Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – March 26, 2017
Update on John Tavares, changes could be coming for the LA Kings and another list of top free agents in your Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman noted there were reports last week suggesting the New York Islanders could look at trading John Tavares in June if unable to make progress with him on a new contract.
He also observed there was speculation suggesting the Isles were trying to woo Tavares by offering his agent, Pat Brisson, the role of running their hockey operations, but Brisson denied this. Nick Kypreos added that re-signing Tavares is at the top of the Isles’ agenda.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted last week when this first surfaced, if there doesn’t appear to be any progress on a contract extension in June, speculation over Tavares’ future with the Islanders could hang over the NHL Draft weekend (June 23-24). Doesn’t mean the Isles will move him, but the idea that they should peddle him this summer and avoid losing him for nothing in 2018 will take on a life of its own in the rumor mill.
Bear in mind, however, we’ve been down this road before with Tavares and he re-signed with the Isles. The same outcome is also possible this time around. Still, much will depend upon where he sees the club’s direction over the next five years. If he loses confidence in the front office’s ability to build a winner, he could consider greener pasture.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: With the Los Angeles Kings’ playoff hopes dwindling, Helene Elliott speculates changes could be coming in the offseason if they fail to reach the postseason. “The Kings need to get faster and younger — a process they started too late — and they need to score goals. It will be difficult to accomplish because of the many burdensome long-term contracts on their books,” she writes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The biggest change could be in the general manager’s office, as Dean Lombardi is largely responsible for this mess. While he built the Kings into two-time Stanley Cup champions, the big contracts he handed out to players such as Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik left him little wiggle room to address his roster needs.
Bringing in goalie Ben Bishop before the trade deadline when starter Jonathan Quick had returned from injury was a puzzling move, especially when backup Peter Budaj did a good job holding the fort in Quick’s absence. Trade deadline addition Jarome Iginla has only four points in 11 games and failed to address their scoring needs. The Kings must also free up sufficient cap space this summer to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, who both hold arbitration rights.
USA TODAY: Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk topped Kevin Allen’s recent ranking of this summer’s top-25 most intriguing unrestricted free agents. LA Kings goaltender Ben Bishop, Montreal Canadiens right wing Alexander Radulov, Minnesota Wild center Martin Hanzal, Florida Panthers right wing Thomas Vanek, San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, Columbus Blue Jackets center Sam Gagner, Toronto Maple Leafs center Brian Boyle and Calgary Flames defenseman Michael Stone rounded out the top 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Folks can quibble about the placement of certain players on this list. What I’m more interested in is where they might sign come July 1. I can see the Caps attempting to re-sign Oshie but Shattenkirk is likely just a playoff rental for them. It’s rumored he could sign with the NY Rangers. Bishop’s tenure with the Kings will be short, as he’ll certainly be moving on this summer. Allen speculated the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames could pursue Bishop. If Radulov’s asking price is reasonable, the Habs will retain him.
Hanzal’s struggles since joining the Wild has likely hurt his free-agent stock. Vanek has eight points in 12 games with the Panthers, but those came in just five games. They’ll still attract interest in the UFA market, but not as much as they probably hope. I see Thornton re-signing with the Sharks. Gagner had a strong first half, but only 17 of his 45 points have come in 2017. That could turn off possible suitors. Boyle’s only tallied two points in 13 games since joining the Leafs, but Stone’s been an effective depth addition to the Flames’ blueline.
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, Capitals right wing Justin Williams, Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller, Capitals blueliner Karl Alzner, Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino, Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr, Arizona Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, Edmonton Oilers rearguard Kris Russell, Penguins d-man Trevor Daley, Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Johnny Oduya, Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Michael Del Zotto and Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling were also on Allen’s list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of these, I think Alzner, Bonino and Darling could attract considerable interest in this summer’s free-agent market. The Caps would love to retain Alzner but he could seek double his current $2.8 million annual cap hit. The Penguins will try to keep Bonino in the fold. Darling would be the most interesting, as he could be ready for a starter’s job after several seasons as Corey Crawford’s understudy in Chicago. The Flames, Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets could come calling. Blues forward Patrik Berglund was also on this list, but he subsequently re-signed with St. Louis.