NHL Rumor Mill – May 11, 2017
Latest on the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers plus a look at possible destinations for Ilya Kovalchuk in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: In the wake of yet another disappointing playoff exit, Craig Custance advises against blowing up the roster simply for the sake of doing so.He believes the Washington Capitals must re-sign restricted free agent forward Evgeny Kuznetsov to a contract extension, let forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie depart via free agency and retool their blueline.
With raises coming for Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, Custance feels they can’t afford to re-sign Williams and Oshie. He believes they must re-sign speedy defenseman Nate Schmidt but expects Karl Alzner is a goner via the UFA market. John Carlson has a year left on his contract and is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. If the Capitals want to shake up their defense, Carlson could be a trade candidate, depending upon his contract talks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect we’ll see considerable speculation in the coming days pondering possible moves by the Capitals. Given nearly a decade of playoff futility, changes are likely coming and everything could be on the table for consideration. That includes Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the longest-serving members of the current core.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Justin Tasch wonders if the New York Rangers will consider breaking up their core of Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. They need to upgrade their defense, which could mean a buyout of Girardi or Staal. If they hope to add Washington Capitals UFA defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk this summer, they’ll have to free up significant salary-cap space.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders if the New York Rangers might approach goaltender Henrik Lundqvist about waiving his no-movement clause. Putting aside lifestyle and family considerations, Brooks suggests it would have to be a team that fancies itself an elite goalie away from a Stanley Cup title with the cap space to afford Lundqvist’s $8.5 million cap hit through 2020-21. Brooks doesn’t see that type of team out there.
Brooks doubts the Rangers will pursue Shattenkirk as all indications suggests he’s not a top-pairing blueliner who can enhance Ryan McDonagh’s game. He feels GM Jeff Gorton must turn his focus to the trade market, suggesting Carolina’s Justin Faulk and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba as possible trade targets, though each would be expensive to acquire. Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen and Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin are other options. He also believes the Blueshirts should re-sign pending UFA rearguard Brendan Smith. Dan Girardi or Marc Staal could be buyout candidates. Brooks thinks Derek Stepan could be a trade candidate if they can land a top right-handed defenseman. He also doubts the Rangers shop aging Rick Nash but could be open to offers.
Brooks’ colleague Brett Cyrgalis likewise wonders about Stepan’s future with the Rangers but doubts they’ll get a commensurate return for him. He also believes Girardi or Staal could be bought out, thinks the Rangers need to get deeper at center, suggests they could listen to offers for Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes and speculates Nash could become a rental player at next season’s trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some changes are undoubtedly coming to the Rangers this summer. Lundqvist isn’t going anywhere and I think they’ll buy out Girardi to free up more cap space. They will lose a good player in the expansion draft, be it goalie Antti Raanta or a forward such as Michael Grabner or Oscar Lindberg.
I agree with Brooks that the Rangers should pass on Shattenkirk and instead look toward the trade market for a quality defenseman. They could shop Stepan but I doubt he lands that quality defenseman they’re seeking. The Rangers possess depth in wingers to dangle one of them (Kreider? Miller?) as trade bait. They won’t shop their first-round pick in this year’s draft. as they don’t have any in the second and third rounds.
Nash could get peddled at the trade deadline but that depends where the Rangers are in the standings by then. He’ll be in the final year of his contract by then.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox lists the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights as possible sign-and-trade destinations for winger Ilya Kovalchuk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the clubs suggested by Fox, I believe the Hurricanes, Panthers and Golden Knights stand the best chance of landing Kovalchuk. They need scoring depth and possess the cap room to sign him to a one- or two-year deal worth between $5 – $6 million annually.
The Canadiens need a top center and Kovalchuk doesn’t address that issue. The Stars will put their focus on re-signing goaltender Ben Bishop.The Wild must re-sign Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter plus find a reliable backup for starting goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The Kings need scoring but they won’t have much cap room after re-signing Tyler Toffoli, They also need to get younger and faster. The Oilers must bolster their defensive depth if they’re to build upon this season’s breakout performance.