Rumor Roundup: Big names set to hit open market next season

Steven Stamkos (Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

This summer’s pool of unrestricted free agent talent was the shallowest in recent memory, but next summer’s crop promises to be considerably deeper. Here’s a look at several NHL stars who could be available by July 1, 2016.

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s assumed the Lightning will re-sign Stamkos, but it’s been over a month since his agent, Don Meehan, told TSN talks had yet to commence. Re-signing Stamkos could cost the Bolts over $10-million annually on an eight-year deal. If they can’t or won’t pay top dollar, another club will gladly do so next summer.

Both sides give the appearance a deal can be reached. However, the longer the Lightning captain is unsigned, the more speculation will grow over his future in Tampa Bay. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Do Ladd, Byfuglien have a future in Winnipeg?

Lyle Richardson
Dustin Byfuglien. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Recent internet-generated trade speculation involving Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien caught the eye of’s Allan Muir. Byfuglien, 30, becomes eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. While the Jets don’t have to move the big blueliner this summer, Muir notes re-signing him could be tricky.

Like Byfuglien, Jets captain Andrew Ladd could become a UFA next July. Center Mark Scheifele and defenseman Jacob Trouba will be restricted free agents in line for significant raises. Muir points out the Jets are a budget club that usually doesn’t spend toward the league’s cap ceiling.

Muir observes the recent rumor tied Byfuglien (who had a modified no-trade clause) to the Boston Bruins, but they must ship out salary to absorb his $5.2-million cap hit. Muir also suggests the Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks as possible trade partners. Read more

Memorial Cup hosts land Michael Spacek, chase Brandon Hickey

Michael Spacek (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The way Red Deer finished the 2014-15 campaign – a five-game, first-round loss to Medicine Hat – you’d be forgiven for wondering how they would turn things around in time to be tough hosts of the Memorial Cup this year. But in a flash of activity, GM and coach Brent Sutter has begun to shake the foundations.

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The Top 10 moments for 2014-15

Andrew Hammond  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

1. Hawks win the Stanley Cup – June 15, 2015

Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards.

In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.

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Nik Antropov considering NHL return for upcoming season

Jared Clinton
Nik Antropov (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Nik Antropov could be heading back to North America to suit up in the NHL for the first time in two seasons.

According to a interview with Antropov’s agent, Schumi Babayev, the 35-year-old right winger is considering a return to the NHL for 2014-15, which would see him forego a contract offer from the KHL’s Barys Astana, the club with which the Kazakhstan native has spent his past two seasons.

“(Antropov will) make a decision: to pursue a career in the NHL or return to Barys,” Babayev said, according to a rough translation. “Proposal from Barys it has, they are constantly in contact. The decision depends on family circumstances. At last year Antropov has one son living in Canada, and now he will play in the AAA league, and whether to leave him alone – there is something to think about.” Read more

Futures Mailbag: Blueline prospects in Philly, Dylan Strome and more

Samuel Morin (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Welcome to my new mailbag, a spot where I will answers questions from readers who reached out to me on Twitter using the hashtag #thnfutures. The idea behind this space is to bring you info on prospects and the draft, so anything in that world is game. There was a pretty good crop of questions right off the bat, so if you don’t see yours answered this week, check back next Friday. Here we go:

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Dale Hawerchuk made it look easy, but hard work earned him the first big UFA contract

Dale Hawerchuk (Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Twenty years ago this summer, the first crop of elite-level Group III unrestricted free agents went on the open market. The NHL was coming off its first protracted work stoppage, and the 1994-95 season was reduced to 48 games for each of the league’s 26 teams. The new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association granted unconditional free agency for any player 32 or over once his contract expired.

Among the first players to act was future Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk. By that time, ‘Ducky’ was already a veteran of 14 NHL seasons and had 489 goals and 1,314 points. But this was his first real chance to cash in – he signed a $7.5-million deal over three seasons – and his first real opportunity to challenge for a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues were loading up that summer 20 years ago, also signing UFAs Geoff Courtnall, Grant Fuhr and Brian Noonan. But it was Hawerchuk they really wanted, and negotiations with agent Gus Badali took just a few minutes. St. Louis coach-GM Mike Keenan knew he was getting an aging superstar who still had a lot to offer, because Keenan had watched Hawerchuk develop and dominate for the better part of a generation. Read more

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

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman.  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’ve seen plenty of turnover on NHL rosters so far this summer, setting up what appears to be even crazier parity than normal in each division. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks made major moves in the Pacific. The Washington Capitals jazzed up their top two lines in the Metropolitan. The Chicago Blackhawks did anything but sit on their championship team, making over a quarter of their roster.

A bushel of franchises, however, have been oddly quiet so far. Some are justified in their thought process. Others have their angry fans yelling “DO something!”

Why do some of these teams appear to be deer in the headlights right now? There’s a plausible explanation for each, though some are more maddening than others.

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