Throughout 2015-16, Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a fixture in the NHL trade rumor mill. Entering this off-season, the 22-year-old was considered the Oiler most likely to be dealt this summer, preumably for a top-four defenseman.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli pulled a swerve, however, shipping Taylor Hall in late June to the New Jersey Devils for blueliner Adam Larsson. Since then, the Nugent-Hopkins speculation has cooled.
The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson notes the trade chatter had the young center linked to Colorado Avalanche blueliner Tyson Barrie and Minnesota Wild rearguard Matt Dumba. With the Wild signing free agent Eric Staal, Matheson suggests they’re likely no longer in the hunt for depth at center.
The number of NHL unrestricted free agent signings slowed to a trickle since the opening-day frenzy on July 1. Over the weekend, defenseman Luke Schenn became the most recent notable player to ink a new contract, reaching an agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on a a two-year, $2.5-million deal.
Several notable players remain available in the UFA market. Among those yet to land new contracts are defensemen Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Kyle Quincey and forwards Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, Sam Gagner, Brandon Pirri and Matt Cullen.
Sportnet’s Luke Fox recently reviewed the status of the top remaining UFAs. He noted Russell, 29, was linked earlier this month to the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. However, it’s since been reported the Leafs made no offer to Russell and had no interest in him.
Throughout last season, Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov was frequently mentioned as a potential trade candidate. Entering this off-season, speculation persisted the 2012 first-overall draft pick would be dealt at some point.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was certainly busy in recent weeks, shipping left wing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson and inking free-agent winger Milan Lucic. As speculation persists over other possible moves by Chiarelli, forwards Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are mentioned as possible trade chips.
Yakupov, however, scarcely received mention until earlier this week. On Tuesday, Sun-Sentinel.com’s Harvey Fialkov took to Twitter to shoot down a rumor claiming the Florida Panthers might deal defenseman Alex Petrovic to the Oilers for the young Russian forward. Read more
After weeks of anticipation, the New York Rangers finally made a significant roster move this summer. On Monday, they dealt center Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick in 2018 to the Ottawa Senators for center Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second-round selection.
In shipping out Brassard’s $5-million annual average salary through 2018-19 for Zibanejad’s $2.65 million in 2016-17, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton freed up an additional $2.35 million. He can put that toward re-signing a restricted free agent forward such as Chris Kreider or Kevin Hayes. He could also use it to his roster via trade or free agency.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News speculates Gorton could use the savings to acquire St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He could then re-sign the blueliner, who’s eligible next July for unrestricted free agency, to an extension worth $6-million annually. Leonard also wonders if Kreider could be swapped for Shattenkirk before the winger’s arbitration date on Friday. Read more
The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided arbitration with winger Alex Killorn by re-signing him Sunday to a seven-year, $31.25-million contract. The annual cap hit ($4.45 million), however, leaves the Lightning with just over $8.5 million of cap room and restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestinkov and Nikita Nesterov to re-sign.
Kucherov, 23, is completing an entry-level contract with an average annual salary of over $849K. Coming off two straight 60-plus point campaigns and leading the Lightning in scoring during the 2016 playoffs, he could push for a raise of around $6-million per season
The 23-year-old Namestnikov has a player-elected arbitration hearing slated for July 29. The versatile checking center is finishing up a three-year deal worth a base salary of $925K and could seek over $2-million annually.
Like Kucherov, Nesterov is also completing an entry-level contract. His slide down the Lightning’s blueline depth chart last season means there’s less a priority to re-sign him.
New contracts for Kucherov and Namestnikov could use up most, perhaps all, of the Bolts’ cap space for 2016-17. They’ll have no room for Nesterov, let alone for any roster additions. Read more
The Boston Bruins efforts to bolster their defense via the trade market hasn’t panned out so far. The asking prices for available blueliners such as St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler are rumored to be expensive.
It could be time for Bruins GM Don Sweeney to consider his options via free agency. CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty lists Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Luke Schenn as possible blueline targets.
Russell, 29, is a top-four defenseman and shotblocking specialist. The 33-year-old Wisniewski missed all but one game last season to a knee injury. When healthy, he’s a good puckmoving blueliner. Schenn, 26, has a booming shot and plays a physical style.
This trio won’t address the Bruins long-term defensive needs. However, one of them could be a decent, affordable short-term option while Sweeney awaits for the trade market to improve.
Heading into mid-July, the New York Rangers have yet to make a significant move to shed cap space or shake up their roster. Signing veteran left winger Michael Grabner to a two-year deal ($1.65 million annually) and acquiring defenseman Nick Holden from the Colorado Avalanche were their biggest deals thus far.
The Rangers carry $12.4 million in salary-cap room. With restricted free agents Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan McIlrath to re-sign, there’s not enough space to retain those players and bolster the lineup via trades or free agency.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports Blueshirts GM Jeff Gorton hasn’t been idle in the trade market, but he’s been unable to find suitable deals. Brooks claims Gorton is reluctant to move center Derek Stepan, won’t trade defenseman Ryan McDonagh, can’t find equal value for left winger Rick Nash and isn’t shopping Kreider.
The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons praises the ability of Maple Leafs management to ship out contracts considered untradeable. He observes they’ve shed over $23 million in salary-cap space in the last 18 months by dealing away Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, David Clarkson and Jonathan Bernier.
That prompted Simmons to speculate their next trick will be making winger Joffrey Lupul’s contract disappear. Lupul, 32, is signed through 2017-18 at an annual average salary of $5.25 million. He also holds a modified no-trade clause listing 14 acceptable trade destinations.
Since joining the Leafs, Lupul’s continually been sidelined by injuries. He missed 31 games in 2015-16 to a sports hernia. As a result, his name is frequently surfacing in trade rumors. Read more