Latest on the Blues, Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs in your NHL Rumor Mill.
Latest on the Blues
STLTODAY.COM: Jeff Gordon examined the pressing roster issues facing the St. Louis Blues this summer. He claims the club would like to re-sign pending UFA Troy Brouwer but he isn’t sure they can afford to win a bidding war for his services. It could prove difficult to re-sign captain David Backes, especially if he seeks a long-term deal comparable to the six-year, $41.25 million contract of Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler.
Gordon also speculates RFA left wing Jaden Schwartz might have to accept less money if he hopes to land a long-term extension. He’s coming off a two-year bridge deal worth $2 million in 2014-15 and $2.7 million this season. Blues GM Doug Armstrong might also wish to re-sign forward Alex Steen to an extension. He’ll be a UFA next summer and will earn $6.5 million in actual salary next season.
The Blues could consider trading defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s also a year away from UFA status and could seek a big raise. Center Patrik Berglund could also attract some interest in the trade market. Gordon doubts the Blues will move defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, citing his no-trade protection and the remaining three years on his contract. He also believes the Blues would be better off retaining free-agent center Kyle Brodziak than bringing back Vladimir Sobotka from the KHL.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox cites an interview Troy Brouwer recently had with Vancouver’s News 1130 radio in which the winger admitted he thought about joining the Canucks. “I have thought about it, for sure. Family & friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can bet Canucks GM Jim Benning’s ears perked up when he heard Brouwer’s comments. Doesn’t mean Brouwer’s a certainty to sign with the Canucks, but the prospect of playing for his hometown team could give them the edge. It depends, of course, on how much the Canucks are willing to invest in free agency this summer. It’s believed their top target is Boston’s Loui Eriksson. If they ink him for, say, around $6 million annually on a four-year deal, there might not be enough room in the budget for Brouwer.
As for Schwartz, I can see the Blues offering him a long-term deal at $5.5 million annually. If Backes really wants to remain with the Blues, he’ll have to leave some money on the table. The Blues last offer was three years at $5.5 million per season. If he wants a deal comparable to Kesler’s, the Blues will likely balk. It’s widely assumed Shattenkirk will be dealt this summer. Berglund’s frequently mentioned as a trade candidate but the Blues have been reluctant to part with him.
Latest draft speculation
SPORTSNET 960 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Elliotte Friedman reports speaking with a couple of scouts who mused over the notion of the Toronto Maple Leafs attempting to acquire Mitch Marner’s London Knights’ linemates. ‘Would Toronto ever consider trying to get all three of those guys?’ They’ve already got one, they’ve got Marner. Arizona has (Christian) Dvorak. They could draft Tkachuk.” Friedman said he’s not stating the Leafs will try this, but felt it would be interesting if they tried to trade for Dvorak and selecting Tkachuk with the first-overall pick, though that would mean giving up on drafting Auston Matthews. Friedman also believes it’s “extremely likely” the Columbus Blue Jackets retain the third-overall pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquiring Christian Dvorak from the Coyotes and selecting Tkachuk first overall is an interesting trade scenario, but one I doubt is going to happen. I believe the Leafs intend to use that first-overall selection for Auston Matthews. Yes, having Marner’s London Knights line skating for the Leafs seems like an exciting prospect. However, just because they play well in junior doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy the same success at the NHL level.