With the start of NHL training camp only three weeks away, several notable unrestricted free agents remain available.
Topping the list is goaltender Martin Brodeur. Earlier this month THN associate editor Matt Larkin suggested the Winnipeg Jets could make the most of Brodeur’s services. Larkin expects the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer could await an injury to open up a spot with an NHL club.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff seems content with his team’s tandem of Ondrej Pavelec and the inexperienced Michael Hutchinson. If the pair struggles in pre-season, however, the Jets could contact Brodeur. But they might not be the right fit for him, as it’s believed he prefers signing with a playoff contender.
Earlier this month the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe proposed left winger Dustin Penner as a potential replacement for the departed Devin Setoguchi, who recently signed with the Calgary Flames. Wiebe also reported the Jets offered gritty Jordin Tootoo a one-year, two-way deal, but the winger rejected the deal.
Entering the final full week of August, a number of restricted free agents remain unsigned. With NHL training camps opening on Sept. 18 sufficient time remains to get those players under contract, but so far there’s little indication they’re any closer to new deals.
The most notable is Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen. The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance last season, leading the Jackets in goals (33) and points (63). But his contract talks have become contentious. Read more
The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper suggests the Nashville Predators should attempt to sign Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen to an offer sheet. He considers it a low-risk move, believing the young center would be a more permanent solution to their issues at the position than Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro.
Contract talks between Johansen and the Blue Jackets remain stalled. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports there’s no sign of progress between the two camps. GM Jarmo Kekalainen insists there’s plenty of time to work out a deal before training camp opens next month.
Portzline notes Johansen is coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights, giving the young center little leverage except the threat of staging a contract holdout. Earlier this summer the two sides seemed to reach an agreement on term (two years), but there’s a significant gap in salary. Portzline reports the Jackets are believed to be offering between $3.5 million and $4 million annually, while the Johansen camp seeks upward of $7 million per season. Read more
Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman’s focus is on how to become cap compliant before the start of this season. With the Blackhawks sitting $2.2 million above the $69 million salary cap, there’s ongoing speculation over which players (Patrick Sharp? Johnny Oduya? Nick Leddy?) Bowman could move to get under the cap ceiling.
Following this season, however, Bowman will face more salary cap issues. His re-signings of franchise players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to matching eight-year, $84-million contracts leave the Blackhawks with over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16.
Assuming the salary cap rises to $75 million next summer, there won’t be much room to retain most of their other key free agents. Oduya, Brad Richards, Michal Rozsival and Peter Regin are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, while Leddy, Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and David Rundblad become restricted free agents. Read more
The state of the Philadelphia Flyers defense core remains a troubling issue. They’ve lacked a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury nearly three years ago. They attempted to address that issue in July of 2012 by signing Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber to an expensive offer sheet, but the Predators swiftly matched it.
Former GM Paul Holmgren attempted to bolster the overall blueline depth, acquiring Luke Schenn, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald via trade and free agency. None of them, however, can fill Pronger’s skates.
The Flyers underwent a front-office shakeup this spring when Ron Hextall took over as GM. Despite Hextall’s stated preference for building from within, rumor-mongers believe the Flyers still seek a stud defenseman, linking them to Winnipeg Jets blueliner Zach Bogosian. Read more
The Detroit Red Wings announced Thursday they re-signed GM Ken Holland to a new four-year contract. With his future now settled, Holland can turn his focus toward his coach and two key roster players.
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports Holland remains hopeful of re-signing Mike Babcock, who’s entering the final season of his contract. Holland told St. James he intends to meet with Babcock for face-to-face talks in September, before the start of training camp.
Holland is also working on a new contract for restricted free agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who told St. James he’s not worried about still being unsigned a month before training camp. He said it would nice if they could work out a long-term deal. Read more
The Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan recently observed the Senators could enter training camp with eight NHL defensemen, seven of whom are under one-way contracts. If the Senators decide to make a deal, Brennan feels they could draw upon their blueline depth for trade bait.
Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch could become a trade candidate. Brennan noted coach Paul MacLean had some issues with Wiercioch’s game last season. He also cited a league executive praising the 23-year-old’s passing skills, which could make the young blueliner an attractive trade chip.
Another option could be veteran Marc Methot. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren reports contract talks between Methot and the Senators are at a stalemate. Warren claims Methot, who’s in the final season of a four-year, $12-million contract, has been compared to Washington’s Brooks Orpik (five years, $27.5 million) and Tampa Bay’s Matt Carle (six years, $33 million). Read more
Earlier this summer there was speculation the Washington Capitals would trade defenseman Mike Green. They enter this season with only a little more than $1 million in salary cap space and have been linked to abrasive checking-line forwards Paul Bissonnette and Dan Carcillo. They have little room to add either player and address other needs if required during the season. Shedding Green’s $6.1-million cap hit would address that issue.
This summer’s additions of blueliners Matt Niskanen ($5.75-million cap hit) and Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) raise questions about Green’s role in the Capitals defense corps. Assuming Niskanen and Orpik form one pairing while John Carlson and Karl Alzner make up another, Green could become an expensive third-pairing rearguard.
ESPN.com columnist Katie Strang, responding to a reader’s question regarding Green’s trade status, expressed surprise he hadn’t been dealt yet. She speculates his value might not be particularly high at the moment. Colleague Craig Custance also addressed Green’s status during a recent live chat, suggesting there’s no rush for the Capitals to move the 28-year-old defenseman.
Custance believes the Detroit Red Wings are a natural fit for Green and notes they have the depth in young talent to interest the Capitals. The Wings seek a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. They were linked to Green earlier this summer in the rumor mill, though that chatter has since died down.