Rumor Roundup: Potential UFAs Kopitar, Stamkos, Staal still without extensions

Anze Kopitar  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

With the new NHL season fast approaching, several potential UFA stars appear no closer to re-signing with their current teams. The status of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal remains a hot topic in the rumor mill.

The Tampa Bay Time’s Joe Smith reports the 25-year-old Stamkos denied recent trade speculation tying him to the Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames. The longer Stamkos remains unsigned, Smith believes more trade rumors will dog the Lightning captain this season.

As for Kopitar,’s Pierre LeBrun reports the two sides seem no closer to an agreement, though talks remain positive. Kopitar, 28, would like to get a deal done before the start of the season. There’s no word yet if he’ll shut down negotiations once the season begins. Read more

What does Eddie Lack’s extension mean for Cam Ward’s future in Carolina?

Jared Clinton

Sometimes lost in the talk surrounding Eric Staal’s potential free agency is that another longtime Carolina Hurricane, goaltender Cam Ward, could also be hitting the open market in July 2016.

Saturday, GM Ron Francis handed goaltender and off-season acquisition Eddie Lack a two-year, $5.5-million extension before he has even played a single regular season tilt for Carolina. And with that, the writing may be on the wall when it comes to Ward’s future with the Hurricanes.

Lack, 27, has only two years of NHL experience, though he has been arguably one of the better backup or part-time netminders in the league over that time. In his past two seasons in Vancouver, over which time he played 82 games, Lack posted a 34-30-9 record, 2.43 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Over the same period, Ward, 31, has a 32-36-11 record, 2.62 GAA and .906 SP in the same amount of action.

Granted, it’d be easy to argue that Lack has played behind a much better team in Vancouver than Ward has had in Carolina, but Ward’s play has been in decline over the past four campaigns. That’s not a blip, but the beginning of a bad trend. The kicker, though? Ward carries an enormous $6.3-million cap hit. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Hurricanes, Flyers and Devils buzz

Eric Staal

As the upcoming NHL season draws near, the Carolina Hurricanes and captain Eric Staal have yet to reach an agreement on a long-term contract extension. Staal, 31, is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. If he tests the market in July, there’s a good chance he’ll be the top player available.

Le Journal de Montreal’s Renaud Lavoie created a stir earlier this week claiming Staal was seeking $9 million annually on his new contract. NBC Sports’ Mike Halford cited Lavoie’s report, noting the Hurricanes center is earning $9.5 million in actual salary this season, while his annual cap hit is $8.25 million.

Considering Staal’s production has steadily declined in recent seasons, seeking $9-million annually is certainly an eyebrow raiser. Halford suggested it could simply be an opening bid from the Staal camp, noting Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano reportedly made the same request before settling for $6.75 million annually. He also speculated it could be Staal’s way of putting himself outside the Hurricanes’ price range.

Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski subsequently noted TSN’s Bob McKenzie disputed Lavoie’s report. McKenzie states that Staal hasn’t asked for anything yet and the two sides haven’t even exchanged salary numbers. Still, it cast a bit of a sobering pall over the possibility of the two sides reaching an agreement on a new contract.

Previous reports claim talks were cordial between the Staal camp and Hurricanes management. At this point, it appears both sides could wait to determine how the upcoming season unfolds before getting down to serious discussions. The Canes will want to evaluate Staal’s performance, while the captain will want to see if there’s any significant improvement in the team’s play. This could drag on into the new year.


Trade rumors continue to dog Philadelphia Flyers’ brothers Brayden and Luke Schenn this week. It’s believed GM Ron Hextall still hopes to shed salary and free up a roster spot for a younger player before the season opens.’s Jeff Neiburg suggests Luke, 25, could be a trade candidate, but feels his $3.6-million cap hit might be difficult to move. If Hextall decides to trade a defenseman, Nieburg speculates Radko Gudas could be a possibility.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Brayden, 24, could be moved at some point in the season. He suggests the St. Louis Blues as an option, claiming they’re seeking a top-nine forward. However, Dreger feels Brayden’s salary ($2.75 million in actual salary, $2.5-million cap hit) might be too expensive for the Blues and a lot of other teams.

The Blues currently have just over $1.186 million in cap space, meaning the Flyers must accept a salaried player in return or pick up part of his remaining salary. Either option defeats the purpose of moving Brayden in the first place.


New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac recently weighed in on the trade rumors week linking him to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Zajac, 30, told’s Rich Chere he’s unconcerned about the speculation, adding he wants to remain with the Devils.  Chere claims the Devils aren’t opposed to move Zajac, but noted he has a no-trade clause. Zajac’s agent, Kurt Overhardt went one step further, telling TSN’s Darren Dreger there was “absolutely no truth” to media speculation claiming his client would be traded.

It’s not unusual for a player and his agent to deny trade speculation, only to see that player subsequently getting dealt after all. In this case, however, it’s unlikely this is a case of misdirection.

Zajac’s carrying an expensive contract ($5.75-million annually) for six more seasons and his production has steadily eroded since his career-high 67-point effort in 2009-10. While the Devils probably aren’t adverse to shedding his contract, it’s highly unlikely any team is interested in picking that up.

If the Devils want to move Zajac, provided he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause, they’ll have to absorb part of his cap hit to make him more enticing in the trade market. Even then, the lengthy of term remaining on his contract is a likely deal killer.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Hockey News
Arizona Coyotes v Carolina Hurricanes

2014-15 Record: 30-41-11 (71 Pts.)

THN’s Prediction: 8th, Metropolitan Division

What To Expect: As players changed hands in a busy off-season, Carolina GM Ron Francis mostly stood pat, making minimal changes to a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2009. But the decisions he did make were shrewd. The $14-million buyout of underachieving winger Alexander Semin was addition by subtraction. In trading for goaltender Eddie Lack, Francis bolstered the team’s subpar goaltending.

The most important move of the summer, though, was selecting Noah Hanifin fifth overall in the draft. Hanifin, a well-rounded 6-foot-3 defenseman with a silky stride, is a franchise player. Read more

Eric Staal wants $9 million per season? Say goodbye to Hurricanes then

Jared Clinton
Eric Staal (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

In 2005-06, Eric Staal had the best season of his career. He posted 45 goals and 100 points, finished seventh in scoring and put an exclamation point on the campaign by hoisting the Stanley Cup on the back of a nine-goal, 28-point post-season performance, making him the playoff’s highest scorer.

At that point in his career, Staal was considered among the league’s elite. He was one of the faces of the NHL. In 2006-07, he scored 30 goals and 70 points and was selected as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 08, which he followed up by eclipsing the 80-point plateau again with a 38-goal, 82-point campaign in 2007-08. That led to Staal inking a six-year, $57.75-million extension in the off-season, which carries an annual cap hit of $8.25 million. Now, with the 2015-16 season about to begin, Staal’s contract is set to expire.

With Staal heading towards unrestricted free agency, there has been talk the Hurricanes could try to bring him back. But according to Le Journal de Montreal’s Renaud Lavoie, if Carolina plans to re-sign their, they could be on the hook for $9 million per season. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Buzz surrounding Schenn brothers in Philadelphia

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Speculation is brewing in Philadelphia over possible moves by the Flyers to shed salary and free up a roster spot for an affordable young player before the start of the upcoming season. The Flyers currently have just over $583K in salary-cap space, giving them no wiggle room to promote a deserving prospect.’s Greg Paone reports defenseman Luke Schenn seems the most likely to move. The 25-year-old has one season remaining on his contract worth $3.35 million.’s Randy Miller claims the Flyers tried dumping Schenn’s $3.6-million cap hit for the past two years. He speculates they might get a third-round pick in return.

Though Paone observes Schenn hasn’t developed into a top-pairing blueliner, the 6-foot-2, 229-pounder has the size and big shot that could prove useful to a rival club. He also lists Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald as trade options, but the 37-year-old Streit is getting long in the tooth while few clubs will have interest in MacDonald’s $5-million annual cap hit. Read more

Futures mailbag: Which 2015 draft picks are going straight to the show?

Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Welcome back to my mailbag, where all manner of questions on prospects and the draft are answered. If you have something you want to know about, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and hashtag it #thnfutures. You might see the question here in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, let’s get to the latest round of inquiries, the first of which is very timely:

Read more

Eddie Lack absolutely robs Jakub Vrana with toe save in pre-season action

Jared Clinton
Eddie Lack makes a toe save on Jakub Vrana (via NHL/YouTube)

For the third consecutive season, goaltender Eddie Lack is entering the season as one of the better backup goaltenders in the league but has a veteran starter who he’ll have to beat out if he wants the No. 1 job. If style points count for anything, Lack might have gotten himself a slight lead on Hurricanes starter Cam Ward to start the pre-season.

Early in the second frame of Carolina’s pre-season opener against the Washington Capitals, Lack was caught moving the opposite direction on a beautiful pass across the ice by Stanislav Galiev to Jakub Vrana. With Lack out of position, the 19-year-old Vrana patiently pulled the puck across the crease and opened up the entire right side of the goal.

But with nothing but daylight to slide the puck into, Lack stretched out his massive 6-foot-4 frame and got his left leg out in time to stifle Vrana’s attempt: Read more