On the eve of NHL free agency, here’s the latest notable free-agent and speculation.
Free agent speculation
CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty reports the Boston Bruins might be having second thoughts about pitching an expensive offer sheet to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. He notes the high cost in draft picks the Bruins would need to part with (four first rounders) if signing Trouba to over $9.3 million per season, plus the bad blood Bruins GM Don Sweeney could incur from his peers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Signing Trouba to an offer sheet is more risk than reward. Trouba has potential to become a quality top-pairing defenseman but he hasn’t achieved that status yet. Paying out a big salary for seven years could blow up in the Bruins’ face if he fails to reach that potential, not to mention the cost to their future in four first-round picks to the Jets as compensation.
TORONTO STAR: New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Dallas Stars blueliners Kris Russell, St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer and Florida Panthers winger Jiri Hudler could be potential UFA targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe it’s in the Leafs best interest that Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Lightning. Don’t blow your brains out chasing expensive free agent talent. Stick with the “Shanaplan” and rebuild with youth. Save your dollars for re-signing those youngsters when they blossom into stars.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports the Detroit Red Wings “are focused on a group of forwards that includes centers Frans Nielsen and David Backes and wingers Kyle Okposo, Loui Eriksson, Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd and Mikkel Boedker. Milan Lucic might be at the top of their list, but he is expected to sign with the Edmonton Oilers.” As for defensemen, the Wings could prefer to address that need via trade. They’ve been linked to St. Louis’s Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Wings to sign one of the players on that list. They have the cap space and are keen to bolster their roster via free agency and trade. They inquired into the trade statuses of Shattenkirk and Fowler and could circle back to them again.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports the Minnesota Wild spoke with Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo. He also wonders if they’ll consider pursuing a trade for New York Rangers center Derek Stepan. Agent Rick Curran, who represents Rangers center Eric Staal, claims there’s mutual interest with the Wild. They’ve also reached out to St. Louis Blues center David Backes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild have over $12 million in cap space, so there’s enough to re-sign Matt Dumba and to land a notable forward via trade or free agency.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Chip Alexander reports a return of Eric Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes is unlikely. “While he was a great player in this market for a long time, with where we’re at, with the young players we have and the direction we’re going, it would be unfair to us and to him to bring him back and ask him to accept a much different role than the one he had,” (GM Ron)Francis said. “I think he has a lot of years left and he’ll test the waters. We wish him the best.”
TSN’s Darren Dreger tweets “Islanders, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Montreal…among the many with interest in Andrew Ladd.” (Note: this was before the Lightning re-signed Steven Stamkos).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Isles will push hard for Ladd now, as they need to bring in a quality winger for John Tavares’ line.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Chris Hine lists Hamhuis, Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, left wing Andrew Ladd, LA Kings winger Kris Versteeg and Boston Bruins winger Lee Stempniak could be free-agent targets of the Chicago Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $6.3 million in cap space, the Hawks can afford a bargain signing or two. Campbell is reportedly keen to return to Chicago.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi expects the Philadelphia Flyers to pursue a mid-level free agent such as Anaheim’s Jamie McGinn or St. Louis’ Troy Brouwer. “Shawn Matthias, Frans Nielsen, David Perron, Darren Helm, Dale Weise, P.A. Parenteau, Teddy Purcell, and Matt Martin” could also be on the Flyers’ radar.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero isn’t ruling out replacing defenseman Adam Larsson, shipped to Edmonton for winger Taylor Hall yesterday, via free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brian Campbell, Jason Demers and Justin Schultz could be their best options to replace the right-shooting Larsson.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports the Jets could pursue a third-pairing defenseman via free agency. Patrick Wiercioch, Klas Dahlbeck, Stuart Percy, Brandon Gormley and Justin Falk could be options.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Ken Warren reports the Senators will search for a fifth, sixth or seventh defenseman.
NBC SPORTS: In the wake of yesterday’s blockbuster deals (Subban for Weber, Hall for Larsson), Jason Brough examines the trade market to see what might come next. He recommends keeping an eye on the Boston Bruins, who’ve been linked to St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Winnipeg Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba. He also notes Anaheim Ducks rearguard Cam Fowler could be dealt. He also touched on some possible free-agent moves, suggesting the Detroit Red Wings could look at NY Islanders center Frans Nielsen. Teams seeking scoring via free agency could pursue forwards such as Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo, Mikkel Boedker, Loui Eriksson, David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Thomas Vanek.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At this point, Fowler could be a more attractive trade option than Shattenkirk (see below). The Bruins are pushing hard to land a top defenseman, but it could end up costing them a lot in salary and return.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the rumor regarding Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is he’s only willing to sign with four teams, which would explain why he hasn’t been dealt yet. He also claims the Dallas Stars are still trying to find a way to land goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it could be complicated as the Lightning might not want to take back salary in the deal. Stars GM Jim Nill said he’s not buying out Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi.
As for free-agents, Friedman speculates Islanders winger Kyle Okposo could get Bobby Ryan-money ($7 million per). If the Blues fail to re-sign David Backes and Troy Brouwer, they could pursue Okposo and Frans Nielsen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shattenkirk’s preferred list of clubs to sign with, combined with the Blues’ high asking price, could keep him in St. Louis for next season. If the Stars can’t move out Lehtonen or Niemi, I don’t see how they can acquire Bishop.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Craig Morgan reports it’s no secret the Coyotes are interested in Kevin Shattenkirk. If they fail to land him, they could look toward MInnesota Wild blueliner Matt Dumba.