Rumor Roundup: Semin buyout, Vanek remaining a Canadien, and the Devils’ off-season plans

Alex Semin

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will reportedly step down at season’s end, handing the management reins to Ron Francis, the club’s current vice-president of hockey operations.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch believes the biggest decision facing Francis is deciding whether to buy out the remaining four years and $28 million of winger Alexander Semin’s contract. The 30-year-old has had a poor showing this season, with 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games. Garrioch claims if the Hurricanes fail to buy out Semin this summer they won’t get another chance.

Garrioch appears to be referring to a compliance buyout, as this June will be the last time NHL teams can make use of that option. Such buyouts, however, only apply to players under contract on or before September 15, 2012. Semin signed his current deal last March and is therefore ineligible.

The Hurricanes can still buy Semin out, using the regular formula of two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining tenure. Such a move would shed over $4.6 million per season from the Hurricanes payroll over the next four years, but they would also carry an annual cap hit of over $2.333 million over the next eight years. It might be worthwhile to retain Semin for another season and hope for a bounce-back performance.

Thomas Vanek continues to have a positive effect upon the Montreal Canadiens. In the 17 games since he was acquired at the trade deadline from the New York Islanders, Vanek has tallied six goals and 15 points. All but one point came in his last 12 games.

Given Vanek’s close ties to the state of Minnesota it’s assumed he’ll sign with the Wild this summer as a free agent. It’s also been suggested Vanek could re-sign with the Habs if he enjoys his time in Montreal.

Should the salary cap for next season jump to $71.1 million, the Canadiens will have more than $26 million in cap space. Assuming it’ll cost $7 million per season to re-sign Vanek, the Habs appear to have plenty of room. However, they also intend to re-sign defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, which could cost a combined $13 million. Factor in $7 million for Vanek, and the Canadiens won’t have much room to re-sign or replace Brian Gionta, Lars Eller and the remainder of their free agents.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman has a “nagging feeling” the Nashville Predators could pursue Vanek this summer. The Predators were among the league’s lowest-scoring teams, sitting 21st in goals-per-game (2.50). They could use a reliable big-name scorer.

The Predators have more than $50 million invested in 17 players, so they have the cap room to pitch an offer for Vanek. It remains to be seen, however, if the usually budget-conscious ownership goes that route, let alone if the 30-year-old winger is willing to come to Nashville.

With the New Jersey Devils missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, NJ.com’s Randy Miller speculated over possible roster changes this summer. Miller wonders if long-time Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and leading scorer Jaromir Jagr will re-sign, and if current starting netminder Cory Schneider inks a contract extension.

Offense was the Devils’ weakness this season, sitting 26th in goals-per-game (2.40) and 27th in shots-on-goal (26.8) percent. Only two players – Jagr and Adam Henrique – scored 20-or-more goals this season. Their offensive weaknesses cost them in shootout situations this season, going 0-12 in that category. As NBC Sports’ James O’Brien observed, had the Devils won half those shootout games, they might have become a wild card playoff team.

Miller wondered if the Devils could pursue free agent scorers like Paul Stastny or Ryan Callahan this summer. They have more than $20 million in cap space for next season. With a new owner willing to invest in the roster, there could be enough to re-sign or replace key free agents (Jagr, Brodeur, Eric Gelinas, Marek Zidlicky, Adam Larsson) and still add a scoring forward.

Stastny might be a better offensive option than Callahan, though the latter’s two-way style would fit well into the Devils defensive system. They could also make a pitch for Vanek. Calgary Flames winger Mike Cammalleri was linked to the Devils prior to the trade deadline. Other options include Boston’s Jarome Iginla, Ottawa’s Ales Hemsky, Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata and Minnesota’s Matt Moulson.

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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