As more NHL teams are eliminated from the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, there's growing speculation over possible off-season moves for those clubs.
Finding cap room to re-sign key free agents could force the Ottawa Senators to make some significant moves.The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren reports budding stars like Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Alex Chiasson and Calder Trophy nominee Mark Stone are restricted free agents. Zibanejad, Hoffman and Stone are in line for significant raises.
Warren also notes the Senators must decide what to do with veterans Chris Neil, David Legwand and Colin Greening, who have term remaining on their contracts. Given the rise of the Senators' young forwards this season, the trio could be dealt or bought out to free up cap space to be invested in those youngsters.
Neil, 35, has an annual cap hit of $1.9 million and a modified no-trade clause. Leading up to this year's trade deadline, management gave him the option of accepting or rejecting a trade. They'll likely do so again this summer. Legwand ($3-million cap hit) and Greening ($2.65 million) also have modified no-movement clauses. The Senators spent most of this season trying to trade Greening.
Another notable free agent is season-saving goaltender Andrew Hammond, who's eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Despite the 27-year-old's gaudy numbers carrying the Sens into the playoffs, he has never played a full NHL season. It remains to be seen if “The Hamburglar” is the real deal or a flash in the pan.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch notes the Senators still have Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner under contract next season. Garrioch believes Hammond could test the UFA market. His colleague Don Brennan hopes the Senators can convince him to stay as insurance should the oft-injured Anderson and Lehner become sidelined again next season.
Garrioch and Warren also speculate once-promising blueliner Jared Cowen could hit the trade block this summer. The 24-year-old Cowen lost his roster spot down the stretch to Patrick Wiercioch and was a healthy scratch throughout the Senators' series against Montreal. He has two years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $3.1 million. Cowen could attract interest from clubs seeking a big, young defenseman with room to blossom into an effective top-four blueliner.
BLUES COULD CHANGE CORE AFTER PLAYOFF FAILURE
For the fourth straight year, the St. Louis Blues failed to carry over their regular-season dominance into the playoffs. Despite finishing among the top-four teams in the league's overall standings for the third time in four years, the Blues made another early exist from the post-season.
That's generating talk in St. Louis of changes behind the bench and to their veteran core. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy P. Rutherford reports Blues GM Doug Armstrong must decide if he'll bring back coach Ken Hitchcock for another season or look for a new bench boss. Long-tenured core players like T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund or captain David Backes could become trade candidates.
Of that group, Oshie and Berglund are the easiest to move. Oshie lacks a no-trade clause and Berglund's won't kick in until July 1. Rutherford also speculated over goaltender Brian Elliott's future in St. Louis. Though under contract for two more seasons, he was passed over for the starter's job in favor of rookie Jake Allen in their series against the Minnesota Wild.
DON’T EXPECT A MALKIN TRADE
Pittsburgh Penguins president and CEO Ron Morehouse recently said superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, along with GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston, will return next season. Despite Morehouse's statement, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the Penguins should at least explore the idea of shopping Malkin.
“If you can get two or three pieces including a guy that can play with Crosby, don't you have to think about it?,” asked Friedman. He suggested teams with cap space and young assets, like Nashville, Florida and Calgary, could afford to swing a deal for the 28-year-old Malkin.
If the Penguins ownership and management did think about moving Malkin they obviously didn't linger on the subject. Factor in Malkin's full no-movement clause and his (and Crosby's) stated intent to remain in Pittsburgh, it's understandable why the Penguins aren't moving either guy 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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.