On the eve of the 2015 NHL free agent period, here’s a look at the latest speculation involving the notable UFAs.
Mike Green: Considered by most observers the best player available in this summer’s UFA market, the 29-year-old Green should attract interest from several clubs. Among the suitors could be the Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika included Green on his list of possible free-agent targets for the Stars.
Alexander Semin: He enters the UFA market following a contract buyout by the Carolina Hurricanes. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press wonders if the Detroit Red Wings could have interest in the 31-year-old winger. Semin’s a right-handed shot, a commodity the Wings currently don’t have enough of on their roster. Read more
NHL unrestricted free agency begins on July 1, but the thin market for available talent has teams considering better options via the trade market.
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa is garnering considerable interest. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports 10 teams are looking at the 34-year-old blueliner who has a year left on his contract at a cap hit of $4.6 million. Friedman also claims Bieksa was nearly dealt to the San Jose Sharks, but after a week of talks the deal fell through before the draft.
The Canucks have just over $6.1 million in cap space for 2015-16 and must shed salary for other potential moves. Given the interest in Bieksa, the Canucks could ship him out before the free agent market opens. Failing that, they could gauge interest from clubs that failed to land the few decent UFA defensemen currently available. Read more
Among the interesting rumors to emerge prior to the start of the 2015 NHL Draft weekend was the suggestion St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could be available. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson noted the high payroll being taken up by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester was behind the Shattenkirk speculation.
At the time, Matheson was wondering if the Blues could trade the 26-year-old Shattenkirk to the Edmonton Oilers for the 16th overall pick. That deal, of course, didn’t materialize, as the Oilers shipped that pick to the New York Islanders as part of a deal for young blueliner Griffin Reinhart. Still, Matheson’s conjecture could raise questions over Shattenkirk’s future with the Blues. Read more
The 2015 NHL draft saw its share of trade activity involving established NHL players. Among the notables to change teams were Dougie Hamilton (Boston to Calgary), Milan Lucic (Boston to Los Angeles), Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado to Buffalo) and Carl Hagelin (Rangers to Anaheim). Even the rights of all-but-retired defensemen Flyers Chris Pronger was moved as part of a swap that also saw Nicklas Grossman shipped from Philadelphia to Arizona for Sam Gagner.
Despite this unusually high volume of players traded, several others who’ve been frequent fixtures in the rumor mill remain on the market.
On Friday, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported multiple source claiming the Pens were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner was on the Pens’ list of trade targets. Read more
Considering the increased trade speculation entering the 2015 draft, it’s only fitting Boston Bruins left winger Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton should resurface in the rumor mill. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Bruins are listening to offers for Lucic. The asking price is apparently “big,” though Garrioch didn’t mention specifics.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty notes there was talk of the Bruins shipping the 27-year-old Lucic to the New York Rangers for defenseman (and Boston native) Keith Yandle. Another rumor linked the power forward to the Vancouver Canucks for a defenseman. Haggerty claims Canucks blueliner Alex Edler was mentioned in previous Bruins trade rumors. He also wonders if the Bruins could target Kevin Bieksa or Dan Hamhuis.
The increase in the NHL salary cap ceiling from $69 million to $71.4 million does little to help the Chicago Blackhawks escape from salary cap hell for 2015-16. They have over $64 million invested in cap payroll, leaving only $7.3 million to invest in new contracts. With restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Markus Kruger to re-sign plus several UFAs to re-sign or replace, the Blackhawks must shed salary.
It’s widely assumed left wingers Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million annually for two more seasons) and Bryan Bickell ($4-million annually, two years) are the likely trade candidates. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports that, as of Monday evening, the Hawks weren’t far along in trade talks about any player.
The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.
Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”
Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.
It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.
KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
During the summer of 2014, there was considerable trade speculation regarding San Jose Sharks’ veteran stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks were still reeling from their opening-round playoff elimination by the Los Angeles Kings. General manager Doug Wilson promised significant changes, stoking the rumors Thornton or Marleau would be dealt.
The trade chatter about the duo fizzled out when both made it clear in media interviews they weren’t waiving their respective no-movement clauses. With the Sharks going on to miss the playoffs this season, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz speculates over the possibility Thornton or Marleau will be part of a blockbuster move this summer.