Possible off-season moves for the Kings, Rangers, and Red Wings,.
What next for the Kings?
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Lisa Dillman reports a shaky defense was the undoing of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2016 playoffs. Addressing that problem won’t be easy for GM Dean Lombardi, who has limited salary-cap space for 2016-17. There appears to be mutual a mutual desire between Lombardi and pending UFA left wing Milan Lucic to get a deal done. Find room to re-sign defenseman Luke Schenn (also eligible for UFA status) could be difficult. Re-signing head coach Darryl Sutter is also on Lombardi’s to-do list this summer.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance lists re-signing Lucic and bolstering the blue line among the off-season keys for the Kings. He also wondered if the Kings could find any takers for winger and captain Dustin Brown if they offered to retain half of his $5.875 million annual cap hit through 2021-22.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman also reports Lucic wants to re-sign with the Kings. He expects the two sides will try to hammer out an agreement but it won’t be easy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings currently have over $65.9 million invested in 20 players for 2016-17. They’ll get another $2.25 million back when Vincent Lecavalier honors his pledge to retire after this season. Still, with just over $10 million of available cap room, there won’t be enough to re-sign Lucic and bolster the blueline. Assuming Lucic accepts a discount of $6.5 million annually, that leaves just $3.5 million to address the defensive needs. Peddling Brown would help, but I don’t see any takers even by picking up half his salary without adding something else of value (top draft pick or prospect) into the mix.
What next for the Rangers?
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance lists re-signing defenseman Keith Yandle, letting Eric Staal depart via free agency and locking up key RFAs J.T. MIller, Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath and Kevin Hayes as his three offseason keys for the New York Rangers
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis wonders what the future holds for Rangers veteran defenseman Dan Girardi, who has logged a lot of miles and played through injuries during his tenure with the Blueshirts. With the club dealing with a cap crunch, however, his $5.5 million annual cap hit for the next four season (with a no-movement clause) is a problem. He suggests a buyout if that was the only way out of his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buying out Girardi would only count as $1.75 million in 2016-17 against their cap. The cap hit rises for 2017-18 to $2.75 million, followed by $3.75 million for each of the next two seasons, after which it drops to $1.25 million annually for the remaining four seasons. They would be better off trying to move him, provide they could get him to agree to waive his NMC. Even then, finding takers won’t be easy. If he can be left unprotected in next June’s expansion draft (depending upon the rules for players carrying NMCs), an expansion club might take him and his full cap hit off their hands.
As for Custance’s list, letting Staal go is a no brainer. Re-signing Yandle, however, could cost over $6.5 million annually. With over $15 million already tied up in Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh, that would be a huge investment in their top-four defenders. It would also bite deeply into their projected $17 million of available cap space, potentially hampering efforts to re-sign their key RFAs.
More on the Red Wings.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan includes trying to trade the remaining year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract (if he heads to Russia after this season) among his 10 critical offseason issues for the Red Wings. If the Wings shed Datsyuk’s contract, he thinks they could pursue Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos via free agency, but they could face competition from Toronto, Vancouver, Buffalo and Boston. It’s easy to suggest trading goalie Jimmy Howard, but his $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 could be difficult to move. Calgary, Buffalo and Toronto could be candidates for Howard. Kulfan also includes forwards Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Brendan Smith as possible trade chips. He also expects the Wings to shop for size up front, noting the Kings’ Milan Lucic, St. Louis’ David Backes and Troy Brouwer and Chicago’s Dale Weise could be available via free agency. Pending free agents Brad Richards and Joakim Andersson won’t be back, Drew Miller could be on his way out and Darren Helm might decide to test the free-agent market.
MLIVE.COM: Datsyuk’s status is an issue. The Wings could be hesitant to invest upwards of $10 million annually into a player like Stamkos when they have more needs and others to sign. More realistic free agent options could include Chicago’s Andrew Ladd and St. Louis’ Troy Brouwer, In need of an elite defenseman, they could pursue someone like Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba or St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk via trade, though the asking price could be pricey. Tomas Tatar could have more trade value than Gustav Nyquist, while Brendan Smith could be the most likely trade candidate among their defensemen. The Calgary Flames might have interest in goalie Jimmy Howard if the Wings retain part of his salary or take back someone like Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million).
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James doesn’t expect the Wings to engage in a roster overhaul but does feel big changes could be in store. She suggests going the trade route, rather than free agency, to add a top-pairing defenseman, suggesting they offer up Jimmy Howard to the Calgary Flames in a package deal might pry away Mark Giordano or Dougie Hamilton. Kevin Shattenkirk is another option, but the Blues asking price included Dylan Larkin, who’s untouchable. It might be worth the cost of parting with a high draft pick or top prospect in a trade of Datsyuk’s contract if it could free up money to improve the roster, especially for someone like Steven Stamkos.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I suggested yesterday, the Wings might be better off going the trade route to improve rather than blowing their financial brains out via free agency. Howard, Nyquist and Tatar are decent trade chips that might fetch a good return. I don’t see them prying Jacob Trouba away from the Jets. They won’t get Giordano or Hamilton from the Flames. Wideman is a more likely return and he’s not a long-term solution for their defensive needs. Shattenkirk would be a better one, and perhaps the Blues might be more reasonable if Tatar or Nyquist were part of the pitch instead of Larkin. If they’re going to go the UFA route, it would be wiser to use the savings from a hypothetical trade of Datsyuk’s contract to invest in a couple of affordable under-30 free agents.