In the immediate aftermath of the Nashville Predators' elimination from the playoffs, speculation began over the future of captain and star defenseman Shea Weber.
A restricted free agent this summer, Weber is ranked amongst the league's elite defensemen. He was nominated for the Norris Trophy this year and, as ESPN's EJ Hradek observed, is in line for a considerable raise from his current salary of $4.5 million to perhaps more than $7 million per season.
Weber could opt for a one-year extension, which would make him eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2012, but it's believed he and Predators GM David Poile are keen to work out a multi-year deal.
Adding more urgency to the situation for Poile is the distinct possibility Weber, if unsigned on July 1, could receive an offer sheet from a rival club so expensive that Poile might not be able to match it.
Don't be surprised if trade rumors start swirling about Weber by late June if he's still unsigned, though it's unlikely Poile will go that route unless his captain's salary demands are so extreme he has no choice.
Pending unrestricted free agents Ville Leino, Sean O'Donnell and Brian Boucher hope to re-sign with the Philadelphia Flyers this summer, but the club's limited salary cap space for next season will make it hard for all of them to return.
Of the three, Leino stands the best chance of returning, as his agent held contract talks with Flyers management during the season, though those talks were put on hold as the club lacked sufficient “tagging space” at the time to re-sign him.
Rumor has it Leino is seeking around $3.5 million per season, which would price him out of the Flyers lineup unless they clear cap space to retain him.
O'Donnell's age (39) will work against him, while the additional year on Michael Leighton's current contract could make Boucher the odd man out of the Flyers’ goalie tandem.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal offered a suggestion for the Flyers to improve their goaltending: trade center Jeff Carter to the Minnesota Wild for Niklas Backstrom, or to the L.A. Kings in exchange for Jonathan Quick.
Matheson pointed out the Wild weren't winning with Backstrom, who will earn $6 million next season, and badly need more offense. The only problem with that theory is trading away Backstrom for Carter leaves the Wild without a quality starting goaltender, meaning they'll be trading one problem for another.
Quick has established himself as the Kings starting goalie, but there's a belief he’ll face a serious challenge from backup Jonathan Bernier next season, not to mention speculation Kings management sees Bernier as the future starter.
Carter would certainly provide a boost to the Kings’ first line, but GM Dean Lombardi would have to consider the ramifications of taking on Carter’s 11-year, $58 million contract.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post recently suggested Capitals management will face three crucial decisions this summer: 1. Altering the roster makeup with a trade. 2. Addressing their leadership void with a long-term solution. 3. Resolving their goaltending tandem.
El-Bashir named Alex Semin as one trade candidate, though acknowledged the Russian’s salary for next season ($6.7 million) and UFA status for 2012 will make him a tough sell.
El-Bashir also suggested defenseman Mike Green as another candidate to move, citing the defenseman’s injuries, post-season struggles and drop-off in production, plus the expected return of Dennis Wideman from a leg injury.
Most of the reasons El-Bashir listed for moving Green, however, also work against his trade value. Green’s $5.25 million salary for next season also doesn't help.
If the Capitals are to shake things up, they might consider packaging Semin or Green with either Semyon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth, perhaps for an established scorer with leadership qualities.
Promising goalie Braden Holtby is expected to be part of Washington’s goalie tandem next season, meaning either Varlamov or Neuvirth will be moved to make room for him.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.
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