Rumor Roundup: What will the Rangers do with their cap space after Brad Richards buyout?

Anton Stralman

The New York Rangers freed up over $6.67 million in annual cap space by using their remaining compliance buyout on center Brad Richards, who now becomes an unrestricted free agent. Rather than use the savings to pursue unrestricted free agents, Larry Brooks of the New York Post anticipates the money will be sunk into re-signing as many of their key free agents as possible.

One of them is defenseman Anton Stralman, who Brooks reports could receive a three- or four-year offer from the Blueshirts worth $4-million annually. The question is, will that be enough to keep Stralman from testing the upcoming UFA market?

In a summer where the salary cap is projected to jump by at least $5 million for 2014-15, the 27-year-old blueliner could receive offers up to $5 million per season on long-term deals. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons expects someone will overpay for Stralman and will eventually regret doing so.

Richards’ agent, meanwhile, said his client would “respond positively” to interest from the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom he began his NHL career and had his greatest success. Given the Lightning’s depth at center (Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula and Calder-nominee Tyler Johnson), a return to Tampa Bay is unlikely for the 34-year-old Richards.

The Los Angeles Kings also face some difficult roster decisions, though not as many as their Cup final opponent. They’ve decided not to buy out or trade Mike Richards, trusting he’ll improve his conditioning and return to top-six forward status next season.

Simmons claims the Kings have offered trade-deadline pickup Marian Gaborik a three-year, $15-million contract, which is a considerable drop from the annual $7.5 million he earned on his current deal. Considering the strong chemistry Gaborik had with Anze Kopitar, he would be wise to accept the discount. Doing so, however, could mean the Kings will have to part ways with Willie Mitchell or Matt Greene via free agency.

FLOODED SPEZZA MARKET COULD AFFECT HIS TRADE VALUE
The addition of Brad Richards into the free agent market could affect the Ottawa Senators’ efforts to trade Jason Spezza. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch notes Richards could also be joined in the UFA market by Colorado’s Paul Stastny. The Vancouver Canucks are actively shopping Ryan Kesler, while there’s talk the San Jose Sharks could move veteran center Joe Thornton.

Garrioch suggests the availability of so many notable centers could affect Spezza’s trade value, as interested clubs now have several options to consider. Senators GM Bryan Murray hopes to use his captain to land a player who can help his team right away, along with a prospect and a first round pick.

Murray claims he’s received a couple of solid offers already, but declined to say from whom. The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are still considered the leading candidates to land the 31-year-old Spezza, as both clubs need a second-line center and possess the depth in young players that would interest Murray.

CAN THE ISLANDERS LAND A KEY ROSTER PIECE FOR THE FIFTH OVERALL PICK?
The Florida Panthers aren’t the only team willing to shop a top-five pick at this year’s NHL Draft. Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is willing to trade his first round pick (fifth overall) for a player who can help his club right away.

Staple believes Snow hopes to use that pick to land either a top-two defenseman or a first-line left winger, but the Isles may have to add a “lower-level prospect or two” along with a young forward or defenseman to bring in that type of return.

After failing to sign recently acquired defenseman Dan Boyle, Snow is also reportedly shopping Boyle’s rights. The GM must also find a backup for new starter Jaroslav Halak, as Evgeni Nabokov is headed to free agency in July.

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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