With the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs underway, the remaining casualties from the opening round are taking stock. For the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, considered by some to be Cup contenders, their early exit raises questions about off-season changes.
A lack of skilled defensive depth proved the Blackhawks’ undoing against the St. Louis Blues. Chicago Tribune pundits Chris Kuc and David Haugh, along with USA Today’s Kevin Allen, believe addressing this issue should be GM Stan Bowman’s priority this summer.
As more NHL teams become first-round casualties of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, the more speculation grows over their offseason moves.
After yet another roller coaster season for the Minnesota Wild ended in an early playoff exit, GM Chuck Fletcher faces some tough decisions. The biggest, of course, is deciding if interim head coach John Torchetti returns on a full-time basis. After that, Fletcher could shake up his inconsistent, under-performing roster.
With only around $12 million in available salary-cap room for 2016-17, it’s expected the Wild GM will buy out the remaining season of disappointing left wing Thomas Vanek. The 31-year-old is owed $7.5 million in actual salary, though the cap hit is $6.5 million. Read more
The Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings were the first clubs eliminated from the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Their early exits have given rise to considerable speculation about their off-season plans.
Having rebounded from missing the 2015 post-season, the Kings entered this year’s playoffs considered among the Cup favorites. Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times cites a lack of blueline depth for why they fell in five games to the San Jose Sharks. It’s an issue she believes GM Dean Lombardi will have difficulty addressing this summer.
A lack of salary-cap space will hamper Lombardi’s effort to bolster his defense. The Kings currently have over $65.9 million invested in 20 players for 2016-17, though center Vincent Lecavalier’s anticipated retirement should free up an additional $2.25 million.
If center Steven Stamkos fails to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer, it’s assumed the Toronto Maple Leafs will be his destination of choice via free agency. However, he could entertain an offer from another major Canadian franchise.
In an interview with Richard Labbe of La Presse, NHL Network analyst and former Lightning GM Brian Lawton said he believes Stamkos would consider a contract proposal from the Montreal Canadiens. He suggests Stamkos’ long-time friendship with Habs star P.K. Subban could be among the factors working in Montreal’s favor.
Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is expected to acquire some much-needed depth for his D-corps this summer. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests Chiarelli should cast his eye south toward his club’s rival in Calgary.
Appearing on Sportsnet 960 last Friday, Friedman wonders if the Flames and blueliner Dennis Wideman might be ready to part ways. He feels Wideman could get an opportunity for a fresh start with the Oilers.
Friedman points out Chiarelli acquired and later traded Wideman during his tenure as Boston Bruins GM. While the two clubs rarely make deals, he points out the Flames acquired Ladislav Smid from the Oilers a couple of years ago.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs made progress in the first season of their rebuild, they still lack a quality starting goaltender. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons notes the only reason for Jonathan Bernier’s return next season is the year remaining on his contract. He thinks the Leafs could accelerate their rebuild with an upgrade in the crease.
Finding a good goalie this summer won’t be easy. There are slim pickings via unrestricted free agency, with former Leaf James Reimer the best of the bunch. It’s unlikely they’ll bring him back.
Options are also few in the trade market. Last month, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello scouted Frederik Andersen of the Anaheim Ducks.
Andersen, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. If the Ducks are committed to John Gibson as their starter, Andersen could be shopped this summer. The Leafs could face competition for his services, as the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes could also come calling. Read more
After missing the playoffs last season for the first since since 2006-07, the Boston Bruins shook up their management and roster. Having missed the postseason in consecutive years (also for the first time since ’07), more changes are expected.
It was assumed coach Claude Julien could lose his job, but GM Don Sweeney stated otherwise during his season-ending press conference. That comes as a big disappointment for teams (such as the Ottawa Senators) in need of a new bench boss next season.
Boston pundits, meanwhile, are speculating over this summer’s possible roster moves. Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald wonders if Sweeney will try to convince aging captain Zdeno Chara to waive his no-movement clause. He also suggests blueliner Dennis Seidenberg could be shopped, though that could mean picking up part of his annual $4-million cap hit through 2017-18. Conroy also thinks UFA rearguard Kevan Miller might not be back and underachieving winger Jimmy Hayes might benefit from a change of scenery. Read more
Monday was locker clean-out day for the 14 NHL teams that failed to qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. It was also time for some general managers and players to field questions from the media regarding their off-season plans.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin attempted to squelch recent trade rumors about defenseman P.K. Subban. The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey reports Bergevin said he’s not shopping the 26-year-old superstar or other core players such as goaltender Carey Price and left winger Max Pacioretty.
Bergevin, however, didn’t state that Subban is untouchable. With the blueliner’s no-trade clause kicking in on July 1, his name could resurface in the trade rumor mill by late-June. TSN analysts Darren Dreger and Jamie McLennan suggest Bergevin is merely keeping his options open. While acknowledging he could listen to offers, both doubt that Subban’s going anywhere this summer.