Dustin Byfuglien. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Training camp is drawing near and some big names are still being discussed as possible trade or free agent targets. From super sniper Steven Stamkos to bruising blueliner Dustin Byfuglien, there could be some major players switching teams over the next calendar year.
Apart from the wheeling and dealing during the 2015 NHL Draft and the usual NHL free-agent signing frenzy of early-July, it's been a fairly quiet summer in the rumor mill. However, with September and the start of training camp drawing near, speculation should increase over the next several weeks.
Here's a look at several NHL players who could start popping up in training camp trade and free-agent rumors in September.
Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar: Tampa Bay Lightning captain Stamkos and Los Angeles Kings center Kopitar are both eligible for unrestricted free agency next July. The Lightning and Stamkos have yet to open negotiations, while discussions between Kopitar and the Kings are in the preliminary stage. If they aren't re-signed before training camp, questions will be raised over the status of those contract talks.
Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd: Like Stamkos and Kopitar, the Winnipeg Jets stars are eligible for UFA status next summer. It's believed the Jets hope to re-sign both, but that could prove difficult for their usually cost-conscious management. Byfuglien's been a focus of chatter among rumor bloggers this summer.
Eric Staal: The Carolina Hurricanes captain faces an uncertain future as he enters the final season of his current contract. Does the 30-year-old Staal see himself as a fit with a rebuilding club or will he consider moving on to a championship contender? GM Ron Francis is interested in re-signing Staal, though it will likely be for less money and a shorter term than his current deal.
Cody Franson: The former Nashville Predator and Toronto Maple Leaf is still seeking a new NHL club. He reportedly spoke with several clubs last month, including the Boston Bruins. The 28-year-old defenseman wants a long-term deal, but as training camp nears, he could face accepting considerably less than he hoped for when free agency began.
Bryan Bickell: The 29-year-old left winger remains the most likely player to be moved by the Chicago Blackhawks in a cost-cutting deal. GM Stan Bowman must free up cap space to re-sign restricted free agent center Marcus Kruger. Shedding Bickell's $4-million cap hit will cover the Kruger contract and leave some wiggle room under the cap ceiling for the upcoming season.
Luke Schenn: NJ.com's Randy Miller recently speculated the Philadelphia Flyers could shop Schenn to free up cap and blueline space for one of their promising defensemen. The 25-year-old rearguard carries a $3.6-million cap hit. He's a right-handed shot, which could make him a valuable commodity in the trade market.
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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