Latest on Stamkos Okposo, Eriksson, Shattenkirk and more in your NHL rumor mill.
Stamkos tops list of this summer’s NHL UFAs.
USA TODAY: Steven Stamkos, Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, David Backes and Kyle Okposo top Kevin Allen’s ranking of this summer’s top NHL UFAs. Andrew Ladd, Mikkel Boedker, Troy Brouwer, Jason Demers and Frans Nielsen round out the top-10.
CBS SPORTS: Chris Peters believes the Tampa Bay Lightning have the leg-up in the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes as they’re the only club that can offer an eight-year contract. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers could also get into the bidding.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Citing a report from the Toronto Star, Mike Harrington reports the Buffalo Sabres are believed to have made initial contact with Stamkos’ agents to gauge his interest in signing with them. GM Tim Murray would want Stamkos playing at center, a position which the Lightning captain reportedly prefers. “Rumors over the weekend about interest in Stamkos also eminated from places like Vancouver, Montreal, Boston and the New York Rangers,” write Harrington. If the Sabres miss out on Stamkos, New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo would be a “next-tier choice.” They also need to sort out their backup goaltending situation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos is also atop my updated stock watch list of NHL UFAs.
Rangers and Islanders
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers acquisition of defenseman Nick Holden drops their available cap space to $14.35 million. With RFAs Dylan McIlrath, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes to be re-signed, that should take the Blueshirts out of the bidding for Steven Stamkos. He expects the Rangers to be in touch with speedy penalty-killer Michael Grabner, but even the price of signing a UFA depth player like Grabner could be too expensive.
Brooks also reports it appears the New York Islanders are on the verge of losing center Frans Nielsen to free agency. The Islanders have offered up $5.5 million per season, but the Nielsen camp seeks up to $6 million annually on a four-year deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been conflicting reports of late regarding Nielsen’s status. As recently as Saturday, there was talk progress was being made. Now, it sound like he could hit the open market. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity on this over the course of the week.
The Rangers have been in touch with former Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek to gauge his interest on a one-year reclamation project contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vanek will likely receive similar offers elsewhere. He’s still enough of a name to attract interest from clubs that lose out in the bidding for this summer’s top free-agent talent, but he’ll have to accept a one-year deal on a deep discount.
NBC SPORTS: cites reports from Newsday’s Arthur Staple claiming there’s plenty of interest in New York Islanders pending UFA right wing Kyle Okposo. The Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings are among the suitors, while the Sabres and Florida Panthers could also get into the bidding.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting to see the Jets pop up with interest in Okposo, as they usually steer clear of the notable UFA players in favor of the bargain bin. Perhaps GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is willing to go big this year in hopes of landing a player who can finally put his club over the hump into perennial playoff contention. .
Red Wings, Bruins and Blue Jackets
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James reports the Wings are among the clubs expected to have interest in Steven Stamkos, but they’re also in trade talks to add a defenseman. GM Ken Holland spoke to the Anaheim Ducks about Cam Fowler. He also contacted the St. Louis Blues about Kevin Shattenkirk but their asking price of Wings young star Dylan Larkin is a no-go. Left wing Milan Lucic could also be an intriguing UFA target for the Wings, as could winger Troy Brouwer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues seeking Larkin from the Wings in exchange for Shattenkirk gives us some idea of the high asking price to acquire the defenseman. Blues GM Doug Armstrong has made it known he’s not going to just give away Shattenkirk. If you want him, you’ll have to pay big in return, then pay big with a new contract to keep him beyond next season.
WEEI.COM: DJ Bean reports the Boston Bruins are willing to go beyond a four-year offer, though for a lesser salary-cap hit, to re-sign pending UFA winger Loui Eriksson.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline reports the Blue Jackets are looking more toward trades than free agency this summer. They’re still trying to move left wing Scott Hartnell and defenseman Fedor Tyutin. GM Jarmo Kekalainen hopes a club that strike out via free agency will turn to trades for help.
Panthers and Canucks
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Harvey Fialkov reports the Florida Panther are seeking a third-line right wing via free agency.
VANCOUVER SUN: Jason Botchford reports the Canucks intend to pursue some of the top UFAs in hopes of landing one of them.