Latest on the Stars and Kings – April 5, 2017
More speculation on the Stars goaltending and the Kings management and coaching in your NHL rumor mill.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent live chat, Mike Heika once again addressed the state of the Dallas Stars goaltending. He doesn’t expect the current tandem of Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi will remain intact, suggesting one or both could be bought out in late-June.
Heika recommends the Stars attempt to acquire young goaltender Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade, as the Jackets risk losing him to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Once Korpisalo is acquired, Heika suggests buying out Lehtonen and Niemi, which would cost a combined $3.5 million per season for the next two years against the Stars’ salary cap. It would free up cap room to pursue an unrestricted free agent goalie such as Scott Darling or Ben Bishop.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind Heika is merely making his own suggestion here. I agree with him that the Stars cannot return with the same goalie tandem next season. Whether they buy out one or both of their current netminders, I expect they’ll be busy in the trade and/or free agent markets this summer. They could also look at trying to pry Antti Raanta away from the New York Rangers or pursuing the Washington Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer. Like Korpisalo, they could be left exposed in the expansion draft so the Rangers and Capitals could instead try to trade them . The Stars were occasionally linked to Pittsburgh Penguins veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, though he’s got two more years at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million left on his contract.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Bob McKenzie telling Montreal’s TSN 690 he expects the Los Angeles Kings ownership will make a hard evaluation of the club in the offseason. With the Kings missing the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, McKenzie said he’d “be surprised if the Kings came back intact in terms of the management and the coach. But we’ll see what happens.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s been talk of the Kings moving general manager Dean Lombardi into a different role within the organization and putting Rob Blake into the GM’s chair. If that happens, Blake could consider a coaching change, though I don’t think Sutter should lose his job because Lombardi was unable to bolster the roster.
Whether it’s Lombardi, Blake or somebody else as the Kings’ GM, they must find a way to clear some salary-cap space to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who both have arbitration rights and are in line for significant raises. It could force them to make a difficult decision, such as costly buyouts of expensive, fading forwards such as Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, or perhaps dealing winger Jeff Carter while his trade value remains high.