Given Ryane Clowe's struggles this season, the Sharks may prefer trading him to re-signing him. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
With the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline less than three weeks away, the trade status of San Jose Sharks left winger Ryane Clowe remains a frequent topic of speculation.
Clowe, 30, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, but isn’t playing well this season, with no goals and nine assists in 24 games.
TSN’s Darren Dreger recently reported the Sharks want to re-sign Clowe, but next season’s declining salary cap makes that a difficult prospect.
The Sharks have more than $53.7 million invested in just 13 players next season. In addition to Clowe, they must re-sign or replace defensemen Douglas Murray and Jason Demers, forward Michal Handzus and backup Thomas Greiss.
With the cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, re-signing Clowe at his current cap hit of $3.6 million wouldn’t leave much for other re-signings and roster additions. The decline in his numbers also makes it tough to justify a significant raise.
It’s easy to blame Clowe’s poor production on the shortened season, but his numbers fell from his career-best 62 points in 2010-11 to only 45 last season, suggesting his physical style might affecting his offense.
Still, there’s reportedly no lack of interest in Clowe around the league. He’s been linked to the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.
Dreger claimed the Sharks aren’t shopping Clowe, but are listening to offers. Clowe’s fate could depend on where the Sharks are in the standings by the deadline.
In a recent update with the NHL Network, Dreger reported St. Louis Blues right winger Chris Stewart could be available.
Dreger noted the Blues have been in the market for a defenseman since the season began. He also claimed they had some interest earlier in the season in Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin, a defensive-minded winger who could fit well into the Blues’ style of play.
Stewart, 25, struggled last season when Ken Hitchcock took over as the Blues coach, with only 30 points in 79 games. His numbers have improved this season, 13 goals and 26 points in 27 games, and his physical game could also make him attractive on the trade market.
A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, Stewart will seek a substantial raise. That would provide Blues management with additional incentive to move him now, especially if he could fetch a top-four defenseman or a skilled two-way forward.
Trade buzz is growing in Buffalo over potential deadline moves by the Sabres.
Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News noted it would bear watching what they do with stars Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, all slated to become unrestricted free agents in summer 2014.
Harrington also believes those Sabres eligible for free agency this summer (particularly Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and Jochen Hecht) will attract some interest near the deadline, as could struggling right winger Drew Stafford.
The free agent status of Regehr, Leopold and Hecht makes them easier to move than Stafford, who has two years and $8 million remaining on his contract. Though he had 50-or-more points each of the last two years, he’s managed only nine in 27 games this season.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).