Call it the storm before the calm. The busy season for NHL news — schedule, awards, draft, free agency — is upon us, and with it comes plenty of trade and transaction gossip.
Here’s a quick look at some of the popular rumours, trade and otherwise, circulating around the league.
What does the future hold for Fleury?
Last week three teams stuck out as landing spots for proven No. 1 goaltenders. Then the Carolina Hurricanes decided to re-up impending free agent Cam Ward, leaving two gaping holes in Toronto and Calgary.
If Manitoba native James Reimer — the top UFA goalie available — is to be awarded a top job this summer, those are his options, and we’d be surprised to see Toronto bring him back for a second tour.
Reimer would cost the Flames nothing but money, but what of Marc-Andre Fleury?
The Penguins might not have qualified the playoffs were it not for their 31-year-old goalie standing on his head, but it was rookie Matt Murray who took the crease and ran with it all the way to a championship when Fleury suffered a concussion just prior to the post-season.
The looming expansion draft suggests Pittsburgh will protect the younger, cheaper goalie, which means Fleury’s days are numbered in Pittsburgh.
Pens GM Jim Rutherford said “in a perfect world” he’d start 2016-17 with both men, but — newsflash — the world ain’t so. Flames GM Brad Treliving has already called Rutherford to gauge Fleury’s price, Eric Francis reports.
Fleury’s contract ($5.75-million cap hit through 2018-19) carries a no-movement clause and a limited no-trade clause. He can submit a list of 12 teams he cannot be traded to.
With Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello swearing he’ll look at every opportunity to improve his club, it’s safe to assume he’s dialed Rutherford as well.
“Jonathan [Bernier] played very well at the end of the year,” Lamoriello told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun when asked about upgrading his goaltending. “But I think we have to look at everything, if we can get better: whether it’s goaltending, whether it’s defence, whether it’s forwards. We did end up 30th in the league. There’s nothing that we cannot or should not be looking at, no matter what it is, to get better.”
Toronto and Pittsburgh have a recent history of summer blockbusters. Will we see a sequel?
You have to imagine (a) Rutherford’s trade leverage drops if Fleury isn’t dealt early this off-season and (b) Fleury doesn’t want to wear the ballcap for the bulk of 2016-17.
The Detroit conundrums
Poor Ken Holland is on the hook for prematurely retired NHLer Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5-million cap hit, and his options to trade that hit to a salary-floor club are drying up.
With the New Jersey Devils taking on Marc Savard’s contract from Florida, Holland’s best options should be Arizona and Carolina.
On Monday’s Hockey Central at Noon Holland said he has “kicked tires” with more than one team about taking Datsyuk’s contract but the price was high. Savard’s contract riddance cost the Panthers a second-round pick, and he’s $3.47 million cheaper than Datsyuk.
“It’s a huge hole. It’s a huge blow. It’s put us in a difficult situation,” Holland said of Datyuk’s departure for the KHL. “I wish he’d stay, but I certainly understand where he’s at.”
The hope to sign a high-profile free agent forward like Steven Stamkos or Alexander Radulov adds pressure on Holland to get rid of Datsyuk’s cap drain.
Another headache for Holland: When he gives a hefty raise to impending RFA Petr Mrazek, whom he calls the Wings’ No. 1 goalie heading into training camp, he might have the most expensive crease in the league.
We expect Holland will try to trade Jimmy Howard, but with Ward sticking in Carolina, his best option has vanished.
“I thought our goaltending was a strength of our team this year,” Holland said, noting that when “the wheels fell off” one, the other picked up the slack. “We’re going to need two really good goaltenders.”
Like Dallas, Detroit may have little choice but to roll with a pricey yet decent tandem for the 2016-17.
Columbus listens to offers for No. 3
On Monday, Blue Jackets beat reporter Aaron Portzline told Boomer and Pinder in the Morning that Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen has received “two really good, legitimate offers” for his third-overall pick at Friday’s draft, projected to be Jesse Puljujarvi out of Finland.
After dealing Ryan Johansen to Nashville, Columbus would love to get its hands on a No. 1 centre.
Sobotka returning to Blues?
Vladimir Sobotka has played the last two seasons in the KHL while still owing the St. Louis Blues one more season at a cap-friendly $2.7 million.
That agreement looks like it will be fulfilled in 2016-17.
“I’ve been told by the agent [Petr Svoboda] he’s coming back. I haven’t gotten anything official,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch. “I haven’t gotten anything official paperwork-wise, so I’m going on what he’s telling me. We’ll know by July 1.”
The return of centre Sobotka — a member of the Czech Republic’s World Cup squad who put up 72 points in 97 games for Omsk Avangard — should help ease the potential loss of veteran forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer to free agency this summer.
Bruins among those pitching for Shattenkirk
Sticking with the Blues for a moment, the Boston Bruins — who have been upfront about their desire for a top-end defenceman — have inquired about trading for top-four D-man Kevin Shattenkirk, according to the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch.
Shattenkirk, 27, has no trade protection and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The thinking is, with rookie Colton Parayko (an RFA in 2017) excelling, it will all but impossible for the Blues to keep both Parayko and Shattenkirk beyond next season.
Defenders getting scarce
New York’s Travis Hamonic retracted his trade request; Joe Sakic says he’s not parting with Tyson Barrie, and now Anaheim has committed to speculative trade bait Sami Vatanen.
The list of potentially available young D-men is shrinking faster than attendance at the LeBron Haters’ Ball. Jonas Brodin, Mat Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm and Fedor Tyutin are a few names rumoured to be available for the right price.
Islanders unlikely to trade up
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow to Sirius XM on Friday: “I don’t think we’ll try to move up [from the 19th-overall pick]. It’s tough. We don’t have a second-round pick. We used that in a trade to get Johnny Boychuk. We traded our third-round pick to get Shane Prince at the deadline this year.
“We’re happy with the prospects we have, so I don’t envision us trading one of them, or anyone from our current lineup to move up. We know we’ll get a good player. He’ll be a few years away from our club, but the draft has always been the day that we really try to build the foundation for the future.”
More fun with goalies
According to a report out of Russia, the agent for Ilya Bryzgalov said that already six NHL clubs have inquired about his UFA client, who’s willing to work for mostly bonuses in order to return to the NHL.
The Anaheim Ducks would be better off long-term dealing either John Gibson, 22, or Frederik Andersen, 26, before next season begins. Andersen is an RFA.
“If I can get Freddie signed one way or the other, I’ve got to move one because I’ll lose one for sure in expansion,” Ducks GM Bob Murray told the Orange County Register. “It just will happen. It’s just something that’s in front of us. It’s there. We have a lot of defencemen…. So we have to turn some of these things into assets.”
Canucks RFA updates
Vancouver-based News 1130 Sports offered up a few updates on the status of the Canucks’ restricted free agents Monday: