A look at what’s next for the Wild, Flyers and Panthers, plus updates on the Rangers in your NHL rumor mill.
Offseason keys for the Wild, Flyers and Panthers.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance believes the Minnesota Wild must hire a new coach in the offseason, acquire a young top-six forward and cut ties with the disappointing Thomas Vanek. He notes there currently aren’t many coaches available with a proven track record. He believes Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be a good fit, or Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene if he’s available. There was speculation earlier in the season linking the Wild to Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk but it’s unlikely the Habs will move him now. The Wild have currency in young defensemen they can offer up as trade bait. Moving the declining, expensive ($6.5 million for next season) Vanek, who has a no-movement clause, could be easier said than done. Custance wonders if the Buffalo Sabres might take him back if the Wild picked up part of his salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t believe Sabres GM Tim Murray has any interest in bringing back Vanek, even if the Wild picked up half his salary. For that matter, I doubt the Wild will find any takers for him now. Expect a buyout in June for Vanek. The Habs aren’t parting with Galchenyuk. While Duchene incurred the wrath of Avs coach Patrick Roy over his celebration of his 30th goal of the campaign in a late-season loss to St. Louis, I don’t think they’ll part with him. Nugent-Hopkins was linked to the Wild this season, with Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba cited as possible returns for the Oilers. They might revisit that again. If not, I agree with Custance’s belief the Wild will use their depth in young defenseman to land a center, though I doubt they’ll find a proven first-line pivot.
Custance thinks the Philadelphia Flyers should re-sign RFA center Brayden Schenn to a contract extension, create an opening on their blueline for another young defenseman (perhaps by shopping Andrew MacDonald) and locking up rookie Shayne Gostisbehere to a long-term deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Schenn earned his spurs with the Flyers this season. He enjoyed his best season to date (26 goals, 59 points) and was much more physical, especially in the playoffs against the Capitals. I no longer consider him a trade candidate. While MacDonald showed improvement, it won’t be enough to convince a club to take him off their hands, even if they agree to pick up part of his $5 million annual cap hit. As for Gostisbehere, who has a year left on his contract at $925 K, it’ll be interesting to see if he agrees to a long-term deal or prefers a short-term one taking him up to UFA status in four years time.
As for the Florida Panthers, Custance suggests they bring back Jaromir Jagr for another season, re-signing RFA center Vincent Trocheck to a long-term deal and pursue Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers are keen to bring back Jagr. If he feels he has another good season left in him, he’ll return on another one-year, bonus-laden deal. Trocheck broke out in a big way this season (53 points) centering the Panthers second line. An RFA this year, he’ll be getting a nice raise, the only question being for how many years. As for Ladd, he was linked to the Panthers in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline. They’ll have the cap space to sign him, but do they want to invest over $6 million annually on a six-year deal? That was his rumored asking price from the Jets. I don’t think GM Dale Tallon will pay that much for his services.
More Rangers speculation.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis notes the Rangers being pressed against the salary-cap ceiling for next season could result in some hard assessments of several high-salaried veterans. Topping the list is winger Rick Nash, who has two seasons at a cap hit of $7.8 million remaining on his contract plus a limited no-trade clause. Cyrgalis observes Nash’s playoff numbers pale in comparison to his regular-season stats and suggests trading him is the most obvious way to receive much-needed cap relief. While that cap space could be used to re-sign defenseman Keith Yandle, Cyrgalis points out the blueliner’s good and bad were both on display this season. As for Dan Girardi, he suggests a buyout is an option if trading the remaining four years at $5.5 million per season (with a no-movement clause for next season) is not.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Andrew Gross believes the Rangers will have a different look next season. He also advocates moving Nash, even if they have to pick up part of his $7.8 million cap hit. He also suggests buying out Girardi, feeling a trade is unlikely. Gross questions the wisdom of retaining Yandle as that would add another aging, expensive rearguard to their blueline corps. Gross believes Kevin Klein could be their best trade chip among their defensemen. He believes the Rangers biggest need is landing a true first-line center.
USA TODAY: Kevin Allen also believes the Rangers could be forced to peddle a veteran or two to clear cap space to re-sign their key RFAs (Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes) and address depth issues elsewhere. Like Crygalis and Gross, he thinks moving Nash is the best way to clear cap space and also wonders if Girardi could become a buyout candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have nearly $57 million invested in 16 players for 2016-17. Re-signing Kreider, Miller and Hayes will eat up a good chunk of that cap space, leaving little to re-sign or replace their remaining free agents. Moving Nash is the obvious choice, but also not an easy one. Given his playoff numbers compared to his regular season ones, his age (he turns 32 in June) and salary, the Blueshirts could be forced to pick up part of his cap hit. Finding a destination among the 12 he would consider suitable could also hamper things. I’m not suggesting Nash won’t garner any interest in this summer’s trade market, but it won’t be as intense as it was in the summer of 2012.
Girardi could be even tougher to shop. A buyout will provide significant immediate relief for next season, though it would be more costly over the subsequent three years. I don’t see them using any freed-up cap space to re-sign Yandle. If they shed Girardi, they’ll certainly retain Klein.