The St. Louis Blues are very pleased with the performance of goaltender Ryan Miller, who was acquired from Buffalo days before the trade deadline. Miller is eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer and Blues management hope to open contract talks at season’s end.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the 33-year-old goalie could wait for free agency to see if the Anaheim Ducks are still interested in his services. McKenzie claims there was early-season speculation the Ducks unsuccessfully attempted to acquire Miller from the Sabres. Anaheim could be a good fit for Miller as his wife is a Hollywood actress. Read more
Entering this season, Ottawa was considered a lock to make the playoffs. Many experts were won over by the Senators overcoming significant obstacles (including injuries to several key players) to clinch a post-season berth and upset the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round last season. Some went so far as to project them as Cup champions this year.
Now, however, the Senators playoff dreams are fading: they are eight points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference with only 10 games left. Pundits and bloggers are not only trying to determine the reasons behind the Senators struggles, but how it will impact the futures of several of their stars.
opping the list is captain Jason Spezza, who becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. Spezza, who turns 31 in June, carries a no-trade clause in a contract paying him $4 million next season but worth an annual cap hit of $7 million. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren notes the Anaheim Ducks had interest in the Senators captain prior to the trade deadline. Warren wonders if Spezza is growing weary over being blamed for his team’s woes. Read more
Entering this week the Carolina Hurricanes are nine points out of post-season contention in the Eastern Conference with only 11 games remaining in their schedule. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Hurricanes made the playoffs only once (in 2009) and are poised to miss them for the fifth straight year.
The ongoing futility has sparked growing media speculation that GM Jim Rutherford could be replaced in the off-season by current vice president of hockey operations (and Hurricanes minority owner) Ron Francis. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman believes that’s up to Francis if he’s ready and if majority owner Peter Karmanos is comfortable with the transition.
A management shake-up isn’t the only change the Hurricanes could see this summer. Goaltender Cam Ward was a frequent subject of trade speculation this season. TSN’s Darren Dreger speculates a Ward trade is likely to occur this summer.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition last summer of goaltender Jonathan Bernier sparked speculation over James Reimer’s future in Toronto. The conjecture resurfaced earlier this week in the wake of a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had a tepid response to Reimer’s performance in that game, which prompted a surprised reaction from the netminder. Reimer’s agent, Ray Petkau, took to Twitter suggesting his client was unfairly blamed for the Leafs poor defensive play. Petkau followed up by saying his reaction wasn’t based on his client’s or Carlyle’s post-game comments.
The New York Rangers’ contract negotiations this season with Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan often overshadowed the club’s performance, particularly as the trade deadline approached. Girardi was ultimately re-signed to a six-year, $33-million deal, while Callahan was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning on deadline day for Martin St-Louis.
GM Glen Sather will try to avoid the same problem with restricted free agents Mats Zuccaraello, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. His cap space for next season could determine how long it takes to get the trio under contract.
The Rangers currently have more than $54 million invested in 13 players. The original salary cap projection of $71.1 million gives Sather a little more than $16 million of room to re-sign or replace his key free agents. Re-signing Zuccarello, Brassard and Kreider (with only the latter lacking arbitration rights) could cost a combined $10 million. Another $5 million could be necessary to retain notable unrestricted free agents Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle. Read more
Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler is expected to be a trade candidate this summer, but his recent knee injury could affect his value. Kesler sprained his right knee last Wednesday following a collision with Winnipeg Jets’ forward Jim Slater. Canucks coach John Tortorella expects Kesler will be sidelined “at least a couple of weeks.”
The Globe & Mail’s David Ebner suggests Kesler’s injury could be a big blow for the Canucks’ hopes of getting a significant return. Kesler has also undergone hip and shoulder surgeries, as well as missing 19 games last season with a broken right foot.
Kesler, one NHL’s best two-way centers, plays with a rugged style. That style, however, is exacting a physical toll. Ebner believes if teams weren’t willing to give up a lot for a healthy Kesler at the trade deadline, they’ll be less inclined to do so at the draft. By that point Kesler will also be two months shy of his 30th birthday.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman claims Kesler was believed willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Of those, only the Ducks and Penguins were in the bidding.
Entering the final four weeks of this season, Edmonton Oilers fans – having already resigned themselves to missing the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year – are left wondering if management can finally find a solution to end this playoff drought.
The Oilers were supposed to emerge from a lengthy rebuild this season and compete for a post-season berth. When Craig MacTavish was hired as GM last April, he promised bold moves, but he quickly discovered fulfilling such promises was easier said than done.
To his credit, MacTavish didn’t spend his first season in the GM’s seat making cautious moves. He traded Ales Hemsky, Nick Schultz, Ladislav Smid, Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov for draft picks and prospects and acquired: Andrew Ference, David Perron, Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, Matt Hendricks and Mark Fraser via trades and free agency.
The additions of Scrivens and Fasth should improve the Oilers’ goaltending, which has long been a weakness. Perron has proved to be a worthwhile addition to their scoring lines. Still, MacTavish faces a number of roster issues that must be addressed this summer.
Landing a top-two defenseman remains MacTavish’s biggest challenge. The Oilers have been linked to Nashville Predators’ captain Shea Weber, largely based upon the perception the cost-conscious Predators were unwilling to carry Weber’s expensive contract.
Buffalo Sabres rookie GM Tim Murray was very busy in the days leading up to the March 5 trade deadline. His biggest move was shipping goaltender Ryan Miller and winger Steve Ott to St. Louis for a return that included goalie Jaroslav Halak and right winger Chris Stewart.
Other moves included dealing left winger Matt Moulson and center Cody McCormick to the Minnesota Wild for center Torrey Mitchell and draft picks, plus flipping Halak to the Washington Capitals for netminder Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla. And Murray intends to continue pursuing deals in the off-season.
“I’m not done,” Murray told The Buffalo News’ John Vogl following the deadline. “There’s a lot of building to do.”