Looking ahead to possible offseason moves involving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, James Reimer and more in your NHL rumor mill.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: After noting the reasons why this year’s trade deadline was a dud, Fluto Shinzawa explains June is the more efficient month for making trades. “Teams have yet to set rosters or budgets for the upcoming season. All 30 clubs, more or less, are on equal footing. Most important, draft picks are still in play,” he writes.
Shinzawa believes Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney could target the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild in search of long-term blueline depth. With Shea Theodore pushing for an NHL roster spot, the Ducks also have to re-sign RFAs Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. The Wild must re-sign promising Matt Dumba, and GM Chuck Fletcher listened to trade offers for Jonas Brodin before the recent trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks could be Sweeney’s best bet. They’re loaded with good young blueliners but are also under a self-imposed cap ceiling. While the Ducks have over $52 million invested in 14 players for 2016-17, they could attempt to keep their cap ceiling to around $65 miillion. With several UFAs to re-sign or replace (David Perron, Chris Stewart, Jamie McGinn and Mike Santorelli) plus Vatanen and Lindholm due substantial raises, perhaps one of those two could be available in exchange for a good, affordable winger.
If the Edmonton Oilers win the draft lottery again and use the first-overall pick to select center Auston Matthews, Shinzawa speculates that could put center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, along with wingers Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov, on “trade watch” as GM Peter Chiarelli seeks to upgrade his blueline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Or Chiarelli could package that pick with Yakupov or Nugent-Hopkins in hopes of landing that top-two defenseman he’s seeking. Lots of options here for the Oilers GM.
Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall could look to shed salary “for upcoming raises due to Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those who might be confused by that statement as I initially was, he means the new contracts for the pair due to kick in next season. The Flyers currently have nearly $63 million committed to 17 players in 2016-17. They could buy out the final season of fading winger R.J. Umberger’s contract ($4.6 million contract) or perhaps ship him to a team with plenty of cap space and take back a less-expensive contract. There was lots of talk of trading Mark Streit before the trade deadline. With one season at $5.25 million left on his contract, maybe they find a suitable taker if he agrees to waive his no-movement clause.
Hextall would probably love to shed Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million per season contract (through 2019-20) but I don’t see many takers for that one. Nick Schultz ($2.25 million for 2016-17) could also be a trade candidate. Winger Matt Read ($3.625 million through 2017-18) is another trade possibility.
Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray will have draft picks and salary-cap space to use in making more offseason deals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray has $46.8 million invested in 14 players for 2016-17 and an owner willing to spend toward whatever next season’s cap ceiling might be. He has four picks in the third round of this year’s draft, plus two seconds and two thirds in 2017. I expect he’ll be busy wheeling and dealing again this summer.
There could be more interest in Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin in June than there was at this year’s trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was reportedly at least a dozen teams with varying degrees of interest in Drouin leading up to Feb. 29. I daresay there will be more in the week leading up to the NHL Draft in Buffalo this June. I’ll be very surprised if Drouin isn’t moved by the end of the draft weekend.
While Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic could get the chance to sign with his hometown Vancouver Canucks, that club’s struggles prompts Shinzawa to suggest Lucic would be better off taking less money to remain with the Kings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lucic could also look at signing elsewhere, but the Kings certainly want to keep him and he seems keen to stay. Making the dollars fit will be key. Lucic is completing a three-year, $18-million deal. The Kings have over $64 million invested in 18 players for next season. Assuming only a marginal increase in the current cap ceiling ($71.4 million), there’s not a lot of cap space there. They’ll get an additional $2.25 million when Vincent Lecavalier retires at season’s end, but that still makes fitting Lucic’s new contract within their cap ceiling a tight squeeze.
The Carolina Hurricanes will need a replacement for pending UFA goaltender Cam Ward. San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer could be available via free agency, while the Detroit Red Wings could put veteran netminder Jimmy Howard on the trade block.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes will have the cap space to take on Howard’s $5.291 million annual cap hit through 2018-19, provided he’s willing to accept a trade to Carolina. Reimer, however, could be a more affordable option, though his injury history could be cause for concern.