10 players who could be buyout candidates this off-season

Bryan Bickell (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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

Max Reinhart forgoes NHL free agency, signs deal with German club

Jared Clinton
Max Reinhart last saw NHL action with the Flames (Brad Watson/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the four seasons since he began his professional career, Max Reinhart hasn’t been able to find himself a steady role in the NHL. And after spending the entirety of the 2015-16 campaign in the AHL, Reinhart has decided to take his game overseas.

The DEL’s Kolner Haie announced they have signed Reinhart to a contract for the 2016-17 season. Reinhart’s deal comes following what was arguably the most disappointing campaign of the 24-year-old’s career. In 73 games with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate, Reinhart managed 23 goals and 38 points in 73 games, but that made for his lowest-scoring season since his rookie campaign. That didn’t scare the German club off, though.

“Max Reinhart is a young, dynamic player who can be used on both the center and on the outside position. He is strong on the offensive and has a good shot,” said Kolner sports director Mark Mahon. Read more

Predators ink Cody Bass to two-year deal, fill spot in bottom-six

Jared Clinton
Cody Bass (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators’ off-season started with GM David Poile announcing that Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom wouldn’t be back with the team in 2016-17 and that a number of young players ready to take over bottom-six roles would fill the spots left vacant by Gaustad and Nystrom’s departures. That doesn’t mean all the Predators’ bottom-six veterans are on their way out, though.

It was announced Wednesday that Nashville has inked 29-year-old Cody Bass to a two-year, two-way deal worth $612,500 per season in the NHL and $150,000 per campaign in the AHL. Bass has bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL throughout his career, but he found a regular spot in the Predators’ bottom-six during the post-season only to suffer a lower-body injury that forced him to miss the final eight games of the playoffs.

Bass doesn’t necessarily bring the scoring touch to the fourth-line, but that’s not what he’ll be relied upon for. He’s got good enough speed to cause chaos on the forecheck and he’s not afraid to throw his weight around, something that saw him earn ice time during the opening-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Read more

Returning Matt Nieto should give Sharks an injection of speed for Game 2

Matt Nieto. (Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH – In a Stanley Cup final where speed could end up being a determining factor, the San Jose Sharks got a lot faster for Game 2 when they announced winger Matt Nieto would be drawing back into the lineup after missing eight games with what is suspected to be a left shoulder injury.

Nieto has been out of the Sharks lineup since crashing into the net in Game 6 of their second-round series against the Nashville Predators. He was ready to go for Game 1 of the final, but the Sharks elected to sit him out. But after seeing how fast the Penguins are as a team and needed players who can keep up to that speed, Nieto gets the call for Game 2.

Read more

Nashville GM Poile says Gaustad, Nystrom won’t be back with Predators

Jared Clinton
Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators went deeper into the playoffs this post-season than the franchise had ever been before, but that doesn’t mean GM David Poile is going to stand pat and be happy just to contend. Changes are coming for the Predators, and Poile made clear that two veteran players won’t be around for the 2016-17 campaign.

During his end of season meeting with the media, Poile said the Predators will be parting ways with Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad this off-season. That means next year’s Nashville squad will look younger than it did this past season and could resemble a team closer to what was seen during the latter stages of the playoffs than the one that was together for the bulk of the regular season.

Gaustad, 34, was a big part of the group in the post-season and was especially relied upon to win important faceoffs, but Poile said the Predators are prepared to let Gaustad walk in free agency. Poile said that while he loves Gaustad as both a person and player, citing his faceoff ability and ability to step up his game in the playoffs, the team is “going a different direction.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Big decisions loom in Dallas as Stars seek goaltending upgrade

Kari Lehtonen (left) and Antti Niemi (Steven Ryan/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals are the latest to join the list of playoff casualties. Their early exits from the postseason makes them fodder for offseason trade and free-agent speculation.

Shaky goaltending was the prime culprit in the Stars’ departure. The tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi entered the playoffs with the worst combined regular-season goals-against average (2.78). They finished with a bloated combined GAA of 3.23.

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends the Stars upgrade between the pipes, but that won’t be easy. The Stars have over $10 million invested in Lehtonen and Niemi through 2017-18. Niemi carries a full no-trade for 2016-17 while Lehtonen holds a partial NTC.

Should GM Jim Nill trade or buy out Lehtonen or Niemi, the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika lists Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes, James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks and Carter Hutton of the Nashville Predators as free-agent options. He also suggests Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks as trade targets. Read more

Watch Predators give up shorthanded 4-on-1 as Thornton ices Game 7 victory for Sharks

Jared Clinton
San Jose Sharks 4on1

The Predators entered the third period of Thursday’s Game 7 against the Sharks in an unenviable hole. Nashville was trailing 3-0 and were starting the final regulation frame — and potentially their final period of the season — shorthanded against what has been the post-season’s most productive power play unit.

It took all of 26 seconds for things to go even further south.

With the Predators seeking anything to get the offense started, Mike Fisher broke up the ice shorthanded against a slew of Sharks defenders and crossed into the San Jose zone with defenseman Shea Weber approaching through the neutral zone. Fisher faked as if to drive to the outside before dropping a pass that was intended for Weber, but instead was poked away by Sharks center Logan Couture, Weber fell to the ice and San Jose skated away on a serious odd-man break.

And as if facing the playoffs’ best power play wasn’t enough, Predators defenseman Roman Josi was stranded alone trying to ward off a Sharks 4-on-1. The result was predictable: Read more

San Jose’s convincing Game 7 win shows this Sharks team really is different

Logan Couture celebrates his second period goal (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Remember the stumbling, struggling, choking Sharks of old? As evidenced by Game 7’s 5-0 victory, those Sharks don’t reside in San Jose anymore.

Any new fan tuning into Thursday’s game would have seen a Sharks team with a killer instinct, one facing a seventh and deciding game and playing in such a way that the Nashville Predators weren’t battling to move on to the Western Conference final so much as they were fighting to avoid embarrassment. As harsh as that may sound, it’s the reality of a Game 7 that was owned by the Sharks.

And for fans of old, watching the Sharks dismantle the Predators may have been a revelation, because throughout the post-season it’s been hard to shake the feeling that at some point San Jose was going to revert to their shortcomings of years past. That was not to be the case, just as it wasn’t throughout the first-round series in which the Sharks stunned the perennial favorite Los Angeles Kings.

The reason for that is that Thursday night, the Sharks were dominant and in a way that few teams have been this post-season. And it’s not as if the dominance was gradual. From the outset of the contest, San Jose bullied Nashville. It was the kind of ice-tilt, opposition-on-roller skates dominance one would expect from a regular season contest from a top-tier team and one who just hadn’t quite figured it out yet. If the Sharks would have capitalized on all the chances they had in the first period alone, they still could have walked away with a 5-0 victory, which is to say San Jose’s 17-3 shot advantage after the first period wasn’t misleading in the least. Read more