Rumor Roundup: No shortage of storylines as free agency frenzy looms

Lyle Richardson
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHL)
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHL)

It appears the Ottawa Senators will be forced to wait until after the free agent frenzy of early July has passed to trade Jason Spezza.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Nashville Predators made an offer for Spezza, but the center declined to waive his no-trade clause.  The Predators are on his no-trade list, but evidently Nashville GM David Poile believed Senators GM Bryan Murray could sweet talk Spezza into signing off on the deal.  Poile subsequently acquired James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was thought Murray would move Spezza before or during the opening round of this year’s draft, as he was seeking a first-round pick as part of the return. Having failed to achieve that goal, Murray and his brain trust must re-evaluate what they’ll consider an acceptable return for the 31-year-old center.

The Anaheim Ducks were among Spezza’s suitors, but addressed their need for a second-line center by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver on Friday. With Anaheim dropping out of the sweepstakes, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks are believed to be among those with the highest interest in the Senators captain. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports sources claim the Dallas Stars also spoke to Murray about Spezza.

Some of those suitors, however, could drop out of the running if they opt to sign free agent centers July 1. Possible targets include Paul Stastny, Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Mikhail Grabovski.

BUYOUTS
Over the weekend, three new names were added to this summer’s list of pending unrestricted free agents. The Arizona Coyotes bought out center Mike Ribeiro and the San Jose Sharks are doing the same with veteran winger Martin Havlat. On Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres announced they were buying out defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

After years of injuries hampered Havlat’s performance, his buyout came as no surprise. Finally healthy, but with another season remaining on his contract at a $5 million cap hit, the Sharks seized the opportunity to remove him from their books.

It was assumed the Sabres would try to trade Ehrhoff, who had a $4-million cap hit, but whose actual salary gradually declined over time. Concerns over salary cap recapture penalties likely hindered efforts to move him, leaving the Sabres little choice but to use their second compliance buyout.

Ribeiro’s buyout, however, came as a surprise. Only one year into a four-year, $22 million contract, the Coyotes cited “behavioural issues” for the buyout. Since Ribeiro signed his contract last summer, he’s not eligible for a compliance buyout. That means it’s a regular buyout at two-thirds the remaining value of the contract over twice the remaining term. T the cap hit for the buyout in 2014-15 is $1.9 million, dropping to $1.4 million in each of the following two seasons, with the final three rising back to $1.9 million annually.

The additions of Ehrhoff and Ribeiro provide a few more options for teams in the UFA market. Ehrhoff could receive interest from his former club, the Vancouver Canucks, as well as the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.  If the Washington Capitals fail to re-sign Mikhail Grabovski, perhaps they’ll consider bringing back Ribeiro, who had 49 points in 48 games with the Caps during in 2012-13.

LATEST FREE AGENCY RUMORS
Garrioch speculates the Florida Panthers could pursue center Dave Bolland. Panthers GM Dale Tallon knows Bolland from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks. Garrioch also feels the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators. Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings could make a push for Paul Stastny.

ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside believes the Predators could pursue Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro or Vincent Lecavalier, while the Red Wings might chase defenseman Dan Boyle.

Having cleared cap space by trading away Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson, the Lightning may pursue a defenseman via free agency. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times lists Matt Niskanen, Anton Stralman and Dan Boyle as possible targets.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports the Rangers could turn to New Jersey Devils’ pending UFAs Mark Fayne and Ryan Carter as possible replacements for Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle.

Michael Russo of Startribune.com reports the Wild have interest in right winger Jarome Iginla. They also remain in the mix for Thomas Vanek and Matt Niskanen.

CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley reports the Capitals could have interest in defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.

The Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere reports Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan acknowledged his club expressed interest in Devils goalie Martin Brodeur but “nothing more than that.”

Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun cites a source claiming the Jets could have interest in left winger Jussi Jokinen.

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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