The Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent hiring of former Detroit Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock continues to raise questions over the impact his arrival will have upon their off-season plans. Of particular interest is how it could affect the future of captain Dion Phaneuf, who was pursued by the Red Wings earlier this season.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports the Wings could revisit their interest in the 30-year-old Phaneuf this summer, but the Leafs’ coaching change could take the blueliner off the market. Khan notes that Babcock, during his introductory press conference last week with the Toronto media, claimed to be a fan of Phaneuf and praised his work ethic. Read more
While superstar Steven Stamkos tries to help the Tampa Bay Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, speculation is brewing over his long-term future with the club. Stamkos’ eligibility next summer for unrestricted free agency and the Lightning’s efforts to re-sign him could dominate NHL headlines this summer.
The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports of chatter wondering if the high cost of re-signing Stamkos might prompt Lightning management to trade their 25-year-old captain. Shinzawa believes Stamkos could seek a deal comparable to the identical eight-year, $84- million contracts signed last summer by Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He also speculates uncertainty over the salary cap in the future and the Lightning’s depth in young talent could factor in determining if they can afford to keep their franchise player. Read more
Lost amid news of the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Mike Babcock were reports of the Boston Bruins hiring a new GM. Over a month after firing Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins promoted assistant GM Don Sweeney.
The Boston media wasted little time dreaming up “to-do” lists for Sweeney. Along with re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton and deciding if Claude Julien stays or goes as head coach, The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa and the Boston Herald’s Stephen Harris agreed a decision must be reached over left winger Milan Lucic’s future with the Bruins. Read more
Things certainly seem to be looking up for the Edmonton Oilers. After naming Bob Nicholson as their CEO, hiring Peter Chiarelli as GM and Todd McLellan as head coach plus winning the 2015 Draft lottery, there’s a sense this long-moribund team has finally turned the corner. While seemingly “winning” the off-season, the Oilers need to turn that into on-ice success.
Despite their plethora of promising youth, soon to be augmented by wunderkind Connor McDavid, significant roster issues remain to be addressed. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson reports bolstering their porous defense is their main priority. Read more
A season in which the Washington Capitals returned to the playoffs after hiring a new coach and improving their defense still resulted in the club failing to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1998. Heading into the off-season, the Capitals’ roster will have a different look for 2015-16.
GM Brian MacLellan has over $19.4 million in salary-cap space with several key free agents to re-sign. Topping the list is goaltender Braden Holtby, whose performance throughout this season ranks the 25-year-old among the NHL’s top netminders. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance cites Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov as comparables, suggesting Holtby’s new contract could be a long-term deal in the range of $6 million per season. Read more
Following the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination from the 2015 playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the overwhelming media consensus indicates the Habs must improve their offense. It’s easy to understand why. The Canadiens were 20th in goals-for during the regular season, making them the lowest-scoring team to reach the playoffs. After two playoff rounds, the Habs were 12th out of sixteen teams in scoring and 15th in power-play percentage.
SI.com’ s Allan Muir was among those who believe the Canadiens must bolster their scoring depth. Muir suggests the Habs need a first-line center and “at least” two top-six scoring wingers. The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd also thinks the Canadiens need a scoring center and winger, while colleague Dave Stubbs feels GM Marc Bergevin will have to “shed a few assets” to find a scorer. Read more
Though the Calgary Flames were recently eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, they can move into the off-season feeling a sense of accomplishment. In the second season of their rebuild, the Flames confounded the experts by not only clinching a playoff berth but also upsetting the veteran-laden Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.
With a roster comprised of rising young talent (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, T.J. Brodie, Sam Bennett) and skilled veterans (Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman), Flames GM Brad Treliving has a solid base upon which to continue the rebuild. With over $25 million in salary-cap space, Treliving also has the cash to add some experienced outside talent. Read more
For the third straight year, the Minnesota Wild were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite rallying in mid-season to reach the playoffs and upsetting the St. Louis Blues in the opening round, the Wild once again had no answer for the powerful Blackhawks.
Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher enters this off-season trying to find ways to improve his club and narrow the talent gap with the Blackhawks. It didn’t take long for local pundits to speculate over his summer “to-do” list.
Star-Tribune.com’s Michael Russo and TwinCities.com’s Chad Graff agree re-signing goaltender Devan Dubnyk should top Fletcher’s list. Acquired in a mid-season trade with Arizona, the 29-year-old Dubnyk’s outstanding play turned the Wild into one of the NHL’s hottest teams during the second half. While Dubnyk struggled at times in the playoffs, the Wild are expected to re-sign the Vezina Trophy finalist. Read more