Latest on the Red Wings, Canadiens and Bruins in today’s NHL Rumor mill.
Could the Red Wings and Canadiens pursue Stamkos?
THE GLOBE AND MAIL’s James Mirtle observed a lot of hockey people believe the Detroit Red Wings have a shot at signing Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos via free agency in July.
NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika commented on recent speculation suggesting the Wings could trade away the final season of center Pavel Datsyuk’s contract if he decides to return to Russia, thus freeing up cap space to pursue Stamkos. However, he believes that’s easier said than done. “There are few teams that could absorb Datsyuk’s cap charge, and they know the Red Wings’ situation. They will want a major asset in return, perhaps a first-round pick,” said Cotsonika.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Cotsonika. If Datsyuk returns home to Russia, I expect GM Ken Holland will try to move his contract, but it will be part of a larger deal.
Look at the trades last summer involving the contracts of Chris Pronger and Marc Savard. The Philadelphia Flyers had to include defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in the deal and take back center Sam Gagner from the Arizona Coyotes. In addition to the Florida Panthers taking on Savard’s contract, the Boston Bruins had to part with Reilly Smith and take back Jimmy Hayes.
Any club willing to take on the final season of Datsyuk’s contract ($7.5 million cap hit, $5.5 million in actual salary) will squeeze Holland for either a first-round draft pick, a top prospect or one of their good young roster players.
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels believes the Montreal Canadiens should be first in line to pursue Stamkos via free agency this summer. In order to fit a new contract for the superstar under the salary cap for next season, Engel suggests GM Marc Bergevin could jettison some fringe pieces such as forwards David Desharnais and Lars Eller, who each make $3.5 million and are unlikely to return next season. He also believes center Tomas Plekanec ($6 million annually and lacking a no-trade clause) and Alexei Emelin (limited no-trade effective July 1) could also be moved. Engels feels the Habs have a lot to offer Stamkos, like the opportunity to be their full-time first-line center and a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Bergevin can pull off those suggested moves and convince Stamkos to join the Canadiens. It’ll certainly help him regain the confidence of Habs fans currently unhappy over his handling of the roster this season. And it would probably blow the minds of the true believers in Leafs Nation who think Stamkos is coming home to Toronto as a free agent. With all due respect to Engels, however, his suggestions are easier said than done.
I don’t see much of a market for an inconsistent scorer like Desharnais. Eller will never blossom into the reliable second-line scorer many Canadiens fans once believed him to be. Plekanec is a good two-way center, but he’ll turn 34 in October and his annual cap hit ($6 million through 2017-18) is very expensive. Can’t see too many clubs being keen for his services. Emelin first popped up in trade rumors last season, but his $4.1 million cap hit through 2017-18 won’t be an easy move even with a modified NTC.
Which Bruins core players won’t return next season?
CSNNE.COM: Right wing Loui Eriksson is the most likely of the Boston Bruins core players not to return after this season. Eriksson is a unrestricted free agent and it’s unlikely the Bruins will pay up to retain him. Though GM Don Sweeney isn’t inclined toward moving goalie Tuukka Rask, though he could be moved if there’s an “earth-shattering” deal bubbling below the surface. Unless aging defenseman Zdeno Chara asks to be dealt to a contender, it hard to see them making that move as the Bruins defense corps would be even worse without him. Center David Krejci’s no-movement clause will keep him in Boston unless he asks to be moved.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is just a synopsis and I recommend reading the piece in its entirety. Of their core players, the only goner is Eriksson. I don’t believe they’ll trade Rask. He’s got a full no-movement clause for 2016-17 and there’s really no suitable replacements for him via trade or free agency. If Chara wants to stay, there’s nothing the Bruins can do about it. Ditto Krejci.