Latest on the Stars and Penguins – March 11, 2017
A look at the Dallas Stars goaltending options in the offseason and where Mark Streit and Ron Hainsey fit into the Pittsburgh Penguins’ potential plans beyond this season in your NHL rumor mill.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat, Mike Heika examined the Stars’ potential offseason goaltending options. He doubts the club will stick with its current tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.
Both have a year remaining on their respective contracts. Heika wonders if they’ll bail on both goalies. Buyouts ($1.9 million per season for Lehtonen, $1.5 million annually for Niemi) would be in effect for the next two seasons.
If the Stars shed one or both, Heika wonders if they’ll pursue Antti Raanta of the New York Rangers or Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals via trade or Chicago Blackhawks netminder Scott Darling via unrestricted free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltending was the Stars biggest weakness over the last two seasons. They simply cannot return next season with the current tandem. Perhaps they’ll be able to trade Lehtonen or Niemi to clubs in need of reaching the salary-cap minimum next season, or to a club seeking a goaltender to expose in the expansion draft. I suggested a swap of Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pens to the Stars for Niemi before the trade deadline, but obviously that deal wasn’t there.
The Rangers and Capitals could lose Raanta or Grubauer in the expansion draft. Both are likely trade candidates before the expansion draft. Given the respective cap payrolls and the offseason roster plans of both clubs, they might not have the room to take on Lehtonen or Niemi unless the Stars are willing to pick up half the salary.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Dave Molinari recently reported veteran defensemen and pending UFAs Mark Streit and Ron Hainsey aren’t thinking about their plans for next season. Acquired by the Penguins before the trade deadline, he speculated the Penguins’ interest in re-signing either player will be determined by their performances over the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
Molinari also noted that “Trevor Daley and Chad Ruhwedel will be unrestricted free agents after this season, while Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliot will be restricted.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The cost of re-signing Streit and/or Hainsey will also be a factor. The Penguins have over $59 million invested in 15 players for next season. Assuming the cap rises to $76 million as recently suggested by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the Pens will have roughly $17 million to work with. Schultz and Dumoulin are the priorities and will be due a significant raise on a long-term deal. They must also re-sign or replace pending free agent forwards Conor Sheary, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen. Streit ($5.25 million cap hit) and Hainsey ($2.83 million) will have to accept significant pay cuts to remain with the Penguins.