Nearly a week following the Detroit Red Wings ouster from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, questions remain about their off-season plans. The future of coach Mike Babcock, whose contract will soon expire, dominates the conversation.
Speculation suggests he could move on to another NHL club. He’s been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks. Babcock promises he won’t drag his feet deciding on his future.
Once the coaching situation is resolved, Wings GM Ken Holland will turn his attention to his roster needs. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reports the Wings have over $56 million invested in 18 players for 2015-16. With the salary cap projected to rise from $69 million to perhaps $72 million, Holland has sufficient space to re-sign his key free agents and add veteran depth via trade or free agency. Read more
Could the Edmonton Oilers have interest in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf? Sportsnet’s Damien Cox claims former Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had interest in the 30-year-old Phaneuf prior to this season’s trade deadline. With Chiarelli now in Edmonton, Cox speculates the Oilers could be suitors for the Leafs captain.
The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples disagrees, noting the Oilers could use Phaneuf’s skills on their blueline but not his lengthy and expensive contract. The rearguard has six years remaining on his deal at an annual cap hit of $7 million.
With several players (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot) carrying expensive long-term deals, Staples notes adding Phaneuf would create a cap crunch for the Oilers in a few years when younger Oilers (Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl) will be seeking raises. Read more
As more NHL teams are eliminated from the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s growing speculation over possible off-season moves for those clubs.
Finding cap room to re-sign key free agents could force the Ottawa Senators to make some significant moves.The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren reports budding stars like Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Alex Chiasson and Calder Trophy nominee Mark Stone are restricted free agents. Zibanejad, Hoffman and Stone are in line for significant raises.
Warren also notes the Senators must decide what to do with veterans Chris Neil, David Legwand and Colin Greening, who have term remaining on their contracts. Given the rise of the Senators’ young forwards this season, the trio could be dealt or bought out to free up cap space to be invested in those youngsters. Read more
As the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs draws to a close, speculation is slowly emerging over the off-season plans of several eliminated teams.
The early playoff exit of the Pittsburgh Penguins by the New York Rangers suggests significant changes could be in order. Despite rumors earlier this month suggesting Evgeni Malkin or even Sidney Crosby might be dealt this summer, Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Penguins president and CEO Ron Morehouse said the duo would return next season. So will embattled GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston.
Morehouse cited an injury-riddled blueline corps among the factors behind his club’s first-round elimination. He said ownership intends to build around core players like Crosby and Malkin.
The Edmonton Oilers winning the 2015 draft lottery continues to resonate in the trade rumor mill. Their recent hiring of former Hockey Canada honcho Bob Nicholson as CEO and former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli as GM and president of hockey operations provides further speculation of major off-season moves for the Oilers.
Joe Haggerty of CSNNE noted these factors while suggesting there’s a good chance Oilers top-line wingers Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle could be available. He feels the Bruins should consider offering up power forward Milan Lucic for Hall or Eberle.
Haggerty believes Lucic’s style of play is something the Oilers need. He also notes the 26-year-old left winger’s friendship with Oilers captain Andrew Ference, which dates back to the Ference’s days with the Bruins. With Lucic eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, Haggerty feels Edmonton could be just the place where he could land a big payday. Read more
When the Pittsburgh Penguins marched to two consecutive Stanley Cup finals (winning the Cup in 2009), future championship success seemed assured. This season, however, the Penguins barely qualified for the playoffs, prompting suggestions that their once-promising championship window is closing.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Josh Yohe believes this spring could be the final go-around for the current Penguins roster, suggesting changes could be coming in the off-season. While rumors recently made the rounds claiming Evgeni Malkin or possibly captain Sidney Crosby could be shopped, Yohe reports the club’s organization has no intention of parting with neither them nor goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, unless they ask to be moved.
As for others on the current lineup who were part of the Penguins’ last Cup run, Yohe notes questions concerning how the health of top defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) could affect their playing careers. He also suggests the declining performances of left winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Rob Scuderi could tempt Penguins management to unload their contracts, while aging right winger Craig Adams probably won’t be re-signed this summer. Read more
Heading into the off-season, Dallas Stars management face a difficult decision regarding the state of their goaltending. Depth between the pipes was a serious issue, as the Stars failed to find a suitable backup for struggling starter Kari Lehtonen. As a result, they finished the season 27th in goals against.
In a recent chat with Stars fans, the Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News speculated over Lehtonen’s future. While acknowledging the 31-year-old is a “35-win, .917 goalie” who would be difficult to part with, Heika is wavering on whether Lehtonen can regain his form with the Stars.
Heika’s concern is understandable. While Lehtonen won 34 games for the Stars, his goals-against average (2.94) and save percentage (.903) was among the worst for NHL starting goalies. It didn’t help that Lehtonen’s backups (Jhonas Enroth, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas) fared little better, though Enroth improved in his final games of the season.
Perhaps Lehtonen would benefit from a fresh start, but moving him won’t be easy. In addition to his woeful stats, he’s got three years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. He also has a no-trade clause, though that becomes a limited one starting in 2015-16. Heika wonders if the Detroit Red Wings would be interested in a swap of Jimmy Howard or if Carolina would want to trade Cam Ward straight up for Lehtonen. Read more
Having missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth straight season, the Carolina Hurricanes could face significant off-season changes. Ron Francis stood pat in his first summer as Hurricanes GM last year, but now he could make significant moves.
The process began leading up to the trade deadline, when Francis dealt away pending free agents Andrej Sekera, Jiri Tlusty and Tim Gleason. Other players could follow them out the door later this summer.
Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer believes Francis has some “meaty decisions” to make. He must determine if captain Eric Staal, who is a year away from unrestricted free agency, is part of the Hurricanes’ long-term plans.
The 30-year-old Staal tells Alexander he loves living and playing in North Carolina. While he wants to help the Hurricanes return to the playoffs and compete for another Stanley Cup title, Staal admits it’s up to management.