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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Lightning coach Cooper says sky’s the limit for Drouin after dramatic campaign

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Drouin (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jonathan Drouin didn’t win any end-of-season awards, didn’t lead the Tampa Bay Lightning in scoring and he didn’t single handedly carry the club to the Stanley Cup. That said, it’d be hard to think of a player who had a more interesting or up-and-down season than the 21-year-old winger.

Drouin’s season took a turn early in the campaign when injury struck, which led to time on the shelf and eventually a demotion to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. Even before he was sent down to the AHL, though, Drouin had requested the Lightning trade him. He felt he was being under-utilized in Tampa Bay — he has averaged no more than 14:26 despite being a steady producer — and wanted out. He eventually walked away from the Crunch while waiting to be dealt.

The trade would never come to pass, though, and by the post-season Drouin was back with the Lightning, the two sides mended their relationship and he became an important part of Tampa Bay’s post-season run. And given how Drouin performed after such a dramatic campaign, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said there’s no telling what the ceiling is for the youngster.

“Jonathan Drouin always had the talent, he just had to find his way through the mental aspect of the game. When he figured that, the sky became the limit for this kid,” Cooper told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I think if this was a situation where we were giving up on Jonathan Drouin then Steve probably would have traded him, but there is too much in that player.” Read more

Lightning take low-risk, high-reward chance by inking Wisniewski to tryout deal

Jared Clinton
James Wisniewski (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

James Wisniewski played one shift and threw one hit as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. The result was a torn ACL, 81 games on the sideline and a buyout that ended Wisniewski’s tenure as a Hurricane. That doesn’t appear it will be the end of his career, though, as Wisniewski has potentially found himself a landing spot for the upcoming season in Tampa Bay.

According to the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, Wisniewski, 32, has signed a professional tryout deal with the Lightning and the club will be taking a look at the veteran blueliner when camp rolls around. There’s no guarantee that Wisniewski will latch on with the Lightning come the regular season, but that a team with an already stellar blueline is taking a chance on him is a promising sign after a season-ending injury.

If Wisniewski’s game hasn’t taken a step back with the time off he would be a helpful addition to the second or third defensive pairing in Tampa Bay, and he could come cheap, which is the biggest thing for a Lightning team that is right up against the salary cap. Read more

The five players with the biggest buyout cap hits in 2016-17

Brad Stuart (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Antoine Vermette has officially become an unrestricted free agent following an entirely unexpected buyout that saw the 34-year-old sent packing by the Arizona Coyotes.

Vermette told RDS that he understands the reasoning behind the move from the Coyotes’ perspective. With young talent on the rise in Arizona, the management needed to make a decision that would allow room for the Dylan Stromes and Christian Dvoraks of the organization to have their chance at making the club out of training camp.

“Given the change in leadership, the youth movement started last year and that the best hopes of the organization are centers, I could see that it was only a matter of time,” Vermette told RDS.

Still, it caught him off guard. Vermette said he didn’t expect to be sent packing so soon or by way of a buyout, but the Coyotes assured him it had “no connection with (his) performance on the ice,” Vermette told RDS.

Even when Vermette signs elsewhere, he will still count against the Coyotes’ salary cap for $1.25 million. It seems like a lot of money to pay a player to go away — and looks worse when you add Mike Ribeiro’s $1.444 million buyout cap hit, which means Arizona will pay nearly $2.7 million to players on other teams — but Vermette’s buyout cap hit isn’t even among the top five in the league. More surprisingly, the combined buyout cap hits of Vermette and Ribeiro aren’t even the worst pair of buyouts in the league.

Here are the five biggest buyout cap hits for the upcoming season: Read more

So why hasn’t your team done anything this off-season?

Flyers GM Ron Hextall. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

August marks hockey’s “silly season.” Very little happens. And idle hands are the devils’ playthings, right? Countless blog commenters and Twitter trolls dust off the “Slow news day?” insult whenever we find something to talk about. During the month before NHL training camps begin, fan bases twiddle their thumbs. And think. And overthink. And worry.

“Why hasn’t my team DONE anything this off-season?”

You know who you are. You, from that city with the sandwich everyone needs to try. Your team has been uncomfortably quiet this off-season, with nary a big trade or free agent splash. Should you panic over your team’s 2016-17 outlook? Or will you end up patting your favorite GM on the back for staying the course?

Here’s a rundown of the summer’s most tranquil teams – and whether their fan bases should worry.

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Ben Bishop expects to be ready for World Cup after post-season injury

Jared Clinton
Ben Bishop (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The image of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop writhing in pain on the ice and clutching at his left leg before being stretchered off the ice was one of the worst of the post-season.

The injury would knock Bishop out of the Eastern Conference final just 12:25 into the series’ opening contest, and the 29-year-old netminder remained on the sideline for the remainder of the round, despite the fact he seemed to toy with the possibility of returning to the lineup.

With the World Cup of Hockey approaching, though, Bishop says he’s ready to finally get back on the ice and get back to work in time for the new campaign.

“The leg is feeling better and it’s getting stronger every day,” Bishop told ESPN’s Joe McDonald. “I’m getting ready to start skating soon…and get back on the ice and doing that side of things. We have about a month until we go, so I’ll start off slow and pick it up in the next month and be ready for training camp for the World Cup.” Read more

Rumour Roundup: Red Wings and Lightning may need to make trades to become cap compliant

Ben Bishop and Ryan Callahan

The Detroit Red Wings avoided arbitration this week with defenseman Danny DeKeyser and goaltender Petr Mrazek. DeKeyser, 26, inked a five-year, $30-million contract, while the 24-year-old Mrazek agreed to a two-year, $8-million deal.

These deals, however, push the Wings above the $73 million salary-cap ceiling by over $4.2 million. MLive.com’s Brendan Savage reports GM Ken Holland doesn’t expect forwards Johan Franzen ($3.9 million) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) to play this season because of ongoing concussion symptoms. The two are expected to be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Joining them could be forward Teemu Pulkkinen ($812,500), who is recovering from recent shouder surgery. With their combined salaries on LTIR, the Wings should be cap compliant when the season begins.

Holland could also be active in the trade market leading up to the season opener in October. NBC Sports’ Jason Brough reports the Wings have a surplus of forwards, noting Holland’s recent wish to acquire a top-three defenseman.

Earlier in July, trade rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler. Wings forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar surfaced as possible trade candidates, though Holland is apparently reluctant to part with either.

To land Shattenkirk or Fowler, however, could require a good young winger as part of the return. If Holland won’t give up Nyquist or Tatar, he’ll have to consider more affordable, less-talented trade options. He could also wait for a better deal to emerge over the course of the season.

The Wings aren’t the only club that could face the challenge of getting under the salary cap before October. After re-signing center Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year deal worth over $1.9 million per season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have $6.5 million in cap space. With right winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Nikita Nestorov still to re-sign, getting the pair under contract could exceed the $73-million ceiling.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman remains confident he’ll get rising star Kucherov under contract this summer. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times suggests Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg (six years, $36 million) as a comparable.

Yzerman said he doesn’t have to make a salary-dumping deal before re-signing Kucherov and Nesterov, but acknowledged his need to become cap compliant before the season begins. Smith speculates center Valtteri Filppula, who’s under contract for two more years at an annual cap hit of $5 million, as a trade candidate.

Recent speculation also suggested goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.9 million with a full no-movement clause), right winger Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million, no-movement) or defenseman Braydon Coburn ($3.7 million, full no-trade clause) as trade options. Filppula, however, has a modified no-trade clause, making him easier to shop.

TAVARES INTENDS TO STAY WITH ISLANDERS

Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning put an end to speculation the Markham, Ont., native would return home and join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some Leafs followers, however, are now looking ahead to the summer of 2018, when Mississauga-born John Tavares of the New York Islanders is eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Appearing Tuesday on Sportsnet 590, Tavares chuckled when asked about the possibility of playing for the Leafs. While acknowledging his connection to Toronto, the 25-year-old Islanders captain said not to count on his joining the Maple Leafs. He maintained his commitment to remain with the Isles.

Of course, anything can happen over the next two years. The Islanders efforts to build into a Stanley Cup contender could stall. Tavares could become disenchanted with the club’s direction. While the club’s new ownership is willing to spend to the cap ceiling, contract talks with Tavares could prove unexpectedly difficult.

However, it’s worth remembering there was talk of Tavares bolting the Isles prior to signing his current contract in 2011. At that time, the Isles were still among the league’s worst clubs, but he remained committed to improving the franchise. Should they continue their recent improvement, there’s little reason to believe he’ll depart the Islanders for the Leafs in 2018.

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.).

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