Latest on the Sabres and Red Wings – August 22, 2016



Latest on the Sabres and Red Wings – August 22, 2016

Should the Buffalo Sabres consider signing Jiri Hudler?

Should the Buffalo Sabres consider signing Jiri Hudler?

 Options for the Buffalo Sabres after losing out in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and an update on Tomas Tatar.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington believes few came off well during the recent Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes, particularly Vesey, his agents and the teams that attempted to woo the youngster. With the Buffalo Sabres losing out on retaining the youngster, Harrington suggests they look at unrestricted free agent winger Jiri Hudler, who had 46 points last season and a career-high 76 in 2014-15. A younger, cheaper option would be Brandon Pirri, who had 29 points in 61 games last season and scored 22 goals in 2014-15.

He also speculates this will bring an end to the Evander Kane trade talk, noting the Vancouver Canucks were the only club that seemed to remotely have any interest in the troubled winger. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have just over $8 million in cap room if they wish to pursue a free-agent forward. Hudler earned $4 million per season on his last contract but could probably be had for around $3 million per on a short-term deal. Pirri would be even more affordable. Given Kane’s off-ice issues, $5.25 million annual cap hit through 2017-18 and injury history, I doubt there’s a market for him now. 

MLIVE.COM:  In a profile Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar, Ansar Khan suggests the 25-year-old remains “one of the team’s most viable trading chips in its pursuit for a top-three defenseman. But it would be sacrificing a good chunk of offense.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan points out Tatar is in his contract year and could seek a deal similar to teammate Gustav Nyquist, who’s earning an annual cap hit of $4.75 million through 2018-19. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent and holds arbitration rights.

GM Ken Holland is reportedly still seeking that top-three blueliner, which could carry on into the upcoming season. Much will depend upon Tatar’s performance. If he plays well, it’ll boost his trade value but it could also make Holland reluctant to move the winger.










NHL Free Agents Update – August 21, 2016



NHL Free Agents Update – August 21, 2016

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is among several notable unsigned RFAs.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is among several notable unsigned RFAs.

 Updates on the remaining notable NHL restricted and unrestricted free agents.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

SPORTSNET: Following the Calgary Flames signing of restricted free agent center Sean Monahan on Thursday, Luke Fox reviewed the status of the remaining notable unsigned RFAs. Regarding Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov, Fox observes the last update from general manager Steve Yzerman on July 27 expressing confidence in getting Kucherov under contract before the start of the season. Fox wouldn’t be surprised if the winger gets a long-term extension comparable to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau reportedly doesn’t wish to negotiate during his participation in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Flames GM Brad Treliving maintains the winger will be taken care of, while team president Brian Burke recently said he believed Monahan and Gaudreau would be re-signed before the World Cup.

Fox believes a short-term bridge contract makes sense for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said negotiations are ongoing with blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. Sabres GM Tim Murray recently said talks were progressing with forward Zemgus Girgensons. The Anaheim Ducks have just over $9 million to re-sign rearguard Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell.

Ottawa Senators GM PIerre Dorion admits contract talks with defenseman Cody Ceci are taking longer than expected but remains confident of getting Ceci under contract in the next few weeks. Limited salary-cap space ($3.4 million) could make the Washington Capitals hesitant to re-sign blueliner Dmitri Orlov to a long-term deal.  Fox notes Dallas Morning News columnist Mike Heika believes the Stars will re-sign winger Valeri Nichushkin to a one-year contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect all of these RFAs will be re-signed before the start of the season. Kucherov will get a long-term deal worth around $6 million per season. That will bite deeply into the Lightning’s remaining cap space and could bring about a salary-dumping deal before the start of the season.

I expect Gaudreau will be re-signed before the World Cup begins, likely to a seven- or eight-year deal worth between $6.5-$7 million annually. Lindholm could also get a long-term extension, perhaps a five-year, $25 million deal. That could result in the Ducks clearing some cap space by shipping out a blueliner such as Cam Fowler.

As for the rest, I wouldn’t be surprised if most end up with two- or three-year bridge contracts. 

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

On August 18, prior to Jimmy Vesey signing with the New York Rangers, Fox observed UFA defenseman Kris Russell has attracted some interest from the “Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks” earlier this summer. Regarding the Leafs, they reportedly had no interest in Russell and never made him an offer.

The Canucks and New Jersey Devils were reportedly believed kicking the tires on winger Jiri Hudler. Earlier this month there was a report Hudler was close to signing a deal and the Canucks could be in the mix. There’s nothing new to report on forward Brandon Pirri, 

Defenseman James Wisniewski recently signed a professional tryout contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were rumored to be linked to blueliner Kyle Quincey. Nothing new regarding a report last month claiming goalie Jhonas Enroth was close to signing with the Leafs. The Devils are taking a “wait-and-see” approach with forward Patrik Elias, who is recovering from off-season knee surgery. There’s nothing new to report on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Dominic Moore. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Some of the clubs that lost out on Vesey could take a look at Hudler or Pirri. Russell is apparently waiting for a few teams to free up some cap space. If Elias is good to go, I expect the Devils will bring him back for one more season. Some of the players on this list could find themselves following Wisniewski’s lead and signing PTO contracts.










Latest on the Blues and Blackhawks – August 20, 2016



Latest on the Blues and Blackhawks – August 20, 2016

Are the St. Louis Blues undervaluing Kevin Shattenkirk?

Are the St. Louis Blues undervaluing Kevin Shattenkirk?

 More speculation on a Kevin Shattenkirk deal and guessing on what moves the Chicago Blackhawks will make after losing out in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes.

STLTODAY.COM: During a recent live chat, Jeremy Rutherford was asked what forward the St. Louis Blues might package with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to land a forward such as New York Rangers winger Rick Nash. Noting the salary-cap hits of Shattenkirk ($4.25 million), Rutherford believes it’ll have to be a player earning $3.5 million to offset Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit. He suggests Patrik Berglund or Jori Lehtera would have to be included.

NBC SPORTS: Jame O’Brien believes the Blues would make a big mistake by trading Shattenkirk, suggesting it would be considered a panic move. He feels Blues management is underestimating Shattenkirk’s value. While Shattenkirk’s UFA status next summer is a concern, O’Brien notes the Blues could still fit him in under next season’s cap. It could be a tight squeeze but possible, especially if they opt not to re-sign oft-injured left wing Alexander Steen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap space was the biggest concern for the Blues, but their decision to left David Backes and Troy Brouwer depart via free agency this summer somewhat alleviates that problem for 2017-18. I doubt they’ll offer up a significant pay raise on a long-term extension for Steen. If he won’t accept a two- or three-year deal worth a little less than his current $5.8 million annual cap hit, the Blues could let him go and use the savings on Shattenkirk. The Blues have two rising stars in left wings Jared Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, who could push Steen down the depth chart this season.

As for a Shattenkirk trade, I think that window has already closed. GM Doug Armstrong recently said he expected Shattenkirk will be with them to start the season and possibly beyond. While he could consider moving the rearguard before the start of the upcoming season, I think he’ll evaluate Shattenkirk’s performance through 2016-17. 

CSN CHICAGO: With the Chicago Blackhawks losing out to the New York Rangers in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes, Charlie Roumeliotis notes they still have sufficient cap space to add one more forward via free agency if they wish. One option is winger Jiri Hudler. Another could be Tomas Fleischmann, though he fizzled out after joining the Blackhawks in a late-season trade in 2015-16.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can see GM Stan Bowman looking at Hudler, provided he’s willing to accept an affordable one-year deal. The Hawks have around $2.4 million in cap space, but I doubt Hudler will accept anything below $2 million. I doubt Bowman will bring back Fleischmann. Brandon Pirri could be a better, younger option. 










Latest on the Canucks – August 10, 2016



Latest on the Canucks – August 10, 2016

Could the Vancouver Canucks bring back Radim Vrbata?

Could the Vancouver Canucks bring back Radim Vrbata?

 Could the Vancouver Canucks bring back Radim Vrbata? Could they sign free agent Jiri Hudler? Read on for the latest.

TSN 1040: The Province’s Jason Botchford suggests the Canucks need for goals could result in right wing Radim Vrbata returning to the Vancouver Canucks. When it was pointed out that move would leave the Canucks thin at left wing, Botchford pointed out Loui Eriksson and Jannik Hansen can both play either wing. He believes the Canucks need scoring and they could count upon Vrbata to tally 15-20 goals.

Botchford also think Jiri Hudler could be a better choice for the Canucks. He considers this upcoming season to be a critical one for sophomore winger Jake Virtanen, who’s a good defensive forward but whose offensive game needs improvement.

NEWS 1130: Earlier this week, it was reported unrestricted free agent winger Jiri Hudler could sign with a team this week. The Canucks are apparently among the clubs in the mix. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last week, Canucks GM Jim Benning said he’s considering all options to bring in a reliable scoring winger. He said he’s had trade talks with several teams but the discussions didn’t go far, though he isn’t ruling out revisiting those conversations.

Going the free-agent route is possible, though I think Hudler or Brandon Pirri could be better options for the Canucks than Vrbata, who’s also been linked to the Arizona Coyotes. Of course, it’ll also depend upon how much those UFAs are seeking. Benning also hasn’t ruled out inviting a UFA to a training camp tryout.

It’ll be interesting to see what Benning does. At the very least, this should provide plenty of fodder for his critics in today’s comments section…;)