Steven Stamkos, Milan Lucic, Ben Bishop. (Getty Images)
As the July 1 approaches, speculation is heating up over potential destinations of the top free-agent stars.
As the July 1 opening day of the 2016 NHL unrestricted free agent market approaches, speculation is heating up over potential destinations of the top free-agent stars.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun believes the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, and Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in bidding for Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. He also thinks the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins could join them.
On Sunday, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News cited a report in the Toronto Star claiming the Sabres reached out to the Stamkos camp to gauge his interest in coming to Buffalo. Sportsnet's Eric Engels, meanwhile, reports the Canadiens will chase Stamkos, though they face long odds of signing him.
Stamkos isn't the only notable free agent being wooed by multiple teams. On Tuesday, LeBrun reported Los Angeles Kings left winger Milan Lucic met with the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. By Tuesday night, there were unsubstantiated reports claiming the Oilers and Lucic had a deal in principle to be formally announced on July 1, but the winger quickly denied the story.
New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo is also being courted by several teams. NBC Sports cited a report by Newsday's Arthur Staple the Red Wings, Sabres, Kings, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild hope to speak with him before July 1.
STARS MAY TARGET BISHOP IN TRADE
During the recent NHL draft weekend, there was talk the Dallas Stars were interested in acquiring goaltender Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though nothing came of the trade chatter, the 29-year-old Bishop would certainly be an upgrade over the current Stars tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News believes a Bishop trade could be fraught with risk for both clubs. Responding to a reader's question on the subject, he suggests it makes more sense for the Lightning to retain Bishop, who's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, for one more run at the Stanley Cup in 2016-17.
Heika also points out the high cost for the Stars of acquiring Bishop, as the Lightning could seek an expensive return. Given Bishop's UFA status next July, it would also cost the Stars big bucks to retain him beyond next summer. The goalie has a year left on his contract worth $5.95 million plus a no-movement clause.
If the Stars are keen to get Bishop, it might be better to wait a year. Should he agree to waive his no-movement clause before next June's expansion draft, the Lightning could attempt to move him in order to protect goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. By that point, their asking price could be considerably cheaper than it would be now.
AGENT SURPRISED SHATTENKIRK NOT TRADED YET
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk spent most of this season as a fixture in the trade-rumor mill. Earlier this week, the 27-year-old told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he expects to be dealt soon. His agent expressed surprise his client wasn't moved during the draft weekend.
Interest in Shattenkirk is considerable, with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers among the rumored suitors. However, Blues GM Doug Armstrong's high asking price is a major stumbling block.
Armstrong hasn't publicly stated what he seeks for Shattenkirk. A recent rumor claimed he sought Dylan Larkin from the Red Wings. It appears a waiting game is in place between Armstrong and those GMs who hope to acquire Shattenkirk.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is among them. The Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski reports Chiarelli is under pressure to land a top-pairing blueliner with a right-handed shot.
If Chiarelli can't land Shattenkirk, he'll likely look elsewhere. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites Oilers insider Bob Stauffer suggesting Chiarelli could chase a defenseman no one has mentioned in trade rumors.
Armstrong said he's willing to be patient to get the return he wants for Shattenkirk. If he waits too long, however, he could force GMs like Chiarelli to consider other options to address their needs.
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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