Rumor Roundup: Expansion draft rules could force teams to move goalies

Marc-Andre Fleury (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL is expected to announce its decision on a possible expansion to Las Vegas by June 22. More details recently emerged regarding the guidelines for an expansion draft that could affect this summer’s trade market .

It was originally believed players with no-movement clause carrying partial no-trade clauses (such as Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury) wouldn’t be protected from the draft. However, that only applies to players whose contracts expire at the end of 2016-17. That also includes those with full no-movement clauses. Those with contracts that run through 2017-18 must be protected.

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Rumor Roundup: The latest on several of this summer’s top unrestricted free agents

Steven Stamkos (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

With the July 1 start of the 2016 NHL unrestricted free agency period less than a month away, speculation is ramping up over possible destinations for several of this summer’s top free-agent stars.

Heading the list, of course, is Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. The solid performance of the Lightning in the 2016 playoffs without their 26-year-old captain — sidelined for all but one post-season game recovering from blood-clot surgery — raises questions over his future with the Bolts.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports both sides remain interested in getting a deal done before July 1. He claims Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told Stamkos during their end-of-season interview that re-signing him remains the club’s priority.

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Rumor Roundup: Many changes in store for Lightning

Lyle Richardson
Alex Killorn (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

After falling short in their quest to return to the Stanley Cup final, changes could be coming for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With limited salary-cap space and several key players to re-sign both this summer and next, GM Steve Yzerman faces some difficult decisions.

Assuming a $74-million salary-cap ceiling for 2016-17, Yzerman has over $21 million in cap space to work with. Captain Steven Stamkos is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, while forwards Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn are restricted free agents.

Yzerman also has to look ahead to next summer, when goaltender Ben Bishop and top defenseman Victor Hedman become eligible for UFA status. Notable RFAs include netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy and forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin.

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Five storylines that make the Lightning the off-season’s most interesting team

Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t quite match last year’s brilliance but, considering the obstacles they faced this spring, they should be darned proud of what they accomplished.

They won two playoff rounds and reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final without Steven Stamkos, their best player. They went 9-2 without their second-best defenseman, Anton Stralman, before getting him back in for Game 2 against Pittsburgh. They lost their franchise goalie, Ben Bishop, in Game 1 against the Penguins and still pushed them to the brink. With a little more luck on the health front, the Bolts easily could’ve matched last season’s Stanley Cup final appearance and maybe even won it all.

The 2015-16 season should thus be considered a resounding success. The Lightning also have a lot to look forward to going forward. Before we anoint them serious 2016-17 contenders, however, they have many problems to solve this off-season. Few if any GMs have a longer, more significant laundry list than Steve Yzerman. Tampa is the summer’s most interesting team. Here are five crucial storylines to watch.

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Bryan Rust plays the hero, provides depth Penguins needed to break through

Steven Stamkos (left) and Bryan Rust  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

For a guy with such blinding speed, Bryan Rust sure took his time becoming a big-time hero. And that’s exactly what he is, perhaps Notre Dame’s most unlikely hero since Daniel Ruettiger.

Four years at Notre Dame, a couple of years in the minors and no full-time NHL work until about five months ago. But that did not prevent Rust from being the Game 7 hero of the Eastern Conference final in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. And more yet may be to come, because if the Penguins are going to emerge victorious over the San Jose Sharks in the final, they’re going to need the kind of speed that Rust brings to the game.

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Stamkos in for Game 7 – but will it be his last with the Lightning?

Steven Stamkos (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has not played an NHL game in 55 days, is in the lineup for his team’s most important game of the season tonight in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It should not come as a huge surprise that Stamkos is ready to play. When he was diagnosed with a blood clot near his right collarbone, it was expected he would be out of the Tampa lineup anywhere between one and three months. Playing on the second line between Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan, Stamkos gives the Lightning an enormous emotional lift.

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NHL taking a bullet for NBC Sports by cancelling Tampa viewing party

Amalie Arena  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

There’s one thing you have to keep in mind when it comes to this public relations debacle surrounding the cancellation of tonight’s viewing party in Tampa for Game 7 between the Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. And that is that the NHL is not the bad guy here. The league is basically taking a bullet for its broadcast partner, NBC Sports.

Think about it. Why would the league want to deter thousands of people from assembling in one place to celebrate their team’s playoff run and create a sense of community among fans that no amount of money can buy, unless it was being forced to do so? The truth is, the NHL would love it, absolutely love it, if every team in the playoffs held public gatherings for each one of their playoff games. It creates a buzz around the team and the product that is immeasurable. The days of Bill Wirtz not putting the Chicago Blackhawks home games on television passed a long time ago.

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Will Arnett hedges his bets, picks the Stanley Cup winner in hilarious video

Jared Clinton
Will Arnett (via NHL.com)

Picking the Stanley Cup before the playoffs start — let alone before the season begins — isn’t an easy feat.

That’s especially true for this post-season. Of the final four, the Pittsburgh Penguins were hot coming into the playoffs but without their starting goaltender, the Tampa Bay Lightning were without the services of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the San Jose Sharks were up against the possession-juggernaut Los Angeles Kings in the first round and the St. Louis Blues had to get past the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks before a meeting with the division-champion Dallas Stars.

Suffice to say, a lot of brackets were busted early, and that’s even without including the upset that saw the Anaheim Ducks exit in Round One at the hands of the Nashville Predators.

But amidst all the busted brackets stood one famous face, Will Arnett, actor and host of the 2016 NHL Awards, who had a foolproof strategy for picking the Stanley Cup winner. Take a look: Read more