Steven Stamkos is up for contract and will become eligible for an offer sheet if he's unsigned by July 1. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
As the July 1 eligibility for unrestricted free agency nears, the possibility looms unsigned restricted free agents will become targets for offer sheets from rival clubs.
The biggest target would undoubtedly be Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who at only 21 has established himself as a superstar.
Stamkos is in line for a huge raise, possibly to more than $7 million per season, from the Lightning. He and GM Steve Yzerman have frequently expressed public confidence they'll reach an agreement on a new contract soon, but entering the final week of June, Stamkos remained unsigned, fuelling speculation he’ll be signed away by an offer sheet too expensive for the Lightning to match.
Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News recently mused over the possibility of the Flyers signing Stamkos, noting the club recently cleared considerable cap space, but could still use more depth at forward since moving out Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in separate deals last week.
The problem is the Flyers currently have $56 million invested in 18 players and still need to re-sign recent acquisitions Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek, plus pending UFA Ville Leino.
It's believed they'll place right winger Ian Laperriere on LTIR after recently sending goalie Michael Leighton to the minors to clear cap space, but unless they're planning to free up around $10 million, they won't be able to offer Stamkos enough to dissuade the Lightning from matching. Without clearing that space they will also not be able to compete for unrestricted free agent Brad Richards, whom they've been linked to in the rumor mill.
Another center who could become a target for an offer sheet is T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues.
The club recently qualified Oshie’s rights and remain in contract talks with him. He also has arbitration rights and if the negotiations go that route, Oshie would become ineligible to receive an offer sheet.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong said he's comfortable where the two sides are in negotiations and believed a deal would get done.
However, trade rumors continue to dog Oshie despite Armstrong's insistence the goal is to re-sign him. The longer Oshie goes unsigned, the more his name will appear in the rumor mill.
Semyon Varlamov's days with the Washington Capitals may be coming to an end.
The Washington Post, citing a report by Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov, reported Varlamov, a restricted free agent, is unlikely to re-sign with the Capitals and “a resolution” to his status could be made as early as Friday.
That “resolution” may result in Varlamov bolting to the Kontinental League, receiving an offer sheet from another club, or the Capitals trading his rights.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis recently said his team would be active this summer with free agent signings and in the trade market. If Varlamov isn't going to be re-signed, he’ll become a prime trade candidate.
The goalie-starved Colorado Avalanche are a potential trade partner. They've recently cut ties with Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott, leaving them in the market for a goaltender or two.
Colorado has been linked to Florida's Tomas Vokoun if he, as expected, hits the UFA market, but the younger Varlamov would be considerably more affordable in salary cap terms.
During the Winnipeg Jets’ final season as the Atlanta Thrashers, then-GM Rick Dudley was reportedly entertaining trade offers for young defenseman Zach Bogosian prior to the February trade deadline.
The promising Bogosian struggled this past season under the Thrashers coaching staff, which sparked trade rumors that have followed the club to Winnipeg.
But as the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson noted in a recent response to a reader's question on the subject, it's unlikely Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who took over for Dudley, will move Bogosian and would prefer to wait until training camp and early into next season before making any major moves.
Unless Bogosian, a restricted free agent, doesn't want to move to Winnipeg or his salary demands become outrageous, the new Jets have little reason to want to move him. They've got new management and coaching and it would be folly to deal away a promising blueliner before properly evaluating his performance under the new regime.
When the Chicago Blackhawks shipped expensive defenseman Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers it gave rise to suggestions the New York Rangers would be able to find a taker for Wade Redden, whose $6.5 million cap hit was buried in the minors last season and is likely to be again in 2011-12.
However, Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News reported multiple sources who said it was unlikely the Rangers would be able to move Redden.
One reason why Redden likely won’t be moved is that he didn't play a single NHL game last season, whereas Campbell had 27 points and a plus-minus of plus-28 in 65 games with the Blackhawks.
The only way the Rangers will be able to move Redden is if they agree to take a bad contract in return, which doesn't fit into their free agency plans for this summer, especially if they're going to make a bid for center Brad Richards.
Similar speculation has surfaced in Montreal, where Canadiens fans hope their club will be able to clear center Scott Gomez's salary cap hit of $7.357 million to a team that needs to get over the $48.3 million salary cap floor, such as the Panthers, Avalanche or Coyotes.
Gomez has a limited no-trade clause whereby he can list three teams where he won’t accept being traded.
Habs fans shouldn't get their hopes up, though, for while there are some teams that need to get over the cap minimum, they're not going to just take any castoff. They'll want players who, like Campbell, can still contribute.
The problem for Gomez is his stats have been in decline since his career-best 84-point performance in 2005-06 with the New Jersey Devils. Apart from a 70-point campaign in 2007-08 with the Rangers, he hasn't come close to reaching those heights. Last season was the worst of his career, netting only 38 points in 80 games, hardly the kind of numbers that will entice teams with cap space to take him on.
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 News.