Latest on Steven Stamkos, plus updates on the Jets and Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.
Projected suitors for Stamkos.
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE: If the Tampa Bay Lightning decide to shop pending UFA center Steven Stamkos at the Feb. 29 trade deadline (and if Stamkos is willing to waive his no-movement clause), Erik Erlendsson lists seven clubs – St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild – as possible suitors. Erlendssen also speculates the Lightning could retain Stamkos for the remainder of the season, even at the risk of losing him for nothing to free agency, as he’ll help their chances for another lengthy playoff run this spring.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll leave it to my readers to discuss/debate the possibility of Stamkos being dealt at the trade deadline and where he could go. I don’t believe Stamkos will be traded. Even if the Lightning asked him to waive his no-movement clause, I think he’s determined to finish this season with the Bolts and see how contract talks play out in the offseason. But hey, if you disagree, feel free to indulge yourselves in the comments section below.
Latest on the Jets.
SPORTSNET 960 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Elliotte Friedman believes whatever decisions the Winnipeg Jets make with pending UFAs Dustin Byfgulien and Andrew Ladd will impact this year’s trade market the most. He believes they’re making a real effort to re-sign Byfuglien, but the cost of doing so could lead to Jacob Trouba or Tyler Myers being moved to free up cap space. Trouba’s asking price was rumored to be eight years at $7 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Jets re-sign Byfuglien and trade Trouba, it’ll likely be spurred by the latter’s salary demands.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe wonders if the writing’s on the wall for veteran Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. With Connor Hellebuyck shining as their starting goalie, Pavelec doesn’t want to be a backup, plus the Jets are paying him as a starter ($3.9 million cap hit, but his salary is $4.25 this season and $4.75 million in 2016-17). If Hellebuyck maintains his current level of play, Wiebe wonders if the Jets might trade Pavelec. He suggests the Calgary Flames as an option, as both their current goalies (Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo) are UFAs this summer. If the Jets were to take back Hiller and a draft pick for Pavelec, it would free up $4 million in cap space, which could be put toward re-signing Dustin Byfuglien or Andrew Ladd.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames could move Hiller or Ramo before the trade deadline if they fall further out of playoff contention, but I doubt they’ll go after a replacement for either guy right away. I don’t think they’ll be interested in Pavelec, as he won’t be much of an upgrade over Hiller or Ramo. Yes, he has starter experience, but his inconsistency remains an issue. The Flames could consider a more affordable option like Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen, who’s been mentioned in trade rumors in recent weeks.
Could the Blackhawks bring back Versteeg?
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Responding to a reader’s question about what the Blackhawks must do to stay alive in this year’s playoffs, Mark Lazerus suggest they consider bringing back winger Kris Versteeg, who’s currently toiling with the Carolina Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting suggestion. Versteeg, of course, won two championships with the Blackhawks and he’s eligible for UFA status this summer. He’s on pace for a 50-point season with the Hurricanes and would seamlessly fit back into the ‘Hawks lineup. However, the Hurricanes surged into playoff contention in January, currently sitting just a couple of points out of a wild-card berth. Versteeg’s one of their leading scorers. If the ‘Canes stay in the postseason race by the end of this month, they could retain Versteeg for the rest of the season.