Speculation over possible offseason moves by the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars & Pittsburgh Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
No Lucic, but maybe Eriksson for the Canucks?
TSN 1040 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT)/THE PROVINCE: Bob McKenzie and Ben Kuzma rule out the possibility of Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic signing with the Vancouver Canucks this summer, citing Lucic’s desire to re-sign with the Kings. Both suggest Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson might be a good fit with the Canucks because of his national team history with fellow Swedes Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Kuzma also speculates veteran winger Alex Burrows, who’s now a fourth-line winger and in the final year of his contract, could become a buyout candidate. He also doubts the Canucks will re-sign pending UFA right wing Radim Vrbata.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Eriksson is willing to accept a two-year contract, it makes no sense for the Canucks to pursue him. The Sedins only have two years remaining on their respective deals and there’s no certainty those aging stars will re-sign when their contracts expire in 2018.
With the Canucks supposedly transitioning toward a younger roster, they shouldn’t be signing a 31-year-old winger like Eriksson to an expensive long-term contract. I’m not saying they shouldn’t look at bringing in a scoring winger, but preferably it should be one who’s under 30 and fits well into their long-term plans.
As for Burrows, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s bought out, though I expect Canucks management will try to trade him by perhaps offering to pick up part of his remaining salary. Vrbata won’t be re-signed.
Stars to pursue a “big fish” this summer?
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat, Mike Heika responded to a reader’s question over the identity of the “big fish” Stars GM Jim Nill is rumored to seek this summer. Heika didn’t shed much light on the subject, suggesting it’s a big trade none of us can imagine yet, citing as an example the Stars’ acquisition last summer of Patrick Sharp as an example of what he means.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My guess is that “big fish” is a top-two defenseman. Alex Goligoski, Kris Russell and Jason Demers are slated for UFA status this summer. At least one of them won’t be back. The Stars have over $56 million invested in next season’s payroll, so there’s room to pursue one or two blueliners in the offseason via free agency. Keith Yandle is the best of this summer’s UFA blueliners. If he wants to go the trade or offer sheet route, Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen are possibilities, depending upon how their contract negotiations go.
Which pending free agents will the Penguins keep?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Dave Molinari recently speculated over which pending free agents the Penguins might keep. He sees UFAs Matt Cullen, Ben Lovejoy and Kevin Porter returning, while Steve Oleksy and Jeff Zatkoff probably won’t be back. He doesn’t rule out the Penguins working out a reduced wage for RFA defenseman Justin Schultz if he proves to be a good fit, while noting management faces a tough call with oft-injured winger Beau Bennett, who shows flashes of top-six ability when healthy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pens decide to cut ties with Bennett. Maybe they re-sign Schulz to a one-year deal to gauge his effectiveness over a full season before deciding if he has a long-term future in Pittsburgh.