If new GM Ron Hextall tries to add speed to the Flyers this summer where will he get it from and how will he make the cap space to acquire it?; plus, we know the San Jose Sharks will change this summer, but how much?; and does James Neal want out of Pittsburgh?
If new Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall decides to boost his roster's speed for next season, he'll have to trade away a high-salaried player or two. That's the opinion of the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi, who noted the Flyers only have $4.5 million in cap space (assuming the salary cap rises to $69 million for next season) and that's before re-signing key free agents like Kimmo Timonen (if he decides to continue playing) and Brayden Schenn.
The Flyers are allowed to spend over the cap during the off-season by 10 percent, but must be compliant before their season opener. They'll also receive $4.9 million in cap relief by placing injured defenseman Chris Pronger on long-term injury reserve again next season. Still, that doesn't provide much wiggle room to re-sign or replace key players.
They also used both their compliance buyouts last summer on Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere. Any buyouts going forward will count as two-thirds the remaining value of a contract for players 26 and older, or one-third if they're younger than 26.
Carchidi suggests trading Vincent Lecavalier as one option. Noting that former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is now the bench boss of the Nashville Predators, Carchidi wonders if Laviolette will pressure Predators management to make a pitch for Lecavalier, provided the center's willing to waive his no-trade clause.
While the Predators need scoring depth, Lecavalier isn't the answer. Since his career-best 108-point performance in 2006-07, Lecavalier's numbers have steadily declined. The 34-year-old's best seasons are behind him and he's earning $4.5 million per season through 2017-18. Even if the Flyers agree to pick up part of that salary, Lecavalier won't address the Predators' offensive woes.
THE SHARKS WILL CHANGE THIS SUMMER, BUT HOW MUCH?
Another disappointing early playoff exit by the San Jose Sharks has prompted talk of significant roster change. CSN Bay Area's Kevin Kurz reports Sharks GM Doug Wilson intends to explore every option this summer, but he doubts he'll pursue a notable unrestricted free agent. Wilson cited the need for caution in bringing in an outside player at a time when the team is turning over to a younger core.
Wilson has announced veteran defenseman Dan Boyle and winger Martin Havlat won't be back. Kurz notes those departures leave the Sharks with over $55 million invested in 16 players. He also observes there's rumors Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau could be shopped. Both signed three-year deals this season worth over $6.6 million with full no-movement clauses.
While Thornton or Marleau would attract considerable interest in the trade market, the Sharks won't get equal value for either player. They're also in their mid-30s, which could dampen their trade value. Their respective no-movement clauses give the pair full control over the situation, particularly when it comes to possible trade options.
CBC.ca's Elliotte Friedman suggests moving goaltender Antti Niemi, who has a year left on his contract at $3.8 million and lacks a no-trade clause. The Sharks could give more playing time next season to backup Alex Stalock, but moving Niemi means bringing in an experienced backup for Stalock.
Given this summer's soft goalie market, there aren’t many potential trade destinations for Niemi. Vancouver and Pittsburgh could be options if their new management teams decide to shake up their goaltending.
WHETHER OR NOT JAMES NEAL ASKED FOR A TRADE, HE MAY MOVE ANYWAY
As the Pittsburgh Penguins' search for a new GM to replace the recently-fired Ray Shero continues, speculation grows over which current Penguins could become trade bait this summer.
Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden recently took to Twitter citing a “high-placed source” claiming Penguins winger James Neal requested a trade, though Neal publicly denied it. Neal's response (also via Twitter) claimed there's no truth to rumors he wants out of Pittsburgh.
Neal, however, might not have much choice in the matter. He's finishing the second year of a six-year, $30-million contract and his modified no-trade clause doesn't go into effect until next summer. Neal, 26, is a physical scoring winger who would attract considerable interest if shopped this 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.).
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