The Toronto Maple Leafs winning the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery generated considerable excitement among their long-suffering fans. It’s also sparked speculation over what the Leafs might do with that pick.
It’s assumed the Leafs will retain it and select American center Auston Matthews first overall at next month’s draft. TSN’s Frank Seravalli doesn’t expect the Leafs will shop the pick in hopes of landing a return than can accelerate their rebuilding process. He does anticipate some teams might at least inquire into the possibility.
Throughout this season, some in the media floated the notion of the Arizona Coyotes pursuing the top pick if they didn’t win the draft lottery in order to select local boy Mattews. Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc last month dismissed talk of his club offering up top defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in an effort to land that pick.
It’s been over a week since the New York Rangers were eliminated from the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. That hasn’t dampened the speculation over their off-season roster plans.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News believes the Rangers should find a replacement for pending UFA defenseman Keith Yandle via the trade market. He suggests they offer up left winger Rick Nash to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Nash is signed through 2017-18 at an annual cap hit of $7.8 million. Shattenkirk, meanwhile, has only only one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.25 million. He’ll be eligible next summer for UFA status and could be too expensive to re-sign. This suggested trade would reunite Nash with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who Leonard thinks might get a contract extension. Shattenkirk, meanwhile, could play top-two minutes and thus push Dan Girardi into a secondary role.
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