In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at some possible offseason moves by the Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks.
What next for the Anaheim Ducks?
ESPN.COM: Following yet another disappointing playoff exit for the Anaheim Ducks, Craig Custance suggests they pursue Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin if he’s available via the trade market, shop one of their goalies if the league is expanding after next season and re-sign defenseman Hampus Lindholm to a long-term extension.
Custance believes the 21-year-old Drouin could be a good fit alongside first-line stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Of the goalies, Frederik Andersen could be the trade candidate, as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from eligibility for unrestricted free agent status. Economics could force the Ducks to choose between Lindholm, who’s coming off an entry-level contract, and Sami Vatanen, who’s also an RFA with arbitration rights.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples dismisses the notion of the Ducks shipping Vatanen to the Edmonton Oilers straight up for right wing Jordan Eberle. Staples said “it’s hard to see how such a deal would work for budget conscious Anaheim, a team also loaded with right shot forwards”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Lightning are still entertaining offers for Drouin this summer, the asking price likely remains a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. The only one fitting that description is Vatanen, but given the Bolts’ own salary-cap issues both this summer and next, he might be too expensive salary-wise. I concur with Staples’ take on a Vatanen-for-Eberle swap. While the Oilers could be interested in Vatanen, the Ducks could balk at Eberle’s $6 million per season cap hit.
Latest on the Wild.
TWINCITIES.COM: Chad Graff reports Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher believes he has enough salary-cap space to add a player or two to bolster his roster for next season. He has over $8 million coming off his books this summer. Graff suggests two Minnesotans (St. Louis Blues center David Backes and New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo) could be available via free agency in July. Graff notes Fletcher could free up additional cap room by buying out under-performing winger Thomas Vanek, but the Wild GM called that talk premature. Fletcher feels he’ll have more flexibility and more assets to work with this summer.
Fletcher also acknowledged backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper will likely be traded this summer. The 26-year-old is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. The Wild GM also came to the defense of blueliner Matt Dumba, who struggled at times this season and was the subject of trade chatter. He also believes winger Jason Zucker will bounce back after managing only 13 goals in 71 games in 2015-16.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even taking into account the $8 million coming off the Wild’s books this summer, they still have over $63 million invested in 15 players. Assuming a projected cap ceiling of $74 million is correct, Fletcher will have around $11 million to work with. Dumba is a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract, while Zucker has arbitration rights. Assuming he re-signs those two to affordable short-term deals, that will still eat up over one-third of his cap space. He certainly won’t have enough to land Backes or Okposo via free agency and still have sufficient room to fill out the rest of the roster unless he dumps a lot of salary. The asking price from those guys could be around $6 million per season.
To improve the offense, Fletcher could shop a defenseman such as Jonas Brodin ($4.1 million) or Marco Scandella ($4 million) for a scoring forward. Perhaps he moves both of them. I don’t see how he can avoid buying out Vanek, which will be the easiest way to free up some much-needed cap room this summer. I don’t expect he’ll find much of a trade market for a fading winger carrying a $6.5 million cap hit ($7.5 million in actual salary) next season.
No surprise that Kuemper will be shopped. Consistency’s been an issue for him, relegating him to backup duty. Perhaps Fletcher will package Kuemper with a defenseman to land a top scorer. There’s plenty of veteran goalies available this summer who’ll be more affordable options to back up starter Devan Dubnyk.
Update on the Canucks.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma recently played the “offseason simulator” game with the Vancouver Canucks to determine their possible moves this summer. He wonders if pending UFA defenseman Dan Hamhuis will remain with the Canucks or try to maximize his worth and not take a cut from his current $4.25 million annual salary. Kuzma considers fading veteran forwards Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins as buyout candidates. Each have a year remaining on their contracts, with Burrows carrying a $4.5 million cap hit and Higgins $2.5 million. He believes the Canucks will kick the tires on Boston Bruins pending UFA winger Loui Eriksson. Other Canucks UFAs, notably Radim Vrbata, Brandon Prust, Yannick Weber and Matt Bartkowski, won’t be back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing here that wasn’t already speculated upon earlier this month. Hamhuis is a wild card. He could test the UFA market but the British Columbia native loves living and playing in Vancouver. His departure this summer isn’t assured. If skating alongside the Sedin Twins is a draw for Eriksson he could sign with the Canucks, but he’s seeking around $6 million annually on a five-year deal.