More speculation on the offseason plans of the Islanders and Canuck, plus the Oilers’ first-round pick is garnering interest from other clubs.
NEWSDAY: Arthur Staple reports there’s been no substantive contract talks between New York Islanders management and pending unrestricted free agent right wing Kyle Okposo. UFA center Frans Nielsen could look to double his $2.75 million salary, while hard-hitting winger Matt Martin might have to accept a discount if he wants to re-sign with the Isles.
Staple also suggests GM Garth Snow might be unable to find the right deal for defenseman Travis Hamonic, who requested a trade to a Western-Canadian team last summer. The Isles also have three goalies in Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube, leading Staple to speculate Snow might have to trade Halak or Berube, whom the organization likes very much. Though there’s no word on the status of head coach Jack Capuano and his staff, Staple claims early indications are no changes are coming behind the bench this summer.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes the Islanders’ offseason hinges on settling Hamonic’s trade request. Capuano’s statement saying he and his staff weren’t planning on losing the blueliner (if only because nothing’s happened yet) raises some hope the Manitoba native might reconsider his request. Cyrgalis claims the type of return Snow seeks for Hamonic remains uncertain, though packaging him with a prospect could fetch a solid return that includes an impactful NHL player. The sooner Hamonic’s future is determined, the better idea of what the Isles roster might look like next season. If Snow, for example, can peddle Hamonic to the Edmonton Oilers for center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, does that make Nielsen expendable?
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Isles to part ways with Okposo, re-sign Nielsen and perhaps retain Martin. It’ll depend on how much the new ownership is willing to invest in next year’s roster. Reports from TSN and Sportsnet throughout the season claimed Snow’s asking price for Hamonic was a comparable defenseman, which explains why he couldn’t honor the rearguard’s trade request during the season. Maybe he’ll reconsider that position in the offseason, especially with Okposo likely a goner. Halak’s injury history and $4.5 million per season salary-cap hit for the next two years makes him tough to move, unless Snow agrees to pick up part of his annual cap hit or take back a toxic contract in return.
VANCOUVER SUN: Ben Kuzma believes logic says the Canucks shouldn’t pursue Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin as it could cost their first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year’s draft plus a roster player to get him. Still, they should look into it. Pursuing Loui Eriksson or Kyle Okposo to skate on the right side of the Sedin line could buy time to allow younger forwards to develop. He recommends shopping goalie Ryan Miller, though GM Jim Benning said his netminding tandem will remain intact for next season. The Canucks need a No.4 defenseman and could target teams in potential cap trouble or parting with a roster player in a package deal. If pending UFA blueliner Dan Hamhuis’ asking price is too expensive, they should let him walk.
Kuzma also advises against trading winger Jannik Hansen, trading down at this year’s draft or allowing sentimentality to cloud their judgement regarding a potential buyout of fading winger Alex Burrows.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston lists Kyle Okposo, Andrew Ladd and Eric Staal as three UFA options for the Canucks that would be impactful while being less expensive than Steven Stamkos, Milan Lucic or Loui Eriksson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Drouin’s playoff performance, it’ll either enhance his trade value or make the Lightning reconsider dealing him. If he’s still on the trade block, I expect the Canucks will look into it, though they won’t be the only ones. It’s assumed the Canucks will consider adding Eriksson, who skated with the Sedins playing for Sweden in international competition. If someone comes calling asking about Miller, maybe Benning considers it. Still, I won’t be surprised if the Miller-Jacob Markstrom tandem remains in place for next season. Several teams have limited cap space (Pittsburgh, Columbus, Minnesota) and depth in defensemen they might be willing to part with.Hamhuis seems keen to stay in Vancouver and could take a pay cut on a two- or three-year deal to do so. I concur with Kuzma’s take about Hansen and Burrows.
As for Johnston’s free agent options, Okposo seems the best of the three. Ladd would address their need for depth at left wing but he could be costly and prefers a first-line role. Unless Staal accepts a one-year deal for no more than $4 million, stay far away from him. This isn’t the time for the Canucks to take expensive gambles.
NBC SPORTS: Jason Brough cites an interview given by Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli with 630 CHED radio in Edmonton claiming he’s already had four or five teams inquire about his first-round pick (fourth overall ) in this year’s draft. “I’ve made it known we would look to trade down if the right deal is there,” said Chiarelli.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chiarelli didn’t say who the teams were or what “the right deal” would be. As far as the latter goes, everyone knows his club’s need for a top-two defenseman. That pick on its own won’t land that type of player, but perhaps tossing in one of his young forwards not named Connor McDavid or Taylor Hall gets it done? We’ll find out in a little over a month from now.