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Joshua Trujillo, Montreal
Joshua Trujillo, Montreal
If the Rangers and Blues are still interested in a Nash-for-Shattenkirk trade, the Blues may have found a way to fit Nash's salary on to their books.
A contract dispute with the St. Louis Blues led center Vladimir Sobotka to spend the past two seasons playing in Russia. The 29-year-old reportedly intends to use his out-clause with KHL team Avangard Omsk to return to the Blues in 2016-17
Those plans, however, apparently hit a snag. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Avangard Omsk seeks a fee from Sobotka which he's yet to pay. His agent, Petr Svoboda, is still negotiating his release.
If Sobotka is unable to return to the Blues this season, Rutherford's colleague Jeff Gordon suggests the Blues use the savings to offset some of the cost of acquiring winger Rick Nash and his $7.8 million salary-cap hit from the New York Rangers. Gordon cites the Rangers rumored interest in Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who's an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The “Shattenkirk-for-Nash” rumor isn't anything new, frequently surfacing over the course of the summer. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong reportedly shopped the 27-year-old blueliner in late-June but didn't find any suitable offers. TSN's Darren Dreger still believes Shattenkirk is a trade target, but doesn't believe it's a “front-burner” issue right now.
For now, Armstrong appears intent on keeping Stattenkirk for the start of the season. Whether the puck-moving rearguard is moved depends upon the Blues roster needs over the course of this campaign and their position in the standings before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
If Shattenkirk hits the trade block, there will be considerable interest in his services. Along with the Rangers, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils could be among the suitors.
While Shattenkirk lacks a no-trade clause, his UFA status at season's end is a stumbling block. Rutherford claims interested clubs want to know if he'll agree to a contract extension before pursuing a trade. He said Shattenkirk's unwillingness to sign an extension with the Edmonton Oilers killed a possible deal that would've shipped left winger Taylor Hall to St. Louis. The Oilers instead dealt Hall to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.
OILERS HAVE INTEREST IN KRIS RUSSELL
The status of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell is attracting interest in the rumor mill. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites a TSN report claiming the Edmonton Oilers were discussing a short-term contract with the 29-year-old rearguard.
TSN's Bob McKenzie believes Russell could be a decent short-term fit with the Oilers, who still need experienced depth among their top-four blueliners. Earlier this summer, the shot-blocking specialist reportedly sought a five-year deal. McKenzie believes he'll accept a one-year contract, perhaps seeking between $4-$5 million.
The Oilers aren't the only club the Russell camp have spoken with in recent weeks. McKenzie claims they've talked to as many as eight NHL teams. It's rumored the Calgary Flames, who dealt Russell to the Dallas Stars at last season's trade deadline, would like to bring him back. However, they've also got to re-sign restricted free agent star winger Johnny Gaudreau.
It could cost around $7 million per season to get Gaudreau under contract. With $7.9 million in cap space, that won't leave much room for the Flames to pursue Russell unless they make a cost-cutting deal.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Penguins and Red Wings have capable goaltending duos, but the younger goaltenders are ready to take over for their veteran counterparts. Meanwhile, the Lightning have to decide how to proceed with free agent-to-be Ben Bishop.
Prior to the NHL Draft in late-June, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the subject of considerable trade speculation. Having lost the starter's job to Matt Murray in the playoffs, reports claimed the long-time Penguins netminder could hit the trade block. At one point, the 31-year-old was linked to the Calgary Flames.
The Flames, however, opted to acquire the more-affordable Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the draft. Over the course of the summer, Fleury's name largely faded from the rumor mill. However, Murray's rise to prominence and the fact the Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June's expansion draft will ensure Fleury's future remains a topic of interest in this season's trade market.
TSN's Bob McKenzie doesn't expect Penguins management will attempt to move Fleury before the start of the season. He feels they'll want more time, perhaps even up to the trade deadline (Feb. 28) to see how their goaltending shakes out.
McKenzie also notes Fleury's no-movement clause could also affect his trade status. However, if approached with an opportunity to play for a club where he'll be the starter, he could waive it. Fleury must submit a list of 18 preferred trade destinations.
Players carrying no-movement clauses must be protected in the expansion draft, unless they're willing to waive it. The Penguins are unlikely to leave the promising young Murray available, as he would be certain to be scooped up by the Las Vegas franchise. The preferable option is trading Fleury to a team of his choosing.
Fleury, meanwhile, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jonathan Bombulie he had a good meeting with Penguins management this summer. He also said he never requested a trade and wishes he could play his entire career in Pittsburgh. However, Fleury acknowledged that he'll have to wait and see how things go over the course of this season.
HOWARD COULD BE UNPROTECTED COME EXPANSION
The Detroit Red Wings could also face a choice between two goalies in 2016-17. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will once again be their goalie tandem. The Wings have nearly $9.3 million invested in the duo, who struggled with inconsistency in 2015-16.
Howard, 32, was the subject of trade conjecture this summer. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports the Wings explored trading the veteran netminder, but his contract (three years remaining) and cap hit ($5.29-million AAV) proved difficult to move.
St. James expects the Wings will stick with their current goaltenders this season and perhaps leave Howard exposed in next June's expansion draft. If Howard shows improvement, it could also improve their efforts to trade him.
BISHOP’S CONTRACT STILL AN ISSUE FOR BOLTS
Meanwhile, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times included goaltender Ben Bishop among a list of players Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could move to free up salary to re-sign winger Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning have around $6.2 million in cap space, and it could cost up to $6 million annually to re-sign the 23-year-old Kucherov. Yzmerna must also re-sign RFA blueliner Nikita Nesterov, which will push him over the $73-million cap ceiling.
Sidelined forward Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million) will start the season on long-term injured reserve, providing Yzerman with some short-term cap relief. However, the Bolts GM be forced to clear some payroll before Callahan returns in late-November.
Bishop carries a $5.9-million cap hit for this season. He's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. With promising Andrei Vasilevskiy signed through 2019-20 and the high cost of re-signing the 29-year-old Bishop, he seems the likely trade candidate.
However, Yzerman has also suggested he could keep his goalie tandem intact for the coming season, as it could improve the Lightning's Stanley Cup chances. Smith also mentioned center Valtteri Filppula ($5-million cap hit, no-movement clause) and defenseman Jason Garrison ($4.6 million, no-trade clause) as other trade options.
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.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
The Sabres rebuild has taken longer than expected but there is suddenly a lot of talent in the lineup. Just don't expect a push toward the playoffs this year.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the still-rebuilding Sabres.
THN's Prediction: 6th in Atlantic
Stanley Cup odds: 50-1
Key additions: Kyle Okposo, RW; Dmitry Kulikov, D; Justin Falk, D; Anders Nilsson, G
Key departures: David Legwand, C; Cody McCormick, C; Chad Johnson, G; Mark Pysyk, D; Matt Donovan, D
-When will the Sabres be good? Not this year, but probably next year. That’s the thing about rebuilds; they take longer than you’d expect. Just ask Los Angeles and Chicago about that one. The Sabres will improve in the standings a third straight season, but the bar was so low it’s practically inevitable. Consider 2016-17 a transition year, where Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen continue to grow while the team’s brass figures out if Robin Lehner can be a legit No. 1 goaltender. They could scrap for a playoff spot, but it’s all about learning for the future right now.
-Who will lead the team in scoring? Eichel. Sophomore slump be damned, the second overall pick in 2015 gained steam as his rookie season went on, ending with a five-game point streak. Not only that, but the addition of Kyle Okposo and the return to health of Tyler Ennis will bolster the Sabres’ depth. That means Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly (who will take on tougher competition assignments) will have even more talent to work with on their wings.
-Does Evander Kane end this season in Buffalo? When you’re literally taken into Central Booking during the summer, it’s not a good look. Kane’s arrest for trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct – all stemming from an alleged incident at a Buffalo nightspot – once again took the focus off his hockey talents. While he pleaded not guilty, his list of career distractions is getting long. For a team on the rise, he may not be the right fit in the long term, and trades have already been rumored for the power forward.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
Many believe that after last season’s big jump the Buffalo Sabres are ready to take the next step toward contention. This model disagrees. According to Game Score, the Sabres are poised to be the league’s worst team.
That seems hard to imagine, but it’s because of the severe stench of their 2014-15 campaign, the season where the team tried desperately (and succeeded) to be as bad as possible. Many of those players were a part of that team and this model – because it uses data from the last three seasons – hasn’t forgotten about it.
Whether that’s fair is in the eye of the beholder. On one hand, that team was downright awful and this team has a lot more talent now which boosts the entire team as worse players aren’t in over their head. On the other hand, those players that did play on that horrific team were the ones making those on-ice results a reality.
The real answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes. The Sabres will likely be better than projected here, but they’re still not ready for primetime. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart have real first line potential and a big breakout from one or both should push this team up the standings. The top six is decent, it’s the bottom that needs work though, especially the fourth line which doesn’t feature any above replacement level talent.
But the real issue is on the back end, which looks dire. Cody Franson is spared from the Buffalo Effect so that’s probably why he comes out on top here, but he’s also underrated and underused on a team where most guys are below replacement level (keep the Buffalo Effect in mind though).
The team’s number one D-man is Rasmus Ristolainen and while many are optimistic about his progress due to his point totals last seasons, his underlying numbers were atrocious. That’s been the case for his entire NHL career so far. Think about how bad Buffalo has been the past few years; they’re even worse with Ristolainen on the ice.
He’s still young and can blossom into a very effective D-man, but what he’s shown so far in terms of play-driving ability hasn’t been good enough to be considered a top D-man. That needs to change in order for the Sabres to progress and will be the key to a successful season.
Up next: Montreal Canadiens
Canada got a scare from the Russians and trailed for the second time in the entire tournament, but Brad Marchand’s pair of goals helped put Canada ahead for good.
It was looking a little dicey for Canada for awhile. Even though the master plan was in full effect – control the play and bombard Russia with shots – netminder Sergei Bobrovsky was playing Superman in the other crease. But good things tend to happen when Canada follows the plan and eventually Bobrovsky could hold the fort no longer. In the end, Canada got the 5-3 score that reflected the imbalance on the ice and now the Canucks move on to the World Cup final.
It's actually quite incredible that Russia led the game 2-1 at one point in the second. After Sidney Crosby opened the scoring with a tremendous strip and deke in the first, Russia repaid Bobrovsky for his heroics in the second. A bad Jay Bouwmeester pinch led to a 2-on-1 and a Nikita Kucherov snipe, which was followed by Evgeny Kuznetsov cashing in on a nice charge by Ivan Telegin.
But Crosby came to Canada's rescue again, hawking another puck in the offensive zone and slinging it to a wide-open Brad Marchand, who made no mistake at the side of the net.
The dam finally broke in the third, with Marchand slipping a wrister past Bobrovsky, followed by strikes by Corey Perry and John Tavares. Canada outshot Russia brutally throughout the contest and the possession numbers were similarly one-sided, as one would presume. Despite Bobrovsky's all-world play (a quick recap: he stoned Tavares on two point-blank shots, outwaited Steven Stamkos on a goal-mouth sojourn and stopped a streaking Marchand tip, among many other feats), Canada got the result it deserved.
Alex Ovechkin was practically invisible thanks to Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Canada's excellent defensive forwards made up for some shaky play by blueliners Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo.
So now the Red and White Killing Machine moves on, to face either Sweden or Europe. Canada got a nice challenge from Russia, at least for part of the game, and now the gold is in sight. If everybody sticks to the plan, as per usual, Canada will be very hard to beat once in the final, let alone twice.
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