Mike Hoffman (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
Most of those changes could come in the front office and behind the bench, but look for these players to be on the move.
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is never one to mince words about his team's performance. With the Senators poised to miss the playoffs, Melnyk told reporters the club faces key changes in the off-season. “There's no one that's safe when you've had a year like we just did,” said Melnyk. “There's just no way.”
Most of those changes could come in the front office and behind the bench. GM Bryan Murray is battling Stage 4 colon cancer and could step down this summer. Coach Dave Cameron could get his walking papers at the end of the regular season.
The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan and Bruce Garrioch put Boston Bruins bench boss Claude Julien at the top of their respective wish lists as Cameron's replacement. However, there's no indication out of Boston suggesting Julien could be available.
Despite Melnyk's “no one is safe” threat, the roster changes probably won't be significant. Team captain and superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson isn't going anywhere. The hefty contracts of right winger Bobby Ryan ($7.5-million per season) and blueliner Dion Phaneuf ($7-million annually) should ensure both remain in Ottawa. Forwards Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad and Zack Smith, rearguards Marc Methot and Cody Ceci and goalies Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond are probably safe as well.
Right winger and pending restricted free agent Mike Hoffman could be part of the changes. The 26-year-old winger is seen as a strong first-half performer who fades over the course of the season.
Though his production picked up in recent games (seven points in a six-game stretch), he only had seven points during a 20-game stretch from Jan. 26 to March 10. For a team seeking more consistency from its core players, that sort of performance won't do.
Garrioch believes the Sens have to decide if they'll re-sign Hoffman to a long-term deal, take him to arbitration to land a short-term contract, or shop him for assets.
Like Hoffman, struggling defenseman Patrick Wiercioch and right winger Alex Chiasson are restricted free agents. Garrioch expects the duo either won't receive qualifying offers or will be shopped this summer.
MAPLE LEAFS LOOKING TO MOVE CENTERS
With the first season of the Toronto Maple Leafs' rebuild nearly over, speculation turns toward possible roster moves this summer. Center Tyler Bozak, frequently mentioned in last summer's trade chatter, is surfacing again in the rumor mill.
The Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan notes the 30-year-old center has two years at $4.2-million annually left on his contract. While Bozak expressed his wish to remain part of the Leafs' rebuild, Koshan suggests there's no guarantee he'll complete the remainder of his deal in Toronto.
If the Leafs win the 2016 NHL Draft lottery and select promising center Auston Matthews, Bozak's tenure could be shorter. The Toronto Star's Kevin McGran, responding to a reader's question, believes Bozak or Nazem Kadri will be dealt this summer if the Leafs land Matthews in the draft.
The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle suggests Bozak could be moved if young center William Nylander continues playing well. He also thinks oft-injured winger Joffrey Lupul won't be back and doesn't expect restricted free agent center Peter Holland will return.
Bozak's injury-shortened season, his annual cap hit and modified no-trade clause could make moving him this summer easier said that done. Between Bozak and the 25-year-old Kadri, there's likely to be more interest in the latter if the Leafs decide to part ways with him.
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.