Jason Spezza had 57 points in 60 games this season for Ottawa. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Ottawa Senators’ hopes of re-signing shot-blocking specialist Anton Volchenkov are not looking good.
Senators GM Bryan Murray already has more than $49 million committed to next season’s payroll and admitted to the Ottawa Sun that re-signing Volchenkov, a UFA on July 1, won’t be easy.
The defenseman rejected a five-year, $20 million offer back in February, as his side believes he could easily get $5 million on the open market this summer.
That’s led some disgruntled Ottawa Senators fans to suggest Murray should trade first line center Jason Spezza and his $7 million per season cap hit before his no-movement clause kicks in July 1, as that would not only free up money to re-sign Volchenkov, but also perhaps help keep UFAs Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton in the fold.
Ottawa Sun reporter Don Brennan rightfully dismisses that suggestion, however, claiming Spezza has been unfairly made the scapegoat of unhappy Senators fans.
Brennan pointed out Spezza, unlike former Senators Alexei Yashin and Dany Heatley, still loves playing in Ottawa and wants to remain a Sen. Plus, the team wouldn’t get back equal value if it moved him, leaving a gaping hole in its offense.
Unless Murray intends on blowing up the current roster and engaging in a lengthy rebuilding process, it makes no sense to trade Spezza, who at 26, still has another eight-to-10 productive seasons left.
• Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi will likely spend the summer attempting to improve his team’s depth at center and bring more speed to his blueline.
The Los Angeles Times reported Lombardi will have enough cap space available to make an impact move.
The biggest name available in this summer’s free agent market is New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk, who was linked to the Kings in trade rumors prior to being dealt to the Devils in February by Atlanta.
The Kovalchuk camp reportedly wants $10 million or more per season, but it’s been suggested they only sought that from the Thrashers to force the team into moving him before the trade deadline to a playoff team, where Kovalchuk could showcase his skills in post-season competition.
Lombardi might be tempted if Kovalchuk was willing to consider between $7.5- and $8.5-million per season, provided team ownership is willing to spend that much on one player.
Starting goalie Jonathan Quick may also find himself battling to retain his job next season. The Times noted young goalie Jonathan Bernier is expected to make the lineup and could push Quick for the No. 1 role.
Quick will either have to elevate his performance or risk being relegated to backup or even traded later next season.
Erik Ersberg is the Kings’ backup goalie now and under contract for another season, but he is the most likely trade candidate should Bernier make the lineup.
Coach Terry Murray told the local press he’d be willing to endorse the re-signing of UFA left winger Alex Frolov, denying his benching of Frolov earlier in the season raised issues between the two.
As the Times’ Helene Elliott pointed out, it will prove a moot point if Frolov, as rumored, seeks $5 million per season on his next contract.
While he’d almost certainly get that amount in the Kontinental League, it’s possible, given the lack of scoring depth in this summer’s UFA market, Frolov will be able to find another NHL team willing to pay that amount.
• Lack of offensive depth is once again the prime reason the Nashville Predators were unable to advance beyond the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Landing more scoring forwards won’t be an easy task, especially when GM David Poile has other issues to consider.
It’s believed Poile would like to retain defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Francis Bouillon, as well as goaltender Dan Ellis. He’ll probably be able to keep Bouillon, but Hamhuis and Ellis are likely to depart via free agency.
Poile also has to re-sign restricted free agents Patric Hornqvist, Cody Franson, Denis Grebeshkov and Dustin Boyd. Of those four Hornqvist, coming off a 30-goal season, could prove the most expensive to sign.
The Tennessean newspaper doesn’t expect Poile to blow up his roster, especially since veterans Jason Arnott, J-P Dumont, Martin Erat and David Legwand have no-trade clauses.
Hampering Poile further is his limited salary cap space. Although he has more than $41 million committed to 16 players next season, Predators ownership might not be willing to spend much more than $45 million.
If the Preds are to re-sign most of their key free agents and perhaps bolster their scoring, it may cost them as much as $50 million against the cap.
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.