The latest speculation on Joe Pavelski, Sam Bennett, and Rasmus Ristolainen in today’s NHL rumor mill.
PAVELSKI HOPEFUL OF RE-SIGNING WITH SHARKS
NBC SPORTS: Chelena Goldman reports Joe Pavelski remains confident he’ll return with the San Jose Sharks. The 34-year-old Sharks captain is eligible for unrestricted free agent status on July 1. He wasn’t concerned that contract negotiations haven’t taken place yet. Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal, 64-point performance in 2018-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the Sharks’ limited salary-cap space is one reason why contract talks haven’t begun yet. As per Cap Friendly, they have over $58 million invested in 15 players.
Pavelski isn’t their only noteworthy free agent. UFAs include long-time Sharks center Joe Thornton, defenseman Erik Karlsson, and wingers Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi. Their restricted free agents include wingers Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.
Re-signing most of them will eat up the bulk of their $24-million in salary-cap space. Nevertheless, I anticipate Pavelski will be re-signed, perhaps for around the same annual average value ($6 million) as his current deal, but with a shorter term.
COULD BENNETT BECOME AN OFFER-SHEET TARGET?
SPORTSNET: Eric Francis suggests Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett could be a tempting offer-sheet target. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights requiring a $2.14-million qualifying offer from the Flames. Calgary has over $14 million in salary cap room but most of that will be taken up re-signing power forward Matthew Tkachuk. They must also re-sign goalie David Rittich and re-sign or replace UFA netminder Mike Smith.
Francis wondered if a club with plenty of salary-cap space, like the Vancouver Canucks, might try to take advantage of the situation. He suggests signing Bennett to an offer sheet in the range of $1.82-million to $3.65 million. If successful, the compensation to the Flames would only be a second-round draft pick. The Flames could match that offer, but it would squeeze their limited cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis’ theory is intriguing but it’s also based on the premise of Bennett being receptive to an offer sheet. Remember, the player has to be open to offers from other clubs and willing to sign one.
If he’s not interested or doesn’t get any offers worth accepting, the Flames have nothing to worry about. I’m guessing it would take much more than Francis’ proposed numbers to entice Bennett into signing an offer sheet.
UPDATE ON RISTOLAINEN
WGR 550: TSN’s Darren Dreger recently weighed in on the status of Rasmus Ristolainen. The 24-year-old Buffalo Sabres defenseman has been the subject of considerable trade speculation. Dreger, however, doesn’t think general manager Jason Botterill intends to trade him. While he could be open to offers, trading Ristolainen isn’t a critical move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Zach Bogosian sidelined five-to-six months by hip surgery, moving Ristolainen wouldn’t be a wise option right now. Perhaps he could be shopped for a scoring forward and Botterill replaces him in a separate deal. Depending on this summer’s trade market, however, that could prove too complicated to pull off.