As the July 1 opening day of the 2016 NHL unrestricted free agent market approaches, speculation is heating up over potential destinations of the top free-agent stars.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in bidding for Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. He also thinks the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins could join them.
On Sunday, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News cited a report in the Toronto Star claiming the Sabres reached out to the Stamkos camp to gauge his interest in coming to Buffalo. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, meanwhile, reports the Canadiens will chase Stamkos, though they face long odds of signing him.
Entering the 2016 NHL draft, the trade speculation is ramping up on several notable NHL stars.
Topping the list is Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. The trade chatter reached a fever pitch on Thursday when Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning admitted he contacted Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to inquire about Subban. Meanwhile, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli claimed he looked into acquiring the Habs blueliner but the asking price was too high.
The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey reports Bergevin insists he’s not shopping Subban but he can’t prevent rival clubs from calling about the defenseman.
The Los Angeles Kings made a big splash last off-season when they acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a first-round pick, but it looks like Lucic’s tenure as a King will be one-and-done.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBruin reported Wednesday afternoon that Lucic, 28, has decided to head to free agency come July 1. Not long after LeBrun’s initial report, he added that Kings GM Dean Lombardi confirmed Los Angeles has not been able to come to terms with the hulking winger and that Lucic and his agents have officially been given the go-ahead to begin talking to the league’s 29 other teams about a potential free agent deal.
By hitting the open market, Lucic is almost certain to be one of the two or three highest-paid players in the current free agent crop. It’s a mortal lock that Steven Stamkos will sign the biggest deal of any free agent, but Lucic, along with Kyle Okposo and David Backes, is in a good position to earn himself a huge payday. Read more
Upon being traded to the Los Angeles Kings, Vincent Lecavalier said his time in the NHL would come to a close following one final playoff push. That push lasted all of five games, but the veteran center followed through on his word that his career was coming to a close, making his retirement official Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement released through the Kings, the 36-year-old said that he has informed the team of his decision and will now devote his time to his family.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who have helped me along the way and shared this journey with me,” Lecavalier said in the release. “First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents, my wife, Caroline, my brother Philippe, sister Genevieve and my entire family. I could not have accomplished anything without your love and support.” Read more
Anze Kopitar is officially the new captain of the Los Angeles Kings. And while the news can’t help but cast a spotlight on the former captain, Dustin Brown, GM Dean Lombardi maintains that the move is part of the franchise’s evolution.
Following the end of the 2016 Stanley Cup final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, it didn’t take long for speculation to begin over the Cup finalists’ off-season plans.
ESPN.com’s Craig Custance suggests the Penguins trade goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. With Matt Murray taking over as the starter during the playoffs and the Penguins carrying limited salary-cap room, they could consider moving the 31-year-old’s $5.75-million cap hit.
Custance believes Fleury could be “a great fit” with the Calgary Flames or Carolina Hurricanes. Both clubs need depth between the pipes and have depth in young talent and prospects to entice the Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari notes the Penguins could also move Fleury this summer in order to protect Murray in a possible expansion draft next June. He also speculates the veteran netminder could request a trade.
Nothing says the off-season quite like the threat of buyouts, and we’re inching ever-closer to the NHL’s buyout window opening and several players could see their time with their current teams come to a close.
For some of the candidates, massive contracts are at fault, while other will fall victim to underperforming or simply not fitting within a team’s structure any longer. Unfortunately, some are a combination of all three.
With the salary cap remaining relatively flat according to all reports, several teams are going to be in tough financial situations. Even a rise of $2 million in the salary cap, which is a rough estimate of the maximum amount the upper limit will rise, would still see several teams in tough cap positions. That’s not to say all players on this list will be bought out, but there’s at least a fair chance several from this list will be sent packing by way of a buyout. Read more
Entering the NHL off-season, it appears the league’s projected increase in the salary cap to $74 million could fall short.
Each year, the NHLPA votes on approving a five-percent escalator clause. If the players vote against it this year, the cap ceiling could drop. Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the cap could fall to under $70 million.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks cites a source with ties to the PA claiming the cap would drop to $69.3 million if the players reject the escalator. If they approve it, the ceiling rises to $72.8 million.