Latest on Steven Stamkos, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Tyson Barrie in your NHL Rumor Mill. 

Pundits speculate over Stamkos’ potential free-agent destinations.

Speculation persists over the future of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

Speculation persists over the future of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

TODAY’S SLAPSHOT: Appearing on TSN 1050 yesterday, Bob McKenzie speculated on possible destinations for Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos via free agency next summer other than the Toronto Maple Leafs. He suggested the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators as potential options. McKenzie notes Stamkos knew Habs defenseman P.K. Subban growing up in Toronto and thinks he could be the missing piece that puts the Canadiens over the top as a Stanley Cup contender. He also points out the Predators have solid goaltendingand blueline depth, plus winger James Neal is Stamkos’ friend. McKenzie believes Stamkos’ priority is to win a Stanley Cup.

Appearing on TSN 690, Pierre LeBrun wondered if the Detroit Red Wings could make Stamkos a big offer via free agency. LeBrun feels Stamkos probably hasn’t decided yet what his future will be after this season.

SI.COM: Allan Muir also suggests Montreal and Nashville as possible free-agent destinations for Stamkos, along with the St. Louis Blues. He observes the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres have the money to make the Lightning captain an interesting offer.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman didn’t get into the “where could Stamkos sign this summer” guessing game, but mused over the possibility of Stamkos accepting a move to the Canadiens near the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Ultimately, however, Friedman doubts Lightning GM Steve Yzerman would ship his captain to a potential playoff opponent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Stamkos and the Lightning decide to part ways, he will be the biggest star in the salary-cap era to become available via free agency. While he certainly wants to win a Stanley Cup, he also wants to be well compensated. Forget about the Canadiens and Blues, they lack the cap space to sign Stamkos

. The Predators have to re-sign rising stars Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones, plus they’re also carrying Shea Weber’s heavy contract. Unless they trade away Weber without taking on much salary in return, I doubt they’ll pursue Stamkos via free agency. The Wings could make a big offer, but with Dylan Larkin looking like a rising star, they could continue building around their youth.

That leaves the Sabres and Maple Leafs as the two clubs I think can comfortably afford to sign Stamkos. But if his priority is to play for a Cup contender, they’re not a certainty.  

Should the Jets part ways with Byfuglien and Ladd?

WINNIPEG SUN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: In the wake of yesterday’s report regarding the cost of re-signing pending UFAs Dustin Byfuglien (over $6.8 million annually) and Andrew Ladd (over $6 million), the Sun’s Paul Friesen notes the pair will take up considerable cap space, giving the Jets little wiggle room to re-sign RFAs Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele. The Free Press’ Paul Wiecek suggests it could be time for the Jets to part ways with the duo.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also weighed in on the cost of re-signing Byfuglien, Ladd and Trouba (a combined $152 million, according to a report  in the Free Press). He reports it’s believed the Jets want to re-sign Trouba long-term. If they want six-seven years, Friedman guesses it could be between $6-$6.5 million annually, though the Jets hoped for $5.5 million. He claims latest word on Ladd is he and the Jets have apparently agreed upon a six-year term, but still have to hash out the dollars. It sounds like they’re between $500k-$1 million annually apart, which suggests a deal could be made. Friedman claims there’s little progress regarding a new deal for Byfuglien. It’s rumored the Jets don’t want to go longer than a three-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets will re-sign Trouba, who’s coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. If they go long term, my guess is a six-seven year deal worth as close to $5.5 million as possible. While I initially though they could push for $4 million, there’s the risk of a rival club swooping in with an offer sheet for much more.  I think they’re also committed to retaining Ladd for his experience, leadership and the depth he brings at left wing. If so, they’ll likely part ways with Byfuglien, who would be the best defenseman available next summer and thus likely to land a more lucrative deal.

Barrie to the Canucks?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also engaged in some spitballing on the future of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. If the Avs are unable to re-sign Barrie, Friedman wonders if the Vancouver Canucks could make a play for the blueliner. He wonders if the Canucks would part with promising forward Jake Virtanen and either Ben Hutton or Yannick Weber.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Remember, Friedman’s just musing out loud here, not saying this is going to happen. I think the Avs, who need all the blueline depth they can get, will re-sign Barrie. I also don’t see the Canucks parting with Virtanen or any of their key youngsters.