.COM: Among Scott Burnside’s notable NHL stories worth watching this summer is the contract talks between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steven Stamkos. The longer it takes to get Stamkos re-signed, the more rumblings will increase that he could bolt next summer via free agency.

And we all know where those rumblings will originate. I’m looking at you, Toronto!

If the LA Kings are successful in their efforts to terminate Mike Richards’ contract, is there a hockey home for him?

I believe an NHL club could take a chance on him, depending upon his conditioning and salary. He could be had on a cheap one-year “show me” deal.

Burnside suspects the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t done dealing after shipping Phil Kessel last week to Pittsburgh.

Most of the recent speculation suggests center Tyler Bozak could be next, but it could be difficult to find destinations for him now that most teams have addressed their roster needs (for the time being) via trades or free agency. It might take until training camp or preseason to find Bozak a new home.

If the Carolina Hurricanes fail to reach agreement with Eric Staal and Cam Ward on new contracts, one or both could be shopped. The pair are eligible next summer for UFA status.

I don’t think the Hurricanes have much choice. If they can’t or won’t re-sign Staal and Ward, it’s shop them before next season’s trade deadline or lose them for nothing to free agency next July.

The Chicago Blackhawks are still trying to shed salary. Wingers Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell remains the likely trade candidates.

A lot of the trade chatter about the ‘Hawks has died down in recent days. It could take until September for the Blackhawks to find suitable trade partners. 

Updates on the Blues, Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

NBC SPORTS: Ryan Dadoun reports the St. Louis Blues re-signing Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million deal doesn’t give them much wiggle room next summer to re-signing pending UFAs like David Backes and Troy Brouwer or RFA winger Jaden Schwartz. After 2015-16, the Blues could be forced to trade players they otherwise would prefer to keep.

Which will ensure defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s name will be atop the likely list of salary-dump candidates heading into next summer, provided the Blues don’t move him before then. 

DETROIT FREE PRESS: In the wake of the Red Wings signing Mike Green and Brad Richards, Jamie Samuelsen believes they still have other moves to make. He feels they should try to move goalie Jimmy Howard, as Petr Mrazek proved capable of filling the starter’s role last season. He also believes the Wings should draw upon their glut of talented young forwards as trade bait to add another defenseman or a big forward, suggesting Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar as options.

Wings fans likely agree about trading Howard, but I doubt they’ll concur about dealing Nyquist or Tatar right now. If Mrazek establishes himself as the starter during training camp, Howard could get peddled before the season begins, though it won’t be easy to find takers for his $5.291 million cap hit, especially given his partial no-trade clause. If the Wings fail to make significant improvement over the course of next season, perhaps they field offers for Nyquist, Tatar or another of their young forwards to address their needs. Much will depend upon the club’s performance next season. 

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock recently admitted his club still needs to find a marquee defenseman and they’ll do so when the time is right.

In other words, that move could happen today. Or tomorrow. Or next week, next month, next year or in a couple of years. Right now, I’d say don’t hold your breath expecting to see a marquee defenseman patrolling the Leafs blueline when the puck drops on the 2015-16 season. It could take some time addressing that particular need.