NHL Rumor Mill – December 19, 2016
On the eve of the NHL’s holiday roster freeze, here’s the latest on some of next summer’s top unrestricted free agents.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance recently listed his top-20 NHL unrestricted free agents for 2017. Among the highlights:
Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks aren’t that far off on a new deal. Custance wouldn’t be surprised if he re-signs a three-year contract for around the same annual cap hit ($6.75 million) of his current deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m guessing two years at no more than $6 million annually.
While the St. Louis Blues moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk isn’t a certainty, Custance believes it’s possible if the right hockey deal comes along that helps the Blues’ efforts to win now.
The trade speculation surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop could be contributing to his inconsistent performance this season. “One source raised this question: Who says no to a trade between the Blues and the Lightning built around Bishop and Shattenkirk?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues say no, because they’re content with Jake Allen as their starter. The Lightning, on the other hand, would make that deal in a heartbeat.
There’s been initial contract discussions between Washington Capitals management and defenseman Karl Alzner, but GM Brian MacLellan could find it difficult to re-sign him if the salary cap remains flat for next season.
Informal contract talks between the Pittsburgh Penguins and center Nick Bonino have taken place. To re-sign him, however, the cap-strapped Pens must move someone.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And we all know who that someone is. Wave to the folks, Marc-Andre Fleury.
It’s a definite possibility the Edmonton Oilers could work out a contract extension with defenseman Kris Russell.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring a second-half collapse in Russell’s play or a ridiculously high asking price on his part, I’d say it’s more than a possibility the Oilers re-sign him.
If the Arizona Coyotes don’t have center Martin Hanzal under contract as the March 1 trade deadline approaches, he’ll become a strong trade option for playoff contenders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed term is the sticking point for Hanzal. He wants a long-term deal and the Coyotes prefer a shorter one.
No serious contract talks yet between the Philadelphia Flyers and goalie Steve Mason.
No contract talks yet between the Buffalo Sabres and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, Justin Williams and the Washington Capital,Scott Darling and the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks and Sam Gagner and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Custance wonders if there’s a chance for Dallas Stars winger Patrick Sharp to one day return to the Chicago Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the potential of young Blackhawks forwards such as Ryan Hartman and Tyler Motte, I don’t think the possibility exists for Sharp to return as a player.
Things are still playing out for the Calgary Flames with goaltenders Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And at this point, Johnson has to be considered the favorite to be re-signed. He’s outperformed Elliott thus far.