Breaking down the latest Sportsnet update on this summer’s top NHL UFAs.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently provided an update to his ranking and rumors on this summer’s top-16 NHL unrestricted free agents. The highlights:


Steven Stamkos' future with the Lightning remains uncertain.

Steven Stamkos’ future with the Lightning remains uncertain.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos still tops Fox’s list. The mutual decision to put off talks until season’s end has fueled speculation he could depart this summer via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The playoffs could ultimately determine Stamkos’ fate. With him sidelined one-to-three months recovering from vascular surgery, how the Lightning perform without him could be the deciding factor. If they fail to get past the first or second round, management could opt to retain him. If they stage a lengthy run, they could decide they don’t need him after all. 

The St. Louis Blues will wait until the offseason to address David Backes’ contract status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He reportedly rejected a three-year deal worth $5.5 million annually last fall. As Fox points out, the Blues are Vladimir Tarasenko’s team now.  If Backes wants to stay in St. Louis, he may have to accept that short-term deal, provided that offer is still on the table. 

Newsday’s Arthur Staple recently speculated New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo could seek a long-term deal worth $7 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Okposo will become a UFA this summer. 

The Los Angeles Kings and left wing Milan Lucic have begun exchanging contract proposals. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos believes the Edmonton Oilers should pursue Lucic if he hits the open market, while the Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma believes Canucks fans should give up hope of the Vancouver native joining their club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There a mutual desire to get a deal done, but the Kings have limited cap space. Either Lucic leaves some money on the table to stay in Los Angeles or the Kings try to to free up some salary in order to keep him.

Fox considers it unlikely the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks can afford to re-sign left wing Andrew Ladd. He claims the Florida Panthers were bidding for Ladd in February and could pursue him this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Hawks dump some salary they cannot afford to re-sign Ladd, who could seek over $6 million per season on a long-term deal. 

The Florida Panthers ownership and management are keen to bring back right wing Jaromir Jagr next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jagr will sign another one-year, bonus-laden deal with the Panthers. 

 

With several New York Rangers players (Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller) becoming restricted free agents at season’s end, it’ll be interesting to see if they have enough cap space to re-sign defenseman Keith Yandle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers already have over $15 million tied up in just three defensemen (Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh). Yandle will seek over $6 million per season. He’s a goner this summer. 

Boston Bruins right wing Loui Eriksson said he enjoyed his three seasons in Boston, but wouldn’t say if he’ll re-sign or test this summer UFA market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Eriksson wants a five-year, $6 million per season deal. If so, the Bruins will bid him farewell.

Florida Panthers defensman Brian Campbell and GM Dale Tallon say they’ll try to make to make contract negotiations work in the offseason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Campbell’s willing to accept a considerable pay cut on a short-term deal, the Panthers could re-sign him. 

Fox believes the Dallas Stars would be wise to retain defenseman Kris Russell and considers winger Mikkel Boedker strictly a rental player for the Colorado Avalanche. He also wonders if the Florida Panthers might try to re-sign forward Jiri Hudler.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Stars will try to re-sign Russell. Boedker didn’t help the Avs reach the playoffs, though he did put up decent numbers during his short tenure with them. Still, they have to re-sign Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie, which might not leave enough to retain him.  If Hudler plays well for the Panthers in the postseason, they could consider re-signing him. 

He also doesn’t rule out the possibility of James Reimer returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Damien Cox claimed Reimer sought a six-year deal worth $6 million annually, but the netminder dismissed that report.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reimer could return to the Leafs, but I think he’ll look elsewhere for his options. He’s the best goalie available in this summer’s UFA market. The Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could be interested in his services.