Updates on the Lightning and Blues, plus the latest on Tyson Barrie and Brian Campbell in your NHL rumor mill.
Lightning at a crossroads.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith examines the roster decisions facing Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman this summer. Topping the list is pending UFA Steven Stamkos. He wants to re-sign and Yzerman wants to keep him but the salary cap could make that difficult, particularly when Yzerman has other key players due for new contract this year (Nikita Kucherov) and next (Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin).
Yzerman must also decide if Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready to become a starting goalie. If he is, it could affect Bishop’s future with the Bolts. Re-signing Kucherov and Hedman seem to be no-brainer moves, but they will be expensive.
Smith also reports Jonathan Drouin definitely wants to stay with the Lightning. His strong playoff performance seems to have salvaged the relationship between the two sides. In January, Drouin’s agent revealed he’d made a trade request in November on his client’s behalf. The young winger also spent nearly two months at home in hopes of forcing a trade after he was demoted to the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in January.
Martin Fennelly feels like we’ve seen the last of Steven Stamkos in a Lightning jersey. He’s not confident Stamkos and the Lightning can work out a deal after nearly a year of negotiation.
SI.COM: Allan Muir reports if Stamkos departs via free agency, it’ll make it easier for Yzerman to lock down some of his key RFAs such as Kucherov, Johnson and Palat. He speculates the Kucherov camp could seek a deal comparable to the eight-year, $60-million deal of St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. Other notables to re-sign include Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette. Given Vasilevskiy performance in the Eastern Conference Final, he wonders if Yzerman decides to get the jump on moving Ben Bishop this summer, especially if there’s an expansion draft next year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos and the Lightning could still get a deal done, but with the start of the UFA period a little over a month away, the odds of Stamkos re-signing grow slimmer. The Bolts having won two playoff rounds this year without Stamkos and that could persuade Yzerman that his club can survive without its franchise player.
As for Bishop, the Bolts could bring him back for one more shot at a Cup run next spring and then let him walk. If Vasilevskiy outplays Bishop next season, they could shop the latter at the trade deadline. Still, it’s possible they could contact teams in need of a starter (Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs) to find out what they’re willing to part with to get Bishop, provide he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause this summer.
Regarding Drouin, I no longer consider him on the trade block. His playoff performance and his willingness to stay changed his status.
Latest on the Blues.
STLTODAY.COM: Jeremy Rutherford speculates Blues coach Ken Hitchcock would love to return for another season but that decision rests with GM Doug Armstrong. While re-signing pending UFA David Backes is the priority, Rutherford doesn’t dismiss the possibility of Troy Brouwer being re-signed instead of Backes, who could test the free-agent waters. While it’s possible the Blues could look at trading Brian Elliott this summer if Jake Allen is truly ready to take over as the starter, he doesn’t rule out both returning next season. Elliott and Allen both have a year left on their contracts, with Elliott eligible next summer for UFA status.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s struggles in the playoffs could hurt his trade value. With the emergence of Colton Parayko, the Blues could move Shattenkirk, who’s one season away from UFA status. Rutherford also believes the Blues could find it difficult to trade blueliner Jay Bouwmeester and his $5.4 million cap hit for the next three years. As for speculation that the organization was “unhappy” with Vladimir Tarasenko this season, Rutherford believes it could be conditioning-related and working within the structure of the team. He also believes forward Vladimir Sobotka could return with the Blues next season, though it’s also possible they could trade him. Sobotka spent the past two seasons in the KHL and still owes the Blues one season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Backes is willing to accept less than market value to remain with the Blues, they’ll re-sign him. Last year, he rejected a three-year, $5.5 million per season offer. If he still wants more, then they bid Backes adieu and try to re-sign Brouwer. I think they’ll keep their goalie tandem intact to start the season, and if Allen gets most of the starts, they could shop Elliott at the trade deadline.
Shattenkirk’s playoff performance won’t hurt his trade value. There are too many teams in desperate need of a skilled puck-moving defenseman (the notables being the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings) who could pay handsomely to get him. Unless the Blues agree to pick up part of Bouwmeester’s cap hit, he’s not going anywhere. As for the Blues “unhappiness” with Tarasenko, that won’t affect his future with the club. He won’t be traded. Sobotka, on the other hand, could be if Armstrong feels he’s no longer a good fit.
Update on Tyson Barrie.
SPORTSNET 960 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Elliotte Friedman hasn’t heard anything fresh on defenseman Tyson Barrie’s contract talks with the Colorado Avalanche. However, he still believes there’s a good chance Barrie gets moved this summer.
THE DENVER POST: Terry Frei believes we have to take seriously the trade speculation coming from respected Canadian sources such as Friedman regarding Barrie. He thinks coach Patrick Roy really wants a big defenseman and sees Barrie as a fifth defenseman and power-play specialist. There’s also concerns over the cost of re-signing him skewing their salary cap. Mike Chambers has concerns about moving a skilled puck-moving defenseman would be a mistake. Frei believes they’ll keep him. Both agree he’ll head to arbitration. Frei believes Roy will want to pursue a big blueliner via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could come down to both Barrie’s trade value, the Avs asking price and how they replace him if he’s dealt. The Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers could be interested in Barrie, but they don’t have a shutdown defenseman that could interest the Avs. Via free agency, San Jose’s Roman Polak and Los Angeles’ Luke Schenn are the notable big, physical blueliners, but will they suitably address that need for the Avalanche? If they can’t find what they seek via trade, Polak and Schenn could be their best options.
Panthers and Campbell could part ways.
NBC SPORTS: cites a report in the Sun-Sentinel claiming the Florida Panthers want to re-sign defenseman Brian Campbell but it appears he’ll test the UFA market. Coming off an eight-year, $57.1 million contract, the 37-year-old could attract interest at a lesser price as teams such as the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers pursue transitional defensemen this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite his age, Campbell has proven very durable and posted 31 points with the Panthers this season. On a short-term deal for, between $4.5-$5 million annually, he could certainly attract interest this summer.