Rumor Roundup: All eyes on Steven Stamkos as free agency approaches

Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the 2016 NHL draft now history, here’s a look at some notable speculation that emerged from the weekend.

All eyes are firmly upon the Tampa Bay Lightning and their contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent center Steven Stamkos. Since Friday evening, he and his fellow UFAs can speak to rival clubs.

It’s believed Lightning GM Steve Yzerman pitched an eight-year offer to Stamkos worth $8.5 million annually. If Stamkos feels he can do better on the open market, he won’t lack for suitors.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Yzerman said he’ll keep all options open regarding Stamkos. He didn’t rule out the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

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Three storylines left unresolved after Night 1 of the 2016 draft

Ben Bishop (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Night 1 of the 2016 NHL draft gave us a bit of everything, a blend of expectant nods and wide-eyed gasps.

We saw the predictable occur. Auston Matthews went first overall, Patrik Laine second. The Calgary Flames acquired a goaltender in Brian Elliott. The Chicago Blackhawks squeezed another forward out because of their salary-cap crunch in Andrew Shaw, dealt to the Montreal Canadiens. The Detroit Red Wings shipped Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit to the one team we knew would take it: the Arizona Coyotes, striving for the salary floor.

We saw plenty of shocking moments, too. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the draft’s swing pick, usurped Jesse Puljujarvi, seemingly the consensus No. 3 overall selection. The Wings went off the board on Dennis Cholowski at No. 21 overall. We had him 37th in our 2016 Draft Preview, for what it’s worth.

But plenty of hyped storylines remain unresolved entering Day 2 of the draft. Let’s review a few.

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Flames get Brian Elliott in trade with Blues and solidify their goaltending situation

Ken Campbell
Brian Elliott (Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – There was a definitive St. Louis flavor to the Calgary Flames first round in the draft. Not only did they use the sixth overall pick to take Matthew Tkachuk, a product of the St. Louis minor hockey system and son of former Blues star Keith, they got the No. 1 goalie they’ve coveted when they traded for Blues goalie Brian Elliott in exchange for the 35th overall pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2018.

The Flames came to Buffalo with a single-minded purpose and that was to get an NHL-caliber goaltender for next season. They had permission to talk to Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and that created a fair bit of traction. But in the end, the Flames were unable to come to terms on a contract extension and turned to Elliott, a player who has one year left on his contract with a $2.5 million cap hit.

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Rumor Roundup: Latest on Subban, Lucic, Shattenkirk, Fowler and more

P.K. Subban. (Getty Images)

Entering the 2016 NHL draft, the trade speculation is ramping up on several notable NHL stars.

Topping the list is Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. The trade chatter reached a fever pitch on Thursday when Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning admitted he contacted Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to inquire about Subban. Meanwhile, Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli claimed he looked into acquiring the Habs blueliner but the asking price was too high.

The Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey reports Bergevin insists he’s not shopping Subban but he can’t prevent rival clubs from calling about the defenseman.

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Rumor Roundup: Latest on Campbell, Stamkos, Malkin, Fleury, Shattenkirk and more

Brian Campbell (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

As the 2016 NHL draft draws near, trade activity is picking up. On Monday, the Anaheim Ducks shipped goaltender Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two draft picks, the New York Rangers dealt defenseman Keith Yandle‘s rights to the Florida Panthers, while the Nashville Predators dealt the rights of college prospect Jimmy Vesey to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Panthers acquisition of Yandle’s rights makes sense if Brian Campbell departs via free agency on July 1. The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports Panthers GM Tom Rowe expects Campbell, 37, to test the market.

It also douses recent trade speculation involving Panthers blueliner Dmitry Kulikov. The Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov claims the Panthers frequently get inquiries about the 24-year-old blueliner but he’s not on the trade block.

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Blues GM Armstrong expecting captain Backes to hit free agent market

Jared Clinton
David Backes (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues may have a new captain come the 2016-17 season.

Speaking with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford Saturday, Blues GM Doug Armstrong said that captain David Backes, as well as St. Louis’ four other unrestricted free agents, is expected to hit the open market come July 1. The Blues are trying to get a contract in place for Backes, but Armstrong wants to find a fit for both sides.

“We’d like to have David back and hopefully as we push in we can get it done,” Armstrong told Rutherford. “But it has to work for both sides not just one…We’re willing to invest a little bit of ‘thank you’ money but it has to make sense.” Read more

Blues hire Mike Yeo as associate coach, will take over from Ken Hitchcock in 2017-18

Jared Clinton
Mike Yeo (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Yeo is set to become the next bench boss of the St. Louis Blues. The only catch is he’ll have to spend a season learning under current Blues coach Ken Hitchcock before taking over.

The Blues announced Monday that Yeo, the former Wild coach, has joined the team as an associate and Rick Wilson, who was Yeo’s assistant in Minnesota, will be the new assistant coaches in St. Louis. The Blues were in need of two new assistants after Brad Shaw and Kirk Muller both turned down one-year deals to remain in St. Louis to pursue other opportunities, and the hiring of Yeo and Wilson brings two members of the division-rival Wild’s former staff over to St. Louis.

Most interesting about the hire, though, is that the Blues wasted no time making clear that Yeo will in fact be the next-in-line for the coaching gig in St. Louis.

Instead of taking a wait and see approach, the Blues flat out announced Yeo will be taking over Hitchcock’s job at the culmination of the 2016-17 campaign, which the St. Louis coach said will be his final season coaching in the league before he retires. It’s not as if Yeo is getting a one-year tryout, either. Blues GM Doug Armstrong announced Yeo has signed a four-year deal, signing on to stick with St. Louis until the 2019-20 season. Read more

Blues set to keep goaltenders Elliott and Allen, watch them ‘compete and fight’

Jared Clinton
Jake Allen and Brian Elliott (Jeff Curry/NHLI via Getty Images)

In past seasons, one of the St. Louis Blues biggest hurdles was finding a goaltender — or goaltenders — who could steal some games. Since coach Ken Hitchcock came to St. Louis in 2011, the Blues have seen eight different goaltenders take the net, including Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller and a brief turn by legend Martin Brodeur.

But in the same season Hitchcock came aboard, Brian Elliott was entering his time with the Blues and Jake Allen saw his first call up to the big league. Over the past five seasons, both have fought their way up the depth chart and this past season the tandem paced the Blues to the second-best 5-on-5 goals against in the NHL and the fourth-best overall goals against. And at 5-on-5, both Elliott and Allen had save percentages in the top 25 of the 49 goaltenders to play at least 1,000 minutes. Elliott’s .938 mark was even good enough to put him fourth in the league.

After such an impressive season, there was the belief one goaltender could take over as the full-time Blues starter next season, but it appears St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong is confident in the way his netminding duo has operated and sees it as a real possibility that the Blues could continue with their 1A-1B system next season.

“I thought when I looked at it at the end of the season, we were very fortunate to have two goaltenders that were there to grab the ball when it hit the floor,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tom Timmermann. “We had those significant injuries to both guys, and both guys took the challenge and then ran with it and then didn’t let the other guy back in the net until an injury.” Read more