Rumor Roundup: Latest on the Rangers efforts to add a defenseman

Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers’ recent signing of Bradon Pirri to a one-year, $1.1-million deal gives them 15 forwards under contract for 2016-17, with 13 on one-way deals. That’s generating speculation one of them could be dealt before the start of the upcoming season.

Last month, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton shipped center Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick in 2018 to the Ottawa Senators for center Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second-round selection. With the Pirri signing, NBC Sports’ James O’Brien wonders if Gorton might be working on a bigger move. He cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman telling the NHL Network the Blueshirts GM “has his hand in a lot of things.”

Gorton still hasn’t found a suitable replacement for departed puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle. Since late-June, there’s been talk of the Rangers shipping left winger Rick Nash to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post observes the trade market hasn’t changed. He expects Nash and his $7.8-million annual salary-cap hit will still be with the Rangers when training camp opens in mid-September.

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Steen’s recovery ‘very positive,’ Blues hope he’s back for opening night

Jared Clinton
Alexander Steen (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alexander Steen’s off-season shoulder surgery has already put the Blues winger out of the World Cup, but St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong isn’t expecting the injury to cost Steen much playing time when the regular season rolls around.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, Armstrong said Steen, 32, “pushed very hard” to be ready for the international tournament, but he simply couldn’t get fit in time to take part in the World Cup. The nature of his injury and the recovery time was such that Steen’s first re-evaluation post-surgery will come Oct. 3, Armstrong said, which is only days before the start of the tournament.

But it’s not all bad news because Steen’s off-season work and rehabbing of his shoulder in an attempt to play at the World Cup could bode well for his ability to suit up when the Blues open their season against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 12.

“We’re still quite a ways from camp, but I would think he’ll jump right into the flow drills — that’s the idea now,” Armstrong told Rutherford. “But we’re not going to be penny-wise, pound-foolish. Whether he participates in battle drills in early September or mid-September, I’m not that concerned about. (But) he looks like he’s in great shape, he’s ahead of schedule and we’re hoping that he’s ready for Game 1. If not Game 1, very early in the season, but all things are very positive.” Read more

Alex Pietrangelo is up for the challenge of captaining the Blues

Jared Clinton
Alex Pietrangelo (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Alex Pietrangelo’s growth has been steady over his career with the St. Louis Blues as he’s gone from first-round draft pick to all-star calibre defenseman in six short seasons. And as of Thursday, Pietrangelo’s growth has officially taken the next — and arguably biggest — step as he was appointed the 21st captain in Blues history.

“I’m up for this challenge, and I think I’ve surrounded myself with a group of guys in this locker room that can support me, no matter what happens,” Pietrangelo said in a release. “Personally I want to keep growing as a player and lead by example on the ice. All I’ve known is the St. Louis Blues and the city of St. Louis. To be in this position to represent not only the team but the organization as a whole, it means a lot to me.”

Pietrangelo was the obvious frontrunner for the captaincy, but he wasn’t the only possibility. Teammates Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko and even relative-newcomer Paul Stastny all had somewhat legitimate claims to the ‘C’ that was vacated when David Backes left town for the Boston Bruins. However, each of Steen, Tarasenko and Stastny, as well as defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, will take on alternate captaincies this coming season with the top job going to Pietrangelo. Read more

Canada names Sidney Crosby World Cup captain; happy with J-Bo

Sidney Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

It was the most obvious choice, but there was also a pretty good reason for it. Team Canada named Sidney Crosby captain of the upcoming World Cup of Hockey squad, with Jonathan Toews and Shea Weber earning ‘A’s on their sweaters as alternate captains. So what went into the decision?

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Bouwmeester’s experience, handedness earns him nod as Keith’s World Cup replacement

Jared Clinton
Jay Bouwmeester (Michael Martin/NHL)

Team Canada’s chance at standing atop the podium at the World Cup has taken two significant blows over the past week.

First, it was Jamie Benn being ruled out of the tournament following off-season surgery to repair a core muscle injury. But Canada’s braintrust found a suitable replacement, Logan Couture, who can provide much of the same two-way ability and is still a solid offensive producer, though not necessarily at Benn’s level.

But the bigger blow came Wednesday, as Hockey Canada announced that Duncan Keith would be out of the World Cup to rehab a knee injury. And while there are any number of players who could have replaced Keith’s production, defensive skill and big-minute ability, Canada instead went with Jay Bouwmeester with his handedness and international experience as the deciding factors.

“Our management team and coaching staff felt it was critical to ensure continuity between the number of left- and right-handed defencemen on our roster,” Canada GM Doug Armstrong said. “And Jay’s experience with what it takes to be successful in these short tournaments can’t be undervalued.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings will go into season with current D-corps, look at trades later

Red Wings GM Ken Holland. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings pursuit of a top-three defenseman remains a hot topic among the club’s fans. In late-June, rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis Blues blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim Ducks rearguard Cam Fowler.

With the start of NHL training camps fast approaching, Wings GM Ken Holland still hasn’t found a suitable defenseman. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan responded to questions from Wings fans on this topic. He notes the lack of depth in the free-agent market and intense competition for the few quality players who hit the trade block makes it difficult for Holland to address this need.

Khan points out the asking price for “non-elite talent” such as Shattenkirk and Fowler could cost the Wings some combination of “a top prospect, first-round pick or a good, young roster player.” He said the Wings contacted the Blues about Shattenkirk and the Ducks about Fowler earlier this summer, and probaby spoke to other clubs, but were unwilling to meet their asking prices.

Earlier this summer, rumors claimed Blues GM Doug Armstrong sought rising young star Dylan Larkin in exchange for Shattenkirk. It’s understandable Holland would pass on that. Larkin has the potential to become the Wings’ franchise player and future captain.

Much of the Shattenkirk conjecture is tied to his eligilibity next summer for unrestricted free agency. However, Armstrong now appears willing to retain the 27-year-old for the upcoming season.

As for Fowler, the Ducks aren’t likely to move him until they’ve re-signed restricted free agent blueliner Hampus Lindholm. The Ducks have an excess of defensemen and a need for depth at left wing. Fowler would make an attractive trade chip, but they could consider moving someone else.

Should Fowler be shopped, the Wings won’t be the only club interested in his services. The Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils could also come calling.

Since a deal hasn’t been made by now, Khan feels the Wings will go into 2016-17 with their current D-corps and evaluate their situation, and the trade market, later in the season.

KANE TRADE TALK ON HOLD

Earlier this summer, there was talk the Buffalo Sabres could attempt to trade troubled left winger Evander Kane.

The 25-year-old is facing misdemeanour charges stemming from an incident in a Buffalo bar in late June. His first season with the Sabres was an injury-shortened disappointment, limited to 20 goals and 35 points in 65 games in 2015-16.

With the Buffalo Sabres losing Jimmy Vesey to free agency, Kane could be off the market. The Buffalo News’ Mark Harrington speculates Vesey’s signing with the New York Rangers spells the end of talk the Sabres could shop Kane to the Vancouver Canucks. Harrington notes the Canucks seemed to be the only team with interest in the winger.

Considering Kane’s legal issues and the fact he’s signed through 2017-18 at $5.25-million annually, Harrington believes the Sabres’ best bet is to hope Kane rebounds this coming season and improves his trade value.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Rumor Roundup: Kevin Shattenkirk trade rumors not going away

Lyle Richardson
Kevin Shattenkirk.(Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk remains a fixture in this summer’s NHL rumor mill. Most of the chatter still ties the 27-year-old to the New York Rangers, suggesting he could be swapped for left winger Rick Nash.

During a recent live chat with his readers, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was asked what forward the Blues would have to package with Shattenkirk to land the 32-year-old Nash. Citing Nash’s $7.8-million cap hit through 2017-18, Rutherford proposes including Patrik Berglund ($3.7 million) or Jori Lehtera ($4.7 million) with Shattenkirk’s $4.25-million cap hit to offset the difference.

NBC Sports’ Jason Brough believes the Blues would be making a big mistake trading Shattenkirk. He argues they could be undervaluing Shattenkirk’s worth to their D-corps.

Shattenkirk eligibility next summer for unrestricted free agency is the main issue driving the trade rumors. Brough acknowledges the Blues’ concern about fitting a raise for him under their cap space for 2017-18.

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Sobotka’s really coming back to the Blues this time, according to agent

Jared Clinton
Vladimir Sobotka (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

St. Louis Blues fans have learned not to hold their breath when it comes to the reported return of center Vladimir Sobotka, but it appears he’s really, truly returning in time for the upcoming season.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford, GM Doug Armstrong said Sobotka’s agent has confirmed the 29-year-old will be coming back to the NHL for the 2016-17 campaign.

But as has been the case with this saga throughout the past off-season, into the regular season and on through this summer, the confirmation from Sobotka’s agent via Armstrong only comes after a report that Sobotka was considering a return to the KHL’s Avangard Omsk following a coaching change the club made. Read more