Luke Schenn. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
In this weekend's Rumor Roundup: The Flyers deny it, but are they looking to move a blueliner?; just like last season, the Rangers face a tough decision around a key free agent; and will Mike Babcock be next summer's biggest UFA?
Add the Philadelphia Flyers to the list of teams (the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks being the others) rumored to be shopping defensemen before the season opens next week. TSN's Bob McKenzie reports the Flyers could trade a blueliner to shed salary. McKenzie claims Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann as possible trade candidates.
That prompted a swift, angry denial from Flyers GM Ron Hextall, telling CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio not to believe everything we read. A report in the Philadelphia Daily News, however, suggests the rumors are credible, claiming the Flyers hope to move out a veteran or two to make room for younger defensemen.
In addition to Schenn and Grossmann, the Daily News speculates Braydon Coburn, who had a lousy training camp, could also be available. Coburn was close to being dealt last summer to the Edmonton Oilers, who could once again be in the market for a defenseman if Nikita Nikitin's recent lower-body injury is serious.
Given the respective cap hits of Coburn ($4.5 million) and Grossmann ($3.5 million), it won't be easy to move either player at this point in the season. The pair also has modified no-trade clauses. Schenn's salary ($3.6 million) is also tough to deal away, but he lacks a no-trade clause for this season.
JUST LIKE LAST SEASON, RANGERS HAVE KEY FREE AGENTS
The New York Rangers are entering another season with uncertainty over the future of a key player on the roster. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports there haven’t been any meaningful contract talks for weeks between the Rangers and defenseman Marc Staal, who becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
This situation is comparable to the start of last season, when three Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan - were also entering the final year of their contracts. Negotiations dragged into the season, with Lundqvist and Girardi eventually re-signing and Callahan being shipped to Tampa Bay for Martin St-Louis at the trade deadline.
According to Brooks, the Blueshirts are believed to be offering Staal a deal similar to Girardi's (six-years, $33 million) while Staal seeks a six- or seven-year deal worth “at least” $6-million annually, which Brooks believes he can easily fetch on the open market.
Rangers management undoubtedly hopes to avoid another season where negotiations with a key free agent become an unnecessary distraction, but they have to take their cap space beyond this season into consideration.
Just like last summer, the Rangers will face difficulty re-signing their key free agents before July. They currently have more than $45 million invested in just 11 players. They must also re-sign or replace St-Louis, Mats Zuccarello, Lee Stempniak, Ryan Malone, Mike Kostka and Cam Talbot, who - like Staal - are eligible for UFA status. RFAs Stepan, Carl Hagelin and John Moore need to be dealt with as well.
Re-signing St-Louis, Staal, Stepan, Zuccarello and Hagelin will prove very expensive. Assuming the salary cap for 2015-16 jumps to $75 million, the Rangers will have nearly $30 million in cap space. While that should be enough to re-sign those five, it won't leave sufficient cap space for the rest of the roster.
WILL THIS BE MIKE BABCOCK’S LAST SEASON IN DETROIT?
Next summer's biggest free agent might not be a player. The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James reports Red Wings GM Ken Holland admitted it's doubtful coach Mike Babcock will be re-signed before the start of the season. Holland couldn't say if negotiations will continue during the season, but suggests they will continue talking, just not through the media.
That prompted the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons to speculate over Babcock's future, suggesting if the long-time Wings coach truly wanted to remain in his current job he would've re-signed by now. Simmons suggests unhappiness over the current make-up of the Red Wings roster could be one reason Babcock departs for greener pastures. Another is he could command a record-setting salary for coaches as a free agent.
Simmons also wonders if Babcock might entertain the challenge that has eluded so many bench bosses for decades: coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup championship. He also suggests the Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues as potential suitors for Babcock's services.
The Red Wings performance this season could well determine Babcock's course of action. He had the luxury of joining the Wings at a time when they were still a perennial Cup contender. In recent years, however, Holland has been patiently rebuilding his once-dominant team. Perhaps Babcock doesn't share that patience.
Considering the limited depth of talent available in the player free agent market next summer (which got even thinner with the Ottawa Senators re-signing Bobby Ryan), Babcock's status could overshadow July's free-agent frenzy.
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 Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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