Will the Hawks be able to pull the trigger on a trade by the draft? Have the Blues had it with their core? Could the Flames take advantage of Hudler's high trade value?
The increase in the NHL salary cap ceiling from $69 million to $71.4 million does little to help the Chicago Blackhawks escape from salary cap hell for 2015-16. They have over $64 million invested in cap payroll, leaving only $7.3 million to invest in new contracts. With restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Markus Kruger to re-sign plus several UFAs to re-sign or replace, the Blackhawks must shed salary.
It's widely assumed left wingers Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million annually for two more seasons) and Bryan Bickell ($4-million annually, two years) are the likely trade candidates. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports that, as of Monday evening, the Hawks weren't far along in trade talks about any player.
LeBrun notes the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers are rumored to have interest in the 33-year-old Sharp. The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc claims the Panthers, Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins are most interested in Sharp, but the asking price remains high. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times cites sources saying the Hawks are interested in Stars left winger Antoine Roussel, who carries a cap-friendly $2-million salary.
As for Bickell, TSN's Darren Dreger claims he's heard the Arizona Coyotes could have some interest in the 29-year-old left winger. Dreger said the Blackhawks are seeking draft picks in return. The Coyotes, with a cap payroll for 2015-16 of $34.1 million, could use some help reaching the cap floor.
The Blackhawks likely prefer moving Sharp or Bickell before the end of the upcoming NHL draft weekend. Better to clear either player off their books now before teams start using up their cap space.
Blues getting a makeover?
Speculation persists the St. Louis Blues could make a significant move this off-season to shake up a roster that has consistently underachieved in the playoffs. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon suggests right winger T.J. Oshie, center Patrik Berglund and captain David Backes as possible trade candidates.
Gordon believes Oshie, 28, could be a good fit with the Florida Panthers or Pittsburgh Penguins. He feels the 27-year-old Berglund could be a complementary center on an Eastern Conference club, while the 31-year-old Backes' combination of grit, skill and leadership could draw interest in the trade market.
Oshie, however, is the only one lacking a no-trade clause. He carries an annual cap hit of $4.175 million for two more years. Despite his inconsistency (especially in the playoffs), he certainly could prove attractive to teams in need of scoring wingers, like the Penguins and Panthers.
Hudler on the move?
Speaking of the Penguins, it's no secret they're in the market for a scoring winger. Sporstnet's Elliotte Friedman recently wondered if Calgary Flames right winger Jiri Hudler might be a good fit. His colleague Mark Spector suggests the Penguins should offer up center Brandon Sutter for Hudler and perhaps a second-round pick.
Spector points out Hudler and Sutter are both a year away from UFA status, but the latter is five years younger. He feels Sutter could move behind Sean Monahan while Mikael Backlund could go into the third-line center role. Spector believes Flames GM Brad Treliving would deal Hudler for a young, bigger forward “in a heartbeat.”
Hudler is coming off a career-best 76-point performance and his trade value could be very high right now. However, he also had tremendous chemistry with Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the Flames' first line. Indeed, during the second half of this season, that trio was among the NHL's best lines. As much as Treliving wants to add more size and youth up front, he could be unwilling to break up his top line to do so.
Bye bye, Bieksa?
Per TSN's Farhan Lalji, the Vancouver Canucks have asked Kevin Bieksa about "moving on." The rugged defenseman has reportedly agreed to waive his no-trade clause if the right deal comes along, but nothing has been finalized yet.
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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