With the Penguins trailing the Flyers 3-1, their strong season is on the verge of collapse. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
The possibility of the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks becoming early playoff casualties has given rise to rumors of significant off-season trades.
When the Penguins were on the verge of being swept prior to Game 4, Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal bemusedly dismissed rumors he was unhappy with the Penguins and would seek a trade this summer.
Staal ($4 million per season) and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million per) have one season remaining on their current contracts, taking them up to UFA status next summer. The Penguins can open contract extension talks with them on July 1.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari suggested Penguins GM Ray Shero will consider overhauling his roster if it makes another early exit from the playoffs, but Molinari also believes cap constraints will make it difficult for Shero to keep his talented core intact.
It's premature to start speculating over the futures of Staal and Crosby or, for that matter, center Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang, whose contracts expire in 2014.
Shero could await the outcome of the next CBA before engaging in serious extension talks with Staal and Crosby, plus he cannot open negotiations with Letang and Orpik until July 2013 at the earliest.
But if the Penguins are bounced from the first round, it's bound to generate calls from Pittsburgh fans and pundits for Shero to shake things up, which of course will generate rumors of trades involving their core players.
Goaltender Cory Schneider’s 43-save performance on Wednesday night helped the Vancouver Canucks stave off elimination in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal against the LA Kings.
It also increased speculation the Canucks would retain him and instead ship out veteran Roberto Luongo in the off-season.
The Vancouver Sun's Iain MacIntyre believes the Canucks are Schneider's team now, leaving management no option but to ship out Luongo and the remainder of his 12-year, $64-million contract and re-sign Schneider, a restricted free agent, to a long-term deal.
It's not just Schneider's series-saving performance in Game 4 forming the basis for MacIntyre's opinion, but also the 26-year-old's stellar play throughout the season, when he often out-performed Luongo.
If Schneider is unsigned by July 1, MacIntyre warns a rival club might attempt to sign him away with an expensive offer sheet. He feels GM Mike Gillis could avoid this problem by simply taking Schneider to arbitration, solely for the purpose of making him ineligible to receive offer sheets, as well as buying time to negotiate a new contract.
Gillis, of course, has made no indication as to his off-season plans for Schneider and Luongo, nor will he while his team is in the midst of the playoffs.
Still, there's no denying Schneider is a rising talent ready to become a full-time starter and a growing number of Canucks followers would prefer he did that in Vancouver, rather than somewhere else.
As for Luongo, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province claimed Luongo's contract contains an “out clause” eight years into his current deal and, as he's already played two years, that means whichever team “picks it up will be taking on a six-year deal that will see Luongo earn $40.2 million.”
David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, however, claims the closest thing to an “out clause” is a modified “no-trade” clause, whereby following the 2013-14 season, Luongo provides a list of five teams to which he'd approve a trade, which would have to take place between July 1-15, or the end of the 15th day of the UFA period.
By the end of the 2017-18 season, if Luongo fails to provide a list of preferred trade destinations within 48 hours of season's end, he can be dealt anywhere without his permission prior to Sept. 1, 2018.
Regardless of the confusion over an “out clause,” Luongo's current full no-trade clause significantly limits the number of teams he'd accept being dealt to, which makes shopping him easier said than done.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.