Latest on Blackhawks, Coyotes, Hurricanes and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
Highlights from Matheson’s “Hockey World.”
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reports on the potential salary-cap difficulties Artemi Panarin’s bonuses could create for the Chicago Blackhawks next season. He has to find a team who’ll take left wing Bryan Bickell’s $4 million cap hit for next season off his hands, plus re-sign restricted free-agent forward Andrew Shaw to a suitable raise. Panarin will also need a contract extension by next summer, when he’ll be a restricted free agent. It could cost over $5 million annually to re-sign him.
With the ‘Hawks already deep in forwards, Matheson suggests they might have to trade Shaw for perhaps an affordable third-pairing defenseman. “If you were the Oilers, would you consider giving up Brandon Davidson, if the Hawks asked?”
Matheson also suggests the Oilers target St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer via free agency in July.
With an expansion draft coming next year, Matheson wonders if the Pittsburgh Penguins might trade goalie Marc-Andre Fleury before then in order to protect promising young Matt Murray.
Matheson considers French-speaking former NHL coach Marc Crawford as a good choice for the Ottawa Senators vacant head-coaching position. He also believes recently ousted Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney would be a good choice as GM of the expansion Las Vegas franchise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bickell has one season left on his contract, which could make him easier to move this summer compared to last year. It’ll likely be to a team with plenty of cap space. Even then, the Hawks could get squeezed to either pick up part of Bickell’s remaining cap hit or include another player to make the deal happen. The Blackhawks aren’t parting with Shaw for Davidson. Indeed, I think they’ll try very hard to keep Shaw this summer.
The Oilers can target Brouwer, but they could find it difficult to land him if he gets competitive offers from playoff contenders.
If the Penguins decide to trade Fleury, I expect it’ll be after next year’s playoffs and before the expansion draft. They could also contact the expansion franchises to cut side deals to ensure they don’t touch Fleury if he’s left exposed in the draft.
Updates on the Coyotes and Hurricanes.
ARIZONASPORTS.COM: Among his 10 offseason questions for the Arizona Coyotes, Craig Morgan wonders who they’ll pursue to shore up their defense. The Coyotes have plenty of salary-cap space for next season and could target cap-strapped clubs. “That could create trade opportunities with St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, Nashville’s Ryan Ellis and Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman among the most attractive options, Morgan said. He also lists “Detroit’s Kyle Quincey, L.A.’s Luke Schenn and Dallas’ Jason Demers” among the free-agent options. Morgan also considers re-signing “forward Tobias Rieder, defensemen Connor Murphy, Stone, Klas Dahlbeck, Kevin Connauton and goalie Louis Domingue” as top priorities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Coyotes will go the trade route to address their blue-line needs. If they go after Shattenkirk, they’ll want assurances he’ll re-sign with them, as he’s a UFA next summer. I don’t see the Predators parting with Ellis or the Lightning giving up Stralman. The Lightning will counter with Matt Carle, as they’ve been trying to shed his $5.5 million annual cap hit for a year.
NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock recently noted Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis seems to believe he can improve the club this summer without hurting its future. Francis seemed to douse suggestions of pursuing an expensive free agent this summer. DeCock notes the Hurricanes remain competitive this season despite a lack of offense and poor goaltending. “Francis will have cap space and picks to move, which could pry loose a talented, youngish forward or two from cap-strapped teams,” writes DeCock, who also admits finding an upgrade in goal could prove a more difficult task.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis will likely put in calls to the Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and perhaps the Lightning (if they re-sign Steven Stamkos to a monstrous new deal). They will likely be among the teams in need of shedding some salary this summer to free up space to re-sign other key players.