Rumor Roundup: Stars won’t make any changes in goal before season starts

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

At the start of this NHL off-season, the woeful performance of Dallas Stars goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi generated talk of a possible change between the pipes. They had the worst combined goals-against (2.78) of the 16 teams entering the 2016 playoffs. Their woeful 3.23 GAA was a significant factor in the Stars’ second-round elimination.

According to NBC Sports’ Jason Brough, it’s unlikely Stars GM Jim Nill will shake things up before the start of the season. Nill opted not to buy out Lehtonen or Niemi this summer, probably because of the expense.

Lehtonen, 32, has two years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million, while the 32-year-old Niemi is also signed through 2017-18 at a cap hit of $4.5 million. Buying out either goalie at two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining tenure would’ve taken a significant chunk out of the Stars’ cap payroll over the next four seasons.

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Vesey met with seven teams, discussing options Thursday — what can each team offer?

Jimmy Vesey (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

For those tiring of hearing about NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey, rest assured that the 23-year-old winger is nearing a decision on his destination.

According to a report from ESPN’s Joe McDonald, Vesey has finished meeting with the teams he has interest in joining — seven in total — and will begin discussing the options with his agents today with the possibility of coming to a final decision as early as Friday. Included on Vesey’s list of meetings were the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. That’s not to mention Vesey’s meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, who traded for his rights in mid-June.

Vesey comes with a lot of potential, having scored 56 goals and 114 points in 70 games with Harvard over the past two seasons, and he picked up the Hobey Baker Award in 2016 as the top player in the NCAA. But his performance doesn’t mean money can be used to sway his decision. Each team will have to table similar offers because Vesey will enter the league on a two-year, entry-level deal.

So which team will persuade Vesey to sign on the dotted line? Here are the pros and cons for each team in the running to land the college standout: Read more

Report: Nassau County hoping to lure Islanders back the Coliseum

Jared Clinton
Nassau Coliseum

There continues to be talk about the potential for the New York Islanders to leave the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and find a new home in or around New York City, with some speculating a potential move to Queens. However, the Islanders’ former home would reportedly gladly welcome the team back.

According to the New York Post’s Josh Kosman, Nassau County officials “are in talks with the team’s current landlord about a move back to Nassau Coliseum,” the building which the Islanders called home from 1972 until the end of the 2014-15 campaign.

“We decline to comment on ongoing discussions, however, we are supportive of the Islanders return to the [Coliseum],” Nassau County executive Ed Mangano told the New York Post. Read more

Rumour Roundup: Red Wings and Lightning may need to make trades to become cap compliant

Ben Bishop and Ryan Callahan

The Detroit Red Wings avoided arbitration this week with defenseman Danny DeKeyser and goaltender Petr Mrazek. DeKeyser, 26, inked a five-year, $30-million contract, while the 24-year-old Mrazek agreed to a two-year, $8-million deal.

These deals, however, push the Wings above the $73 million salary-cap ceiling by over $4.2 million. MLive.com’s Brendan Savage reports GM Ken Holland doesn’t expect forwards Johan Franzen ($3.9 million) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) to play this season because of ongoing concussion symptoms. The two are expected to be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Joining them could be forward Teemu Pulkkinen ($812,500), who is recovering from recent shouder surgery. With their combined salaries on LTIR, the Wings should be cap compliant when the season begins.

Holland could also be active in the trade market leading up to the season opener in October. NBC Sports’ Jason Brough reports the Wings have a surplus of forwards, noting Holland’s recent wish to acquire a top-three defenseman.

Earlier in July, trade rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler. Wings forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar surfaced as possible trade candidates, though Holland is apparently reluctant to part with either.

To land Shattenkirk or Fowler, however, could require a good young winger as part of the return. If Holland won’t give up Nyquist or Tatar, he’ll have to consider more affordable, less-talented trade options. He could also wait for a better deal to emerge over the course of the season.

The Wings aren’t the only club that could face the challenge of getting under the salary cap before October. After re-signing center Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year deal worth over $1.9 million per season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have $6.5 million in cap space. With right winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Nikita Nestorov still to re-sign, getting the pair under contract could exceed the $73-million ceiling.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman remains confident he’ll get rising star Kucherov under contract this summer. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times suggests Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg (six years, $36 million) as a comparable.

Yzerman said he doesn’t have to make a salary-dumping deal before re-signing Kucherov and Nesterov, but acknowledged his need to become cap compliant before the season begins. Smith speculates center Valtteri Filppula, who’s under contract for two more years at an annual cap hit of $5 million, as a trade candidate.

Recent speculation also suggested goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.9 million with a full no-movement clause), right winger Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million, no-movement) or defenseman Braydon Coburn ($3.7 million, full no-trade clause) as trade options. Filppula, however, has a modified no-trade clause, making him easier to shop.

TAVARES INTENDS TO STAY WITH ISLANDERS

Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning put an end to speculation the Markham, Ont., native would return home and join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some Leafs followers, however, are now looking ahead to the summer of 2018, when Mississauga-born John Tavares of the New York Islanders is eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Appearing Tuesday on Sportsnet 590, Tavares chuckled when asked about the possibility of playing for the Leafs. While acknowledging his connection to Toronto, the 25-year-old Islanders captain said not to count on his joining the Maple Leafs. He maintained his commitment to remain with the Isles.

Of course, anything can happen over the next two years. The Islanders efforts to build into a Stanley Cup contender could stall. Tavares could become disenchanted with the club’s direction. While the club’s new ownership is willing to spend to the cap ceiling, contract talks with Tavares could prove unexpectedly difficult.

However, it’s worth remembering there was talk of Tavares bolting the Isles prior to signing his current contract in 2011. At that time, the Isles were still among the league’s worst clubs, but he remained committed to improving the franchise. Should they continue their recent improvement, there’s little reason to believe he’ll depart the Islanders for the Leafs in 2018.

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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Tavares wants to spend career with Islanders, says don’t count on him signing in Toronto

Jared Clinton
John Tavares (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Newly minted Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said he wants to make sure John Tavares doesn’t hit the free agent market, GM Garth Snow has said he’ll be talking contract extension with Tavares as soon as possible and now Tavares himself has said that he’s not intending to be anywhere but New York.

In an interview with Sportsnet 590, Tavares, 25, was asked in tongue-in-cheek fashion about playing in Toronto when his current contract with the Islanders expired, to which Tavares responded that he would “not count on that.” Tavares said that being a Toronto native lends itself to the connections being made between he and the Maple Leafs, but added he wants to “go out there and be the best player, best person that I can be for the Islanders day in and day out.”

“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” Tavares told Sportsnet 590’s Andrew Walker. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere and I hope I’m in that same position.” Read more

Signing bonuses could become next CBA battleground

Jamie Benn (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the NHL announced last fall its seven-year partnership that will see adidas become its official outfitter starting next season, your trusty correspondent asked commissioner Gary Bettman whether the deal would be extended by a year if there were another labor dispute. Bettman responded with a one-word answer.

“Really?” Bettman asked, with a good amount of offense and incredulity. Well, about as much offense and incredulity as someone who has shut down the game three times in the past 20 years could muster.

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Five NHL jerseys players should have refused to wear

Todd Bertuzzi. (Getty Images)

On Saturday, Chicago White Sox all-star pitcher Chris Sale was scratched from his start and sent home because he refused to wear the team’s throwback uniform. It went beyond that, of course. Sale reportedly went into the clubhouse and cut up his own jersey, along with those of his teammates.

Sale’s gripe? The collar on the jersey was uncomfortable and he was adamant that he would not wear it. Sale was eventually suspended for five games by the team.

It was a bizarre story, but one that could plausibly play out in any team sport. In the NBA, for instance, many players complained when the new sleeved jerseys were introduced.

In hockey, the basic design of the jersey has been largely the same for the past 100 years. There isn’t much that can be done that could throw a player into a fit of uncomfortable rage. The aesthetics of hockey jerseys on the other hand, they have at times been a cause for concern.

Here are five NHL jerseys players should have refused to wear.

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Report: Islanders potentially looking at move to Queens, playing near MLB’s Mets

Jared Clinton
Barclays Center (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders’ first season at the Barclays Center was successful on the ice, but that hasn’t stopped rumors from swirling about the potential for the club to find a new home in the near future.

Last week, the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte reported that new Islanders co-owner John Ledecky had said he believed the Brooklyn-based arena would play host to the club long-term, going so far as to call Barclays Center the Islanders’ “home.” However, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, the Islanders may be looking into another option.

Soshnick reported Thursday that the Islanders could be looking to move out of Brooklyn and into Queens, where they would build an arena situated near Citi Field, the home of the MLB’s New York Mets. According to Soshnick, discussions between the Islanders and Sterling Equities, the Mets’ ownership group, have been taking place for “months.” Read more