Rumors suggest Kris Versteeg could follow Dustin Byfuglien out of town to help the Blackhawks\' cap crunch. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Two weeks after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, they finally made a much-anticipated cost-cutting trade, shipping Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to the Atlanta Thrashers.
The move frees up more than $4 million in cap space. When combined with the anticipated demotion of goalie Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million) and the increase of next season’s salary cap to $59.4 million, the Blackhawks will have roughly $12 million in available cap space.
That doesn’t spell the end of their cap troubles, however. They still must re-sign goalie Antti Niemi, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, possibly winger Andrew Ladd and leave enough money to ice a full roster next season.
Little wonder then that the Chicago Daily Herald suggests another trade might be in the offing.
Expect speculation to continue about Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg, although it’s believed Hawks management prefers to retain the more versatile Sharp.
FLYERS GOALIE HUNT
It’s been rumored the Philadelphia Flyers might pursue a more experienced starting goaltender, but recent reports from Philadelphia suggest that might not be the case.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren is currently attempting to sign newly-acquired defenseman Dan Hamhuis and intends on re-signing RFA blueliner Braydon Coburn.
That wouldn’t leave much cap space to land an expensive free agent goalie, making Michael Leighton perhaps a more affordable bet.
The Flyers have been linked to Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in the rumor mill, but unless the Bruins were willing to accept a cap hit comparable to Thomas’ $5 million per season (and if he agrees to waive his no-trade clause) such a move is unlikely.
Unless the Flyers are willing to dump salary – perhaps that of center Jeff Carter, who lacks a movement clause in his contract – they’ll have little choice but to consider re-signing Leighton or finding another bargain netminder.
SPEZZA COLUMBUS BOUND?
An internet rumor made the rounds earlier in the week claimed the Ottawa Senators were on the verge of trading Jason Spezza to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline claimed such a move hadn’t been discussed between the two teams, nor did it stand any chance of happening.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa media suggested the time to move Spezza is now, both to avoid a re-run of a similar situation involving Dany Heatley – which dogged the Senators throughout last summer – and to avoid paying him a $4 million bonus due July 1.
Heading into the draft weekend, however, it appears the possibility of a Spezza trade is dimming as GM Bryan Murray claimed only one team has expressed interest. Murray also said he won’t move Spezza after July 1.
While it’s still possible the Senators could trade Spezza by the end of June, it appears increasingly unlikely such a move will take place.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to take calls regarding defenseman Tomas Kaberle, whose no-trade clause is not in effect from June 25 to August 1, but it’s not a certainty he will be moved at the draft.
Various reports suggest the Leafs management have yet to find an offer they like and consider the draft weekend as merely a starting point from which the club can field offers, suggesting perhaps Kaberle might be moved later in the summer.
That’s certainly true, but the best time for a Kaberle trade is before the second week of July, when more teams will have more available cap space and more willingness to invest in a $4.25 million defenseman.
It was suggested soon after the Boston Bruins shipped blueliner Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers as part of the return for winger Nathan Horton the Toronto Maple Leafs might revisit last June’s attempts to move Kaberle to the Bruins, but that was denied by Leafs GM Brian Burke.
PREDATORS FREE AGENT SHOPPING?
Nashville Predators GM David Poile won’t be pursuing any big name free agent forwards in July, but he doesn’t rule out bringing in a free agent scorer to help off-set the loss of center Jason Arnott, who was dealt to the New Jersey Devils.
Poile also suggested he could sign a free agent backup to help share the goaltending duties with Pekka Rinne.
The Predators GM has less than $39 million invested in 17 players for next season, but isn’t expected to spend more than $45 million in payroll, which will limit his UFA options as he also has to re-sign key players like Patric Hornqvist and Cody Franson.
Still, Poile has had a knack in recent years for finding affordable free agent talent. Potential options include Matthew Lombardi, Brendan Morrison, Mike Comrie, Kyle Wellwood, Dominic Moore and former Predator Paul Kariya.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.