Antti Niemi. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
This off-season, the Edmonton Oilers will have to shore up their goaltending situation and, among other options, bringing in Antti Niemi could be a simple solution. The 31-year-old netminder will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils are likely to begin a complete roster overhaul.
In recent weeks, there's been speculation over Cam Talbot's future with the New York Rangers. Talbot, 27, has a one-year contract beyond this season and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016. Despite his stellar play filling in for the sidelined Henrik Lundqvist, there's no way Talbot will supplant “King Henrik” as the Rangers' starting goalie.
The Rangers could put Talbot on the trade block this summer, rather than risk losing him for nothing to free agency in a year's time. If the Oilers are interested, they have an extra pick in the first round of this year's draft (received from Pittsburgh in the David Perron trade) to entice the Rangers, who lack a 2015 first-round pick.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, however, doubts that offer will interest the Rangers. He suggests the Oilers target Ottawa Senators backup Robin Lehner, who could become the odd man out in Ottawa if the Senators re-sign late-season sensation Andrew Hammond.
If the Senators decide not to re-sign the 27-year-old Hammond, however, he could become a backup option for the Oilers. They won't be the only teams interested in “The Hamburglar.” TSN's Pierre LeBrun notes Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was instrumental in Ottawa signing Hammond back when he was the Senators assistant GM. The Sabres also need goalie depth and could pursue Hammond if he hits this summer's UFA market.
Other goaltending options for the Oilers include San Jose's Antti Niemi and Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk. Niemi stands to be this summer's best available free-agent goalie and has a Stanley Cup championship with Chicago on his resume. The Oilers desperately lack an experienced starting goalie and could make a serious pitch for the 31-year-old Niemi.
It's doubtful Dubnyk, a former Oilers' starter, returns to Edmonton. He's saved the Minnesota Wild's season and they're likely to re-sign him, especially if he carries them into this year's playoffs.
DEVILS READY TO START REBUILD
With the New Jersey Devils poised to miss the playoffs for the third straight year, long-time GM Lou Lamoriello is expected to finally commence a long-overdue roster rebuild this summer. His priority will be bolstering an offense that ranks among the league's worst. NJ.com's Rich Chere reports Lamoriello acknowledges offense is his club's weakest point, adding they have to get “a couple of offensive forwards.”
Chere believes Lamoriello must be bold this summer to sufficiently address this need. He suggests making a pitch for someone, “like New Jersey native James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs” or convincing the Edmonton Oilers to part with right wing Jordan Eberle.
Chere also offers up Toronto's Phil Kessel or Anaheim Ducks winger Kyle Palmieri as trade targets, as well as Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey (eligible for UFA status in July), Calgary Flames sophomore center Sean Monahan and Arizona Coyotes forward Sam Gagner.
Pursuing most of those players would indeed be bold moves, but they'll also be costly. Landing a couple of scoring forwards won't be easy.
Most reports out of Toronto suggest van Riemsdyk is among the young core they wish to rebuild around. Trade rumors involving Kessel claim the Leafs were talking to Western Conference teams.
Though Eberle was mentioned in trade chatter earlier this season it's now died down. If the Oilers entertain offers for the 24-year-old right wing they'll probably want a first-round pick, a top prospect and a good young player in return. Forget about prying Monahan out of Calgary, as the Flames have no intention of parting with their talented 20-year-old center.
It's doubtful the Ducks are keen to part with the 24-year-old Palmieri. The Devils could have better luck pursuing Beleskey if he becomes an unrestricted free agent, but the 26-year-old only has one 20-goal season on his resume. If Lamoriello is interested in Gagner, the rebuilding Coyotes could be willing to listen.
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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