Rumor Roundup: Oilers looking at big off-season upgrades

Lyle Richardson
Viktor Fasth and Richard Bachman (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

As another dreadful season draws to a close for the Edmonton Oilers, speculation is growing over possible off-season roster moves.

Goaltending depth could be an issue, as backup Viktor Fasth is a UFA in July and isn’t expected to return. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Oilers could be among three teams (the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs being the others) with potential interest in Anaheim Ducks goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson.

As the Ducks could be a budget team, Friedman notes they could keep their current goalie tandem intact for another season. However, if they have another early playoff exit, he thinks Andersen or Gibson could be moved in the summer. Read more

Why the Penguins should trade Sidney Crosby for the No. 1 pick

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Before any Pittsburgh fans go and get their jerseys in a jumble, just pause for a second, take a deep breath and think about it: if the Penguins fail to get back to the Stanley Cup final for the sixth straight season, what else is left for the franchise to do but blow up the core?

After an off-season of upheaval in which Pittsburgh brought in a new coach, a new GM and a new supporting cast for Sidney Crosby, there would be few options left but to raze the roster to the ground and begin anew. Sure, the Penguins could use Marc-Andre Fleury as a scapegoat and try using the same roster again next season with a different goalie, but that would only be putting off the inevitable. (Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who are years behind on the rebuilding schedule after sticking with their core despite perennial playoff failures, including their first-round faceplant last year.)

The best thing for the Penguins to do would be to try to trade Crosby for the next Crosby.

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Rumor Roundup: Goaltending questions for several teams as off-season nears

Antti Niemi (Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch lists the San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames “and possibly” the St. Louis Blues as teams that could seek goaltending this summer.

Free agency is one reason these clubs could be shopping for depth between the pipes. San Jose’s Antti Niemi, Buffalo’s Anders Lindback, Edmonton’s Viktor Fasth and Calgary’s Karri Ramo are eligible to become unrestricted free agents in July. If they test the market they’ll have to be replaced. Read more

Hockey Hall of Fame clears path for Chris Pronger’s immediate induction – and it’s about time

Chris Pronger signs autographs at the 2014 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

According to an ESPN.com report, former NHL star defenseman Chris Pronger’s road to the Hockey Hall of Fame was cleared Thursday when the HHOF’s general voting members ratified changes to the induction eligibility criteria for players. The decision means it’s possible Pronger will be welcomed into the HHOF’s next group of honorees – and regardless of what you think of the process that led to this point, you can’t argue the 40-year-old doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged as one of the game’s all-time great blueliners and competitors.

The report states one of the HHOF’s new bylaws (No. 26, in this case) includes this section, which directly addresses Pronger’s situation: “a person is not eligible for election in the player category if he or she has played in a professional or international hockey game (which terms shall not be considered to include games played only or primarily for charitable or recreational purposes, or for any other limited purpose that the Chair of the Board of Directors determines, in his or her discretion, should not disqualify for nomination a person otherwise eligible) during any of the three (3) playing seasons immediately prior to his or her election.”

In effect, the new bylaw means that players such as Pronger – someone who everyone knows won’t play again because of injuries, yet who doesn’t file retirement papers because of salary cap issues – can be considered after the standard three-year period following their final game. Read more

Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Niemi among options for Oilers in off-season

Lyle Richardson
Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

With Viktor Fasth seemingly assured of departing via free agency in July, the Edmonton Oilers will be in the market for someone to share the goaltending duties with Ben Scrivens.

In recent weeks, there’s been speculation over Cam Talbot‘s future with the New York Rangers. Talbot, 27, has a one-year contract beyond this season and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016. Despite his stellar play filling in for the sidelined Henrik Lundqvist, there’s no way Talbot will supplant “King Henrik” as the Rangers’ starting goalie. Read more

NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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Could the Buffalo Sabres win their way out of the McDavid and Eichel sweepstakes?

Jared Clinton
Jack Eichel by Brian Babineau, Connor McDavid by Adam D’Oliveira

It might be hard to believe, but there’s a chance the Buffalo Sabres won’t finish dead last in the NHL this season. And if they don’t finish at the bottom of the standings, they won’t have a guaranteed shot at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the upcoming draft.

Granted, yes, no matter where they finish, there’s a shot they land one of the two simply by luck of the draw. However, if Buffalo doesn’t finish 30th in the league, there’s no promise they’re going to be able to get their hands on either of the draft’s top two selections. But where does the concern come from for the Sabres?

Well, if things go right – or wrong, depending on how you want to look at it – and if Edmonton and Arizona fall apart, the Sabres could fall as low as the third overall selection by the time the season is through. And the possibility of that is quite high. Read more