Latest Wild and Panthers Speculation – May 2, 2018
Check out the latest on the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers in your NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked about possible candidates to replace Chuck Fletcher as general manager of the Minnesota Wild. Nashville Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton is considered the frontrunner and has already been interviewed for the position. Other possibilities include Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas, former San Jose Sharks and LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi and New Jersey Devils assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald.
Asked about which current Wild players could have the most trade value if the new GM opts for a major rebuild, Heika suggested Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jonas Brodin. Heika also doubted the Wild will get into the bidding for New York Islanders free-agent center John Tavares, citing in part the Wild’s need to shed considerable cap space to sign him.
Heika was also asked if this was the right time for the new Wild GM to shop center Eric Staal, who’s coming off a 42-goal season. He’d be hesitant unless the new GM can get a significant return.
STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Chris Hine believes the Wild’s new GM doesn’t need to let big contracts hamper him from making a significant move this summer. He notes Thomas Vanek’s contract buyout comes off the books next season while Mikko Koivu’s new contract ($5.5-million cap hit) is cheaper than the $6.75-million of his current one.
Hine also suggests Charlie Coyle as a potential trade candidate, as clearing his $3.2 million cap hit could alleviate pressure to make other changes to the roster. He also proposed moving Eric Staal as his trade value will be high this summer. The Wild are expected to re-sign restricted free agents Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba, though they could trade one or the other if contract talks prove difficult.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever takes over as the Wild’s new GM will be expected to shake up a roster that is considered an playoff underachiever. However, I don’t expect them to pursue Tavares.
Moving out higher-salaried veterans with no-movement clauses (Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise) likely isn’t an option. The 33-year-old Staal has a year left on his contract ($3.5 million cap hit) with a modified no-trade clause. While his trade value has improved, there’s no certainty he’ll be dealt.
Younger Wild players such as Zucker, Coyle and Niederreiter will attract considerably more interest in the trade market. Coyle surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline and could be targeted by clubs seeking skilled depth at forward.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Matthew DeFranks reports the Florida Panthers could seek an experienced defenseman, a winger for Vincent Trocheck’s line and a No. 3 goaltender this summer. GM Dale Tallon said his club has room in its budget to pursue high-end free agents.
DeFranks lists Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, Vegas’ James Neal and Boston’s Rick Nash as possible free-agent winger options. Potentially available free-agent defensemen include Washington’s John Carlson, Detroit’s Mike Green and Columbus’ Ian Cole. They’re expected to have over $9 million of cap room and could have more if the cap ceiling significantly increases for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers narrowly missed qualifying for the playoffs this season. They’re loaded with good young talent and have the potential to become a perennial postseason club. If they’re willing to invest some of their cap space in this summer’s free-agent market, they could land one or two good veteran additions.