Updates on the potential offseason plans of the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and New York Islanders in your NHL rumor mill.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In the wake of the Dallas Stars recent playoff elimination, Mike Heika examined potential offseason moves by GM Jim Nill. Some of their UFA defensemen (Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kris Russell and Jordie Benn) could be replaced by younger blueliners from within their system. He could also target a cap-strapped team in need of shedding salary for a blueliner. Veteran forwards Travis Moen, Vernon Fiddler and perhaps Patrick Eaves could depart via free agency.
If Nill decides to replace one of his goalies (Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi), Heika lists Cam Ward, James Reimer or Carter Hutton as possible free-agent options or Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks as potential trade targets.
Of their potential free-agents. Heika suggests Moen, Eaves, Demers and Benn as the most likely to depart. They could let Fiddler test the market and then revisit him if he remains unsigned. Goligoski could be expensive (over $5 million annually) to re-sign.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James suggests the Red Wings should try to offer up Jimmy Howard to the Stars, noting Nill knows Howard from his days as Wings assistant GM. “Maybe a three-team deal can be worked out, in which the Wings move Howard to Dallas in return for (Antti) Niemi, who then gets traded to a team that needs a veteran goaltender, such as Toronto, Calgary or Carolina.” Failing that, she suggests Niemi could still be a good fit for the Wings, as he carries less annual salary and a shorter term than Howard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill’s priority (once again) has to be an improvement in goal. If he can find a taker for Lehtonen or Niemi, even if it means retaining some of the cap hit, he should do it. If he has to buy out one or the other and take on four years of dead-cap space, so be it. The Stars cannot continue with their current tandem. Of the clubs that entered the playoffs and advanced to the second round, Dallas had the worst goaltending stats.
Of the UFA options, Reimer is the best one. They could get him on an affordable one-year “show me” contract (between $3.5 – $4 million) with the understanding he gets a larger deal should he reach or exceed expectations. Fleury could be available if the Penguins decide to trade him this summer instead of later next season or leading up to an expansion draft. Bishop might also be available if he proves too expensive for the Lightning to re-sign next year. However, that’s only guesswork right now. The easiest trade target is Andersen, who is expected to be dealt by the Ducks this summer. As for Howard, his inconsistency in recent years should be a giant red flag for Nill. Acquiring Howard won’t resolve the problem in goal.
ESPN.COM: Following the Nashville Predators elimination from the second round of the playoffs, Craig Custance suggests they re-sign winger Filip Forsberg to a long-term contract, take a run at signing Boston Bruins winger Loui Eriksson via free agency in July and trade inconsistent left wing Colin Wilson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Re-signing Forsberg to a long-term extension seems a no-brainer. While the Preds are traditionally a budget club and could try to go the bridge-deal route, the 21-year-old Forsberg’s established himself as a proven top-line winger. He’s only going to get better in the coming years, which will certainly make him more expensive to re-sign. Best to lock him up no to a long-term deal at more favorable financial terms. Custance offers up St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Taransenko (eight years, $7.5 million) as a comparable. Forsberg might not get that much, but I can see him getting up to $6 million annually on a six- or seven-year deal.
Pursuing Eriksson is a good idea, but I’m not sure Preds GM David Poile is keen to fork out over $6 million annually for him. As for Wilson, his strong playoff performance could improve his trade value, but it could also give Poile reason to give him another chance.
New York Islanders
NEWSDAY: Arthur Staple reports New York Islanders GM Garth Snow intends to have a busy summer. “Whether a winger for John (Tavares), the addition of a goalie, upgrading our defense, we leave no stone unturned to improve our club,” Snow said. “I’m not going to get into specific positions, those opportunities will unfold here, especially leading up to the draft.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Finding a top-line winger for Tavares is the priority, especially with Kyle Okposo likely departing via free agency in July. Snow could go with a tandem of Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube in goal for next season and peddle Jaroslav Halak, though the latter’s injury history could make him difficult to move. Travis Hamonic rescinding his trade request means Snow doesn’t have to shop for a replacement, but he could use more experienced depth among their bottom-three defense.