Rumor Roundup: Thomas Greiss’ success means Jaroslav Halak could hit the trade market

Thomas Greiss.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Goaltender Thomas Greiss’ solid performance filling in for sidelined starter Jaroslav Halak could spell the end of the latter’s tenure with the New York Islanders. Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports Isles GM Garth Snow sang Greiss’ praises, suggesting he’s ready to be a full-time starter.

Staple notes the Islanders currently carry three netminders with Halak, Greiss and promising J-F Berube. He points out the oft-injured Halak voiced his displeasure over the setup and suggests there’s a rift between the veteran and management.

The 31-year-old Halak has two years remaining on his contract. He could hit the trade block this summer. Staple doubts he’ll fetch much of a return and would be more of a cost-cutting deal for other roster moves.

Halak also lacks a no-trade clause and there are clubs (Calgary, Carolina, Toronto) in need of goaltending depth. However, his injury history and $4.5-million annual cap hit could adversely affect his trade value.

WHAT IS PANTHERS LONG-TERM PLAN WITH GUDBRANSON?

The Florida Panthers recent re-signing of defenseman Erik Gudbranson to a one-year, $3.5-million contract extension raised some eyebrows. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa notes the 24-year-old Gudbranson is of the age where high-end blueliners like himself get multiyear deals. Shinzawa speculates Panthers management might not be enamoured with him.

Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel claims the move was made to provide the Panthers with salary-cap flexibility for next season to re-sign rising center Vincent Trocheck. He also reports they’re among the clubs interested in former NHL winger Alexander Radulov, who spent the last four seasons in the KHL.

Gudbranson already has five seasons under his belt with the Panthers. Despite missing time this season to a concussion, he was among their leaders in hits (150), blocked shots (73) and ice time (20:06). He also averaged over 26 minutes of ice time per game in the post-season.

Gudbranson’s ongoing improvement as a shutdown defenseman should keep him part of the Panthers’ long-term plans. If not, he’ll attract considerable interest via free agency next summer.

EXPECT ONLY MINOR CHANGES TO CAPITALS IN OFF-SEASON

Don’t expect the Washington Capitals’ early playoff exit to result in a significant roster overhaul.

Earlier this week, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan addressed the media for the first time since his club’s elimination by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshuyan reports MacLellan is “pretty content” with his core. He’ll look at bolstering the third line, specifically his ninth or tenth forwards.

MacLellan also intends to get restricted free agents Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Michael Latta re-signed. His plans to tweak his third line could mean cutting loose unrestricted free agents Mike Richards and Jason Chimera. The 37-year-old Chimera, however, tells Khurshudyan he hopes to return with the Capitals next season.

Adding speed and scoring to the third line is crucial. The Penguins third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel did the most damage to the Capitals in their second-round series. MacLellan will likely attempt to emulate that model.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).

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Greiss’ playoff performance could mean Islanders say goodbye to Halak

Jared Clinton
Jaroslav Halak (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the surface, it seemed like horrible news. Jaroslav Halak, the New York Islanders’ $4.5-million goaltender, went down less than a month before the post-season began, thrusting backup netminder Thomas Greiss, he of 40 minutes total playoff experience, into the starting role as the first round approached.

The worries about Greiss’ ability to handle the playoff workload and pressure were turned aside rather quickly, though, as the 30-year-old German netminder turned in stellar performances in the month leading up to the post-season and then proceeded to be one of the biggest stories of the first round. Through the six-game series against the Florida Panthers, Greiss posted a 1.79 goals-against average, .944 save percentage and only allowed two pucks get by him in the final two games, over which time he faced 90 shots.

And while Greiss stumbled in the second round, watching his SP fall to .923 and posting only one contest in which he allowed two goals or fewer, it seemed as though the Islanders had discovered in their one-time backup a goaltender who might be able to shoulder the load of starting duties as the franchise seeks to move forward. And for Halak, who watched from the sidelines as he battled through a groin injury, that could mean his time is up in New York. Read more

Capitals will be back – and they’ll win a Stanley Cup someday

Braden Holtby  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tuesday night was a terrible night to be a Washington Capitals fan. Wednesday will be an even worse day to be one. And the coming days, both in the short- and long-term in the off-season, will be tinged with regret and lamentations about what might have been.

This was a year when the Stanley Cup was the Capitals to lose…and they lost it. With a number of the heavyweights already out of the tournament in the first round, the Capitals came into the second round as the best team in the NHL and the prohibitive favorite. Instead, the Capitals and their fans will be left to ponder why a team with such an abundance of talent at all positions is such an abject failure in the playoffs.

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Travis Hamonic revokes trade request, will stay with Islanders

Jared Clinton
Travis Hamonic (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Travis Hamonic’s early season trade request was one of the most surprising stories of the season. The Islanders defenseman was emerging as a solid top-three rearguard, was becoming a cornerstone of the blueline in New York and was only months into the third season of a seven-year, $27-million contract when he asked the Islanders for a move to the Western Conference to be closer to family.

However, according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, Hamonic’s trade request is a story no longer.

Staple reported Tuesday that Hamonic has told Islanders GM Garth Snow he no longer wishes to be traded and has taken back his request to be shipped to the Western Conference close to his family in Winnipeg. Following Staple’s report, NHL.com’s Brian Compton added that Islanders coach Jack Capuano confirmed Hamonic has backed off his trade request. And for an Islanders team that could potentially lose Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen this off-season, Hamonic’s decision is a fantastic one. Read more

Kyle Okposo says his agent, Islanders haven’t talked contract all season

Jared Clinton
Kyle Okposo (Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Things could change in New York, but for the time being it looks like a near certainty that Islanders winger Kyle Okposo will be hitting the free agent market on July 1.

The Islanders held their final media availability of the season Tuesday morning following Sunday’s post-season exit, and during his meeting with reporters Okposo, 28, said he and his agent haven’t spoken about a possible contract extension with New York at all over the course of the season, per the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. The reason for the lack of discussion wasn’t touched on, though it appears that means Okposo will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

Okposo, who scored 22 goals and 64 points in 79 games this past season, will likely command a big raise on the open market, too. He’s currently finishing up a five-year, $14-million deal that paid him an average of $2.8 million per season, though he was making $4.5 million in actual salary during the 2015-16 campaign. And it’s likely his actual salary from this past season is much closer to the cap hit he’ll command on the open market. Read more

Islanders facing a lot of questions after meekly bowing out of playoffs

New York Islanders  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

It’s interesting how perceptions can change in such a short period of time. For example, does anyone feel a little less optimistic about the future of the New York Islanders now than they did when the playoffs began?

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Islanders were a 100-point team, a franchise that looked poised to eventually become a legitimate force in the NHL. But after being outplayed in the first round by the Florida Panthers and winning basically on the backs of Thomas Greiss and John Tavares, then meekly exiting in the second round to a team that was missing two key players, things don’t look quite so rosy now.

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Rumor Roundup: Islanders, Oilers could be perfect off-season partners

Travis Hamonic battles with Matt Hendricks (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the New York Islanders eliminated from the second round of the 2016 playoffs, they head into the offseason facing the possibility of some significant roster changes.

Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports pending unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin face uncertain futures with the Isles. Of the trio, the 28-year-old Okposo stands to cash in the most. He’s completing a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.8 million, though he earned $4.5 million this season in actual salary.

Since last summer, contract talks between Okposo and the Isles have been almost non-existent. It’s assumed he won’t be back, meaning the Isles need a suitable replacement at right wing.

Citing defenseman Travis Hamonic’s request last year to be dealt to a Western-Canadian team, Newsday’s Mark Herrman suggests shipping the 25-year-old blueliner to the Edmonton Oilers for one of their good young wingers. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends acquiring Jordan Eberle to replace Okposo. Read more

Lightning advance to Eastern Conference final with Game 5 victory over Islanders

Victor Hedman (Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

Victor Hedman very well could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season had the Tampa Bay Lightning earned two more wins and captured the Stanley Cup. And even though the chance to take home the playoff MVP honors doesn’t come around often, Hedman’s Game 5 performance to give the Lightning a 4-1 second-round series victory should make him an early frontrunner for the award.

Hedman was nothing short of outstanding Sunday afternoon, just as he has been throughout the entire playoffs. His two goals in Game 5’s 4-0 victory over the New York Islanders — which sends the Lightning to the Eastern Conference final for the second-consecutive season and third time in six years — give him four goals and nine points in 10 games. That’s not to mention he’s averaging close to 28 minutes per game, has been an impact player on the power play and penalty kill and shut down the Islanders’ best players for the entirety of Round Two.

And while it’s early, maybe too early, to start talking about the Conn Smythe, consider where a Steven Stamkos– and Anton Stralman-less Lightning team probably would be right now were it not for Hedman. As much as Jonathan Drouin has been a revelation offensively and as great as Ben Bishop has been in goal, Hedman has been the clear leader of this team in the post-season and he’s driving the Lightning toward yet another final appearance. Read more