Anze Kopitar (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Heading into a new campaign, several big-name potential free agents are still without extensions. Two of the most intriguing names are the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos and Kings’ Anze Kopitar, both without pacts reaching beyond July 2016, but Winnipeg duo Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien could start to draw more attention if they remain unsigned deep into the campaign.
With the new NHL season fast approaching, several potential UFA stars appear no closer to re-signing with their current teams. The status of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal remains a hot topic in the rumor mill.
The Tampa Bay Time's Joe Smith reports the 25-year-old Stamkos denied recent trade speculation tying him to the Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames. The longer Stamkos remains unsigned, Smith believes more trade rumors will dog the Lightning captain this season.
As for Kopitar, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the two sides seem no closer to an agreement, though talks remain positive. Kopitar, 28, would like to get a deal done before the start of the season. There's no word yet if he'll shut down negotiations once the season begins.
TSN's Darren Dreger weighed in on the 30-year-old Staal's negotiations with the Hurricanes, claiming the two sides have yet to exchange salary numbers. Considering talks haven't yet reached that stage, it's safe to assume Staal's future with the Hurricanes will remain a hot-button topic in the upcoming season.
Stamkos, Kopitar and Staal aren't the only potential UFAs who will surface in this season's rumor mill. Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been linked to the Boston Bruins since late-July. Meanwhile, teammate Andrew Ladd hasn't been subjected to much conjecture yet about his future.
Given Ladd's experience, leadership and offensive skills, as well as their depth on defense, it's assumed the Jets could re-sign the 29-year-old Ladd while letting Byfuglien walk. However, the Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless reports Ladd could shut down contract negotiations if still unsigned when the season opens on Wednesday. While both sides would revisit talks after the season, that could lead to Ladd's name appearing more frequently in trade rumors.
YANDLE COULD BE TOP BLUELINER ON MARKET
New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle could become arguably the best available defenseman in next summer's UFA market. The Rangers' limited cap space for 2016-17, combined with the need to re-sign promising RFA forward Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller, could make it difficult to re-sign the 29-year-old blueliner.
NHL.com's Dan Rosen considers it a 50-50 proposition, believing much will depend upon the Blueshirts' performance this season, where they stand at the Feb. 29 trade deadline, the play of promising Brady Skjei and their cap space.
Rosen believes negotiations could start at an average annual salary of $5.75 million, which will be too expensive for the Rangers. Considering Yandle is earning that much in actual salary this season, talks will likely start at a higher rate of pay. Indeed, the blueliner could command over $7-million annually on the open market next summer.
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.