Rick Nash (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers both came just one win short of reaching the Stanley Cup final. Regardless of how close both clubs were, they will be looking at making some changes to increase their chances of taking home the hardware to end the season. For the Ducks, it could be on the blueline. In New York, could Rick Nash be dealt?
As the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning prepare to meet in the Stanley Cup final, their conference finals opponents must deal with the disappointing end to their respective post-seasons. For the Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers, the focus shifts to addressing roster issues for next season.
Following the conference finals, ESPN.com's Craig Custance offered up some key off-season recommendations for the Ducks. Among them, he suggests the Ducks trade little-used defenseman James Wisniewski.
The Ducks acquired the 31-year-old at the trade deadline to bolster their blueline but saw no action during their playoff run. He's under contract for two more seasons at an annual cap hit of $5.5 million, though in actual salary it drops in the final season to $3 million. Custance speculates Wisniewski could be appealing for teams in need of reaching the cap floor without doing so at a full rate. The Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres could be two possibilities.
While the Ducks are loaded with good young defensemen, none of them have yet emerged as a comparable to Scott Niedermayer or Chris Pronger, who powered Anaheim to their one and only championship. Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News suggests that was a shortcoming for the Ducks against the Blackhawks, pointing out Anaheim's defense “was a problem late in the series.”
Ducks GM Bob Murray is once again up for GM of the Year honors (he won last year) for maintaining his club among the league's best this season. Perhaps he feels the Ducks need a world-class defenseman to get over the playoff hump. Murray could offer up one of his promising (and affordable) rearguards in a package deal to a cap-strapped team looking to shed salary.
Unfortunately, there aren't many teams in that category. The Boston Bruins might consider trading Zdeno Chara, provided their big captain is willing to waive his full no-movement clause. However, Chara's now 38 and signed through 2017-18 at an annual cap hit of $6.917 million.
The Rangers are deep in veteran blueliners and must free up some cap space. Dan Boyle might welcome a return to California but the 38-year-old is now well past his prime. Keith Yandle is a smooth puck-moving defenseman but he's no Niedermayer.
With the Blackhawks facing significant cap constraints this summer, Brent Seabrook's name has occasionally surfaced as a trade candidate. The 30-year-old is a year away from free agency and will be expensive to re-sign.
Seabrook, however, is also a key part of the Hawks core and they'll likely do all they can to keep him in Chicago. If they were to trade him, it's highly unlikely it'll be to a dangerous Western Conference opponent like Anaheim.
Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks have also been mentioned as trade candidates this summer. Both, however, are approaching their mid-thirties and have seen better days. The Philadelphia Flyers could shop Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossman or Andrew MacDonald, but no one will mistake them for world-class defenders.
As for the Rangers, Custance suggests they gauge the trade market for backup goaltender Cam Talbot. He's a year away from UFA status and will never become the Rangers' full-time starter as long as Henrik Lundqvist is on the roster.
Given the Blueshirts' limited cap space and their need to re-sign restricted free agents Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller, they'll want an affordable return for the 27-year-old Talbot. They're lacking a first-round pick in this year's NHL draft and could target teams in need of goaltending depth carrying extra first round picks. The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres could become trade targets.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks wonders if Rangers management could consider shopping right winger Rick Nash, who continues to disappoint in the playoffs. He suggests the St. Louis Blues as a trade partner as they could shake things up after consistently coming up short in the post-season.
Brooks feels “the conversation on a return package would have to feature T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen.” Assuming Brooks means one of them as the centerpiece (as the Blues won't part with all three for Nash), the most likely candidate is Oshie, who lacks a no-trade clause. Steen has a full NTC, while the Blues could be reluctant to part with the promising 22-year-old Schwartz.
Oshie, however, has a more disappointing playoff record than Nash, which won't make him enticing for the Rangers. The Blues must re-sign young superstar Vladimir Tarasenko this summer, meaning they would have to shed considerable salary to take on Nash's $7.8-million annual cap hit.
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.