Updates on Dion Phaneuf and Niklas Backstrom, plus several things likely to occur before training camp opens.
Phaneuf not worried about trade rumors.
USA TODAY: Jimmy Hascup reports Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf is unconcerned about trade rumors that have dogged him since last season. The Leafs captain says he’s looking forward to playing under Mike Babcock, who was hired in June as the Leafs new head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hascup points out there’s no guarantee Phaneuf will still be a Leaf once the dust settles on their rebuilding process. His performance this season could be crucial in determining his long-term future with the club. If he fails to improve under Babcock, don’t be surprised if his name frequently pops up in the rumor mill, especially near the Feb. 29 trade deadline. As with last season, however, moving Phaneuf won’t be easy as he carries an expensive contract with a modified no-trade clause.
Wild could still be stuck with Backstrom.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo explored the Minnesota Wild’s options with veteran goalie Niklas Backstrom, who was ineligible to be bought out owing to elbow surgery related to an injury last season. With the Wild looking at Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper as their tandem for the upcoming season, they face limited options regarding Backstrom.
As per Russo, “1) Carry three goalies, meaning the Wild would be forced to roster one less forward or defenseman than normal (two vs. three), 2) trade Backstrom if somebody would take him or 3) assign him to a team in Europe that he can perhaps latch onto later this fall.” Russo observes that, because ” Backstrom didn’t start 25 games last season and finish in the top-15 in one of three statistical categories,” the Wild can trade him to one of 15 clubs he has approved. However, Backstrom “is due $4 million this season with a $3.417 cap charge,” which could prove difficult to move even if the Wild agreed to pick up half of his cap hit. If Backstrom is assigned to a European team for the season, the Wild will only receive $100K in cap relief.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a tricky situation. Given Backstrom’s age and injury history, there might not be much interest in his services. It could mean swapping a toxic contract with another club, or perhaps being creative by including another player in a package offer and accepting another player in return. For now, it appears the Wild are prepared to start the season carrying three goalies.
A few pre-training camp predictions.
SI.COM: Allan Muir made a few predictions for the days leading up to the start of training camp. Among them: Cody Franson won’t be signed before the start of training camp, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t re-sign Marcus Kruger, while the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders will re-sign Jonathan Huberdeau and Brock Nelson respectively.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: To be fair to Muir, this ranking came out before the news broke last night claiming Franson is poised to sign with the Buffalo Sabres. I concur with his other takes.