Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

Slim Pickings Remain in 2018 NHL UFA Market

A week into the 2018 NHL free-agent market, not much talent remains for teams attempting to bolster their lineups. Here’s a brief look at the notable names still available as of July 7, 2018.

Left wing Patrick Maroon is the best player still available in this summer’s UFA market (Photo via NHL Images).

Patrick Maroon. The best remaining scorer in the bunch. A big-bodied (6’3”, 225 lbs) left winger coming off back-to-back 40-plus point seasons. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in his services.

Kari Lehtonen. The 34-year-old Lehtonen posted a respectable 2.56 goals-against average and .912 save percentage last season in a backup role with the Dallas Stars. He could be a mentor for a rising young starter.

Dan Hamhuis. Though Hamhuis’ best days are behind him,  the 35-year-old defenseman still tallied 24 points while skating over 20 minutes per game with the Stars. He could be a solid depth addition for a playoff contender.

Toby Enstrom. Injuries have frequently sidelined the 33-year-old Enstrom, hampering his effectiveness as a puck-moving blueliner. His experience, however, could be helpful to a rebuilding club.

Brooks Orpik. The shutdown blueliner helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup this spring. Traded to Colorado and bought out, the Capitals are reportedly interested in bringing him back for one more year.

Steve Mason. The 30-year-old struggled with injury and inconsistency as the Winnipeg Jets’ backup last season. Those factors could hurt Mason’s efforts to land with another NHL club.

Luca Sbisa. Missed all but 30 games to injury last season but was solid in the playoffs for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sbisa could be a good depth addition to a blueline in need of a physical rearguard.

Antoine Vermette. The 35-year-old’s 20-goal, 40-point seasons are well in the past. However, he could provide depth for clubs in need of a veteran checking-line center.

Alexei Emelin. A physical defenseman, Emelin could provide some experienced grit as a third-pairing blueliner.

Ondrej Pavelec. The 30-year-old netminder sported a decent .910 save percentage serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy with the New York Rangers.

 











NHL Headlines – June 17 and 18, 2018

NHL Headlines – June 17 and 18, 2018

Canadiens re-sign Domi plus latest on Alex Galchenyuk and Kari Lehtonen in your NHL headlines

NHL.COM: Hours after acquiring left wing Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes, the Montreal Canadiens re-signed him to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million.

Montreal Canadiens re-sign recently acquired left wing Max Domi to a two-year contract (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a reasonable two-year bridge deal for the 23-year-old Domi, who’s completing his entry-level contract. Having dealt away Alex Galchenyuk’s $4.9-million annual salary-cap hit, Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens now have over $60.8 million invested in 21 players.

If the salary cap reaches $80 million as projected, they’ll have roughly $19 million in cap room to work with this summer. That’s assuming, of course, no other notable salaried players (Max Pacioretty?) get dealt. 

ARIZONA SPORTS:Alex Galchenyuk is looking forward to a fresh start with the Coyotes, where he could be playing center next season. Galchenyuk said he’d asked Canadiens coach Claude Julien late in this season if he could return to center but nothing came of it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was certainly puzzling that the Caandiens didn’t move Galchenyuk back to center when the season was a lost cause. After all, if he wasn’t as good at that position as they believed, there wasn’t any harm in letting him move into that spot for a few games.

For whatever reason, they didn’t. Critics of Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin believe this was yet another example of the club misusing a valuable asset. If Galchenyuk goes on to star with the Coyotes as a center and Domi struggles next season, it’ll cost Bergevin his job.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is putting his $4.25-million home up for sale.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehtonen and his wife hope to remain in the Dallas area. If he intends on continuing his NHL career, he’ll have to do so playing for another club, as he’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to be re-signed.

 











Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

Latest Senators and Stars Speculation – April 2, 2018

More speculation over Erik Karlsson’s future plus a look at possible offseason moves for the Dallas Stars in your NHL rumor mill.

Erik Karlsson’s future with the Ottawa Senators will remain an ongoing topic of interest in the offseason (Photo via NHL Images)

IS KARLSSON PLAYING HIS FINAL HOME GAME WITH SENATORS?

OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren wonders if tonight’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets might be the final home game for Erik Karlsson with the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson has one year remaining on his contract and the Senators hope to re-sign him this summer, but Warren is curious over how much they’re willing to spend. “Eight years and $80 million? Eight years and $90 million? $100 million, anyone?”

If the Senators win the 2018 NHL Draft lottery, it would put them in line to select Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Warren thinks that would generate “a steady stream of trade speculation involving Karlsson” leading up to the opening round of the draft on June 22.

It also remains to be seen if Karlsson wants to be part of a rebuilding club. Warren notes the Senators captain, who has a 10-team list of trade destinations, was “very much in play” leading up to this year’s NHL trade deadline. He and Bobby Ryan were rumored to be heading to a Western Conference team in a package deal by deadline day.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Karlsson’s going to be part of a steady stream of trade speculation regardless of whether or not the Sens win the draft lottery. It’s believed they were close to shipping Karlsson and Ryan to the Vegas Golden Knights before the deadline but the deal apparently fell through. It’s possible the two clubs could revisit those discussions leading up to the draft. If not, perhaps the Senators will start looking around for potential suitors once the playoffs end in June. 

The earliest the Senators can re-sign Karlsson is July 1. It’s going to cost the Sens a lot of money on a long-term deal to keep him in the fold. He’s indicated he won’t accept a hometown discount. If they’re engaging in a full rebuild, Karlsson and/or the Sens front office could decide it’s time to part ways. 

SOME SUGGESTED OFFSEASON MOVES FOR THE STARS

THE ATHLETIC: With the Dallas Stars’ playoff hopes fading, Sean Shapiro was recently asked about their possible offseason moves in a recent mailbag segment. His checklist includes buying out fading veteran forward Jason Spezza or picking up part of his $7.5-million cap hit on the remaining year of his salary in order to trade him.

Shapiro also feels they need to build up their second line via trades or free agency. While that won’t be easy, he observed the Stars have the cap space to take some of the burden off their top line. He suggested trading for Ottawa Senators winger Mark Stone at the draft.

As for the Stars’ unrestricted free agents, Shapiro believes goaltender Kari Lehtonen and defenseman Dan Hamhuis won’t be re-signed. He also felt blueliner Greg Pateryn could be moving on but has a gut feeling Antoine Roussel could be back, though he’s “not sure if there is a contractual number that works for both sides.” Shapiro doesn’t believe the Stars will move their first-round pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars’ late-season collapse could spur more roster changes this summer. It might not include acquiring Stone from Ottawa. During the blizzard of speculation involving the Senators leading up to the trade deadline, his name was rarely mentioned as a trade candidate. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and it’s believed the Sens intend to keep him. Of course, if he does hit the trade block the Stars would probably be interested, However, they’ll have competition from a number of NHL clubs hoping to pry him away from the Sens.

After tallying 50 points in 68 games in 2016-17, Spezza’s managed just 26 points in 75 games this season. He turns 35 in June and the wear and tear of 15 NHL campaigns could be catching up with him. Perhaps he also feels stymied under coach Ken Hitchcock’s system. Whatever the reason, the Stars will have to pick up a big chunk of that cap hit to move him. They could explore that option in late-June and perhaps buy him out by June 30 if there aren’t any takers. As per Cap Friendly, they’ll free up $5 million in cap space if they go the buyout route.  

 











Some NHL “Trade Bait” Won’t Be Going Anywhere

Some NHL “Trade Bait” Won’t Be Going Anywhere

With the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline over a month away, lists of potential trade candidates have recently popped up in the media. While I agree with most of the selections, there’s a few names that don’t belong there.

Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers. Over the past week or so there’s been media chatter suggesting the Rangers could listen to offers for several of their notable players, including captain McDonagh.

While anything’s possible, it’s doubtful the Rangers move McDonagh at the trade deadline. As long as they’re in the playoff chase I don’t see him going anywhere, especially with Kevin Shattenkirk (knee surgery) sidelined for several weeks.

Vegas Golden Knight winger James Neal is unlikely to be moved by the 2018 NHL trade deadline (Photo via NHL Images).

James Neal and David Perron, Vegas Golden Knights. If the Golden Knights were near the bottom of the standings as expansion teams usually are, they would likely shop pending unrestricted free agents such as Neal and Perron.

Vegas, however, sits atop the Western Conference standings. Barring a stunning collapse over the remainder of the season, they’re a shoo-in to reach the playoffs.

Neal and Perron are playing key roles in the Knights’ success. Why toss a spanner in the works by trading them? Sure, the Knights risk losing both guys for nothing to free agency but it’s unlikely either guy gets peddled at the deadline.

Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche. The 26-year-old Avs defenseman frequently surfaced in the rumor mill over the previous two seasons. He’s currently on injured reserve with a hand injury. While he has his defensive weaknesses, he’s also a very good puck-moving blueliner.

If the Avalanche were once again mired near the bottom of the Western Conference, I could see them dangling Barrie as part of a rebuild plan. But with the Avs surging in the standings and jockeying for a playoff spot, why would they want to move him? Once Barrie returns to action, he’ll provide an invaluable boost to their offense.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres. Though he’s won just nine of 34 games-played, Lehner’s save percentage has hovered around .910 for most of this season. That’s pretty good considering the porous defense in front of him.

Lehner’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility. He might not have a long-term future in Buffalo. Indeed, he might want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Unless Lehner’s demanding a trade, however, it doesn’t make sense for the Sabres to trade him. Yes, they have promising Linus Ullmark waiting in the wings but he’s yet to fully establish himself as an NHL starter. It might be better to keep Lehner around for at least another season until Ullmark proves himself.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars. He’s lost his starter’s job to Ben Bishop and is eligible for UFA status in July. But he’s graciously accepted his demotion to the backup role and seems open to re-signing with the Stars.

Given Bishop’s injury history, it’ll be worthwhile for the Stars to keep Lehtonen around as they jockey for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. Though there’s a chance he could depart via free agency in July, it’s unlikely the Stars will peddle him at the trade deadline.

Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks. As the Canucks rebuild continues, there’s some speculation suggesting they could shop the 28-year-old Tanev. While he’s their best defenseman and under contract through 2019-20, some observers feel he could be on the wan by the teams the Canucks improve into a legitimate playoff contender.

That’s as may be. Then again, perhaps their improvement could come faster than expected and Tanev could be an invaluable part of it. If the Canucks get a sweetheart offer they could seriously consider it. If he wants to remain part of their future, however, they’ll probably keep him.

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 14, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 14, 2017

Game recaps plus latest on Taylor Hall, Brandon Dubinsky and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves on route to his 300th career NHL victory as the Dallas Stars beat the New York Islanders 5-2. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a three-point game and Tyler Pitlick scored twice. 

P.K. Subban tallied two goals (one from center ice) and Craig Smith had a three-point performance to lead the Nashville Predators to a 7-1 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks, who suffered their fourth straight defeat. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are really feeling the absence of sidelined top-six forwards Bo Horvat  andSven Baertschi, as well as veteran center Brandon Sutter and rugged blueliner Erik Gudbranson. 

David Pastrnak scored the game-tying goal and Brad Marchand netted the winner in overtime as the Boston Bruins edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. 

Bobby Ryan scored a goal and set up another as the Ottawa Senators hung on for a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. It was the struggling Sens second victory in their last 14 games. 

TSN: Speaking of the Senators, team owner Eugene Melnyk denied rumors he was considering selling the club. “I am not selling the team – period. My kids (had) first call on the franchise long ago,” Melnyk said in an email sent to Postmedia.”

OTTAWA SUN: And speaking of Melnyk, former Sens center Kyle Turris believes the reason he was shipped to Nashville last month in a rare three-team trade was because the Ottawa owner didn’t want to re-sign him. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion dismissed this notion, claiming everything in the hockey department goes through him, not Melnyk. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators month-long tailspin gave rise to so much speculation over possible trades and the future of the franchise that Dorion held a press conference prior to the game against the Rangers to swat down the rumors. I’ll have more on what he said about potential player movement later today in the Rumors section. 

NORTHJERSEY.COM:  New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall is day-to-day with a knee contusion and won’t take part in tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky will miss six-to-eight weeks after suffering a facial fracture during a fight with Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian during Tuesday’s game in Columbus. 

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk is sidelined with a lower-body injury. The extent of the injury remains unknown.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks placed defenseman Cody Franson (upper body) on injured reserve and called up Ville Pokka.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights claimed forward Ryan Carpenter off waivers from the San Jose Sharks. 

TSN: Rick Westhead with a feature on former Minnesota Wild captain Matt Johnson, who’s now homeless and missing somewhere in California. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnson’s decline since his NHL career ended in 2005 is yet another sad cautionary tale of how a player, even one who earned $6 million during his pro career, can fall through the cracks.

 











NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – September 24, 2017

Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci has occasionally popped up in the NHL trade rumor mill.

Latest on the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars in your NHL rumor mill. 

FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites Elliotte Friedman’s appearance on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 during which he discussed the Ottawa Senators’ rumored interest in Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. He doubts they have the assets to meet the Avs high asking price.

Friedman doesn’t believe they’ll part with promising defenseman Thomas Chabot and doesn’t think they want to move blueliner Cody Ceci.

“I think they’re interested, I just don’t know if they have what – like, they’re not going to trade Chabot. And you know what? They shouldn’t. They really shouldn’t,” said Friedman. “I’m not sure they want to trade Ceci either.

He notes the Sens have had inquiries about Ceci in recent years. While his advanced stats aren’t that good, Friedman still thinks he’s a pretty good player. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand why the Senators are reportedly interested in Duchene but I don’t believe they’ll part with Chabot or Ceci to get him. Ceci’s stats suffered last season, his first under head coach Guy Boucher. The Sens’ reluctance to move him, however, is understandable. He’s only 23 with solid puck-moving skills and plenty of time ahead of him to fully develop his game. 

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Replying to a reader’s recent question on the Dallas Stars possibly shopping goaltender Kari Lehtonen, Mike Heika doubts this will happen. Lehtonen’s $5 million salary is a sticking point, but Heika thinks the Stars might not want to part with the veteran netminder. He points outs Lehtonen provides “great depth” if new starter Ben Bishop gets hurt, plus the Stars lack depth NHL-ready goalies in their system. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe they’ll stick with the tandem of Bishop and Lehtonen for this season. However, if the Stars were to shop Lehtonen, they’ll likely wait until January or February to do so. He also carries a modified no-trade clause, which potentially hampers where they could trade him.