NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2017
Updates on the Rangers, Red Wings and Golden Knights in your NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks wonders how the New York Rangers will address their third-pairing defense for 2017-18. With forward Jesper Fast starting the season on injured reserve, they could start the season carrying eight defensemen. He speculates over the futures of Marc Staal and Nick Holden, who both struggled through the second half of last season.
Buying out Staal in their 48-hour buyout window following the settlement of center Mika Zibanejad’s pending arbitration hearing would free up around $3.57 million in cap space for next season, but Brooks has doubts the Rangers will go that route. They could keep him for one more season in hopes he’ll have a healthy performance.
Holden could be a trade candidate but moving him could prove difficult, especially with the Vegas Golden Knights attempting to peddle blueliners. Given the lack of depth in available centers, perhaps Holden could be converted into one.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad’s arbitration hearing is slated for July 25, but he’s likely to be re-signed before his hearing. It’ll be interesting to see if the Rangers buy out Staal within that 48-hour window, but I don’t think they’ll use that option. A buyout would count against the Rangers’ cap payroll for the next eight seasons. They could try moving one of their rearguards (such as Holden) in September during the training camp/preseason period.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance recently mused over how the Detroit Red Wings will address their salary-cap issues. They’ll eventually place sidelined forward Johan Franzen on long-term injured reserve, giving them around $900K in cap flexibility. However, that’s not enough to re-sign restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou. Meanwhile, conversations are ongoing with unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek, who spent most of last season in Detroit and has expressed interest in returning to the Wings.
Custance said the Wings don’t intend on buying anyone out, so that leaves a salary-dumping trade as an option. Trade candidates could include goaltender Petr Mrazek and forwards Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan. They could also get some additional space by demoting a player to the minors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the three, Nyquist would have the most trade value. He’s exceeded 40 points in each of the past four seasons. However, he carries a $4.75 million annual cap hit through 2018-19 and has a full no-trade clause. Last season’s horrible performances by Mrazek and Sheahan will adversely affect their value in the trade market.
NBC SPORTS: Cam Tucker cites a recent report in the Las Vegas Review Journal indicating Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee doesn’t seem in any hurry to trade a defenseman. “We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”
Once Nate Schmidt is re-signed, they’ll have 11 blueliners under contract. Five of them (Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Derek Engelland) are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. Tucker speculates one of them could be peddled as a rental player to postseason contenders near next year’s trade deadline. McPhee’s made it clear he plans to retain Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McPhee could move one or two defensemen in September, when teams are evaluating their rosters during training camp and preseason play. It’s obvious Schmidt and Theodore will be part of the Knights’ long-term plans.