Updates on Keith Yandle, Frans Nielsen, Jimmy Vesey and Joe Colborne in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

Will the Rangers and Isles lose Yandle & Nielsen to free agency?

Could Keith Yandle and Frans Nielsen sign with new teams this summer?

Could Keith Yandle and Frans Nielsen sign with new teams this summer?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently wondered about the possibility of the New York Rangers finding a way to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Keith Yandle, who could command at least $6 million annually on his new contract. Doing so would mean promising Brady Skjei would have to spend another season with the Rangers farm team in Hartford, unless they trade or buy out Marc Staal, who will be entering the second season of a six-year deal worth $5.7 million annually plus a no-movement clause for next season. They could do try trading or buying out Dan Girardi (who also has a no-movement clause) but that wouldn’t solve their depth issue on the right side.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming a cap hit of $74 million, the Rangers have over $19 million available. Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Jesper Fast are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. They’ll eat up a good chunk of that remaining cap space. UFAs Eric Staal, Dominic Moore, Antti Raanta and Viktor Stalberg must be re-signed or replaced. To comfortably re-sign Yandle, they’ll either have to cut ties with a couple of those RFAs or shed a salaried player via trade or buyout. With Marc Staal and Dan Girardi carrying no-movement clauses, getting either guy to accept a trade won’t be easy.  Buying them out will free up cap space, but it also means carrying their remaining cap hit as dead cap space for several years. 

Brett Cyrgalis believes it would be “utterly foolish” for Islanders management to lowball pending UFA center Frans Nielsen, whose first choice is to re-sign with the Isles. He believes a four-to-five year deal hovering around $6 million annually is a fair one for Nielsen.

Latest on the Jimmy Vesey saga.

TSN: Bob McKenzie weighed in on the ongoing saga of Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey opting to become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15. He notes the recent rumors tying the youngster to the Boston Bruins (his hometown club) and Toronto Maple Leafs, who hired his father as a scout and selected his brother in the 2014 NHL draft. McKenzie also touched on the possibility the Leafs could be accused of tampering if Vesey signs with them, pointing out it’s an answer only the league can provide,if it gets to that point. He also notes Vesey reps disputed the claim made by Predators management that they were never informed of their client’s intentions before the Feb. 29 trade deadline,  “The Nashville Predators were informed prior to the Trade Deadline that they should conduct their business as they saw fit and that the potential of signing or not signing Jimmy Vesey should not be a factor in their decision.”


SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s easy to accuse the Leafs of tampering but difficult to prove it. Hiring Vesey’s dad as a scout and drafting his brother might look fishy, but they aren’t indicative of a grand scheme to woo the young forward. Unless someone in the Leafs organization spills the beans, I don’t see how the league can determine tampering on the Leafs’ part. I also understand why the Predators are upset over Vesey’s decision, but he is within his rights under the CBA to sign wherever he wants. While I’m not going to dispute the claims by Vesey’s reps about notifying the Predators before the trade deadline that their client might not sign with them, it’s apparent GM David Poile certainly believed he would get Vesey under contract before the playoffs. Draw your own conclusions. Bottom line is Vesey is heading to free agency in August. 

Re-signing Colborne won’t be easy for Flames.

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis wonders if Joe Colborne’s performance this season could price him out of Calgary. The Flames center is a restricted free agent on the brink of his first 20-goal season, and Francis believes he’s set to double his current $1.275 million annual salary. However, the Flames must also re-sign young stars Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, find a proven starting goalie and add another top-six winger, plus young center Sam Bennett will need a new contract next summer. Francis believes forward Lance Bouma’s three-year, $6.6 million deal is among the Flames problematic contracts. While Colborne has the skill set to build on this year’s stats, Francis wonders if the Flames can afford to keep them both.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming a cap ceiling of $74 milllion, the Flames have over $23 million in cap space. Figure new contracts for Gaudreau and Monahan could eat up half of that. Once they add a goalie and a winger, there’s not much left for Colborne, who also has arbitration rights. Depending on how much it costs to re-up Gaudreau and Monahan, Flames management could be forced to shed a contract or two if they want to keep Colborne. Bouma could be shopped, and there was speculation Dennis Wideman was available prior to his suspension in February. He has a full no-movement clause with a $5.25 million cap hit earning $6 million in actual salary for 2016-17. If a trade of Wideman isn’t possible, they could buy him out.