The Detroit Red Wings avoided arbitration this week with defenseman Danny DeKeyser and goaltender Petr Mrazek. DeKeyser, 26, inked a five-year, $30-million contract, while the 24-year-old Mrazek agreed to a two-year, $8-million deal.
These deals, however, push the Wings above the $73 million salary-cap ceiling by over $4.2 million. MLive.com's Brendan Savage reports GM Ken Holland doesn't expect forwards Johan Franzen ($3.9 million) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) to play this season because of ongoing concussion symptoms. The two are expected to be placed on long-term injured reserve.
Joining them could be forward Teemu Pulkkinen ($812,500), who is recovering from recent shouder surgery. With their combined salaries on LTIR, the Wings should be cap compliant when the season begins.
Holland could also be active in the trade market leading up to the season opener in October. NBC Sports' Jason Brough reports the Wings have a surplus of forwards, noting Holland's recent wish to acquire a top-three defenseman.
Earlier in July, trade rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis' Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim's Cam Fowler. Wings forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar surfaced as possible trade candidates, though Holland is apparently reluctant to part with either.
To land Shattenkirk or Fowler, however, could require a good young winger as part of the return. If Holland won't give up Nyquist or Tatar, he'll have to consider more affordable, less-talented trade options. He could also wait for a better deal to emerge over the course of the season.
The Wings aren't the only club that could face the challenge of getting under the salary cap before October. After re-signing center Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year deal worth over $1.9 million per season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have $6.5 million in cap space. With right winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Nikita Nestorov still to re-sign, getting the pair under contract could exceed the $73-million ceiling.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman remains confident he'll get rising star Kucherov under contract this summer. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times suggests Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg (six years, $36 million) as a comparable.
Yzerman said he doesn't have to make a salary-dumping deal before re-signing Kucherov and Nesterov, but acknowledged his need to become cap compliant before the season begins. Smith speculates center Valtteri Filppula, who's under contract for two more years at an annual cap hit of $5 million, as a trade candidate.
Recent speculation also suggested goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.9 million with a full no-movement clause), right winger Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million, no-movement) or defenseman Braydon Coburn ($3.7 million, full no-trade clause) as trade options. Filppula, however, has a modified no-trade clause, making him easier to shop.
TAVARES INTENDS TO STAY WITH ISLANDERS
Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning put an end to speculation the Markham, Ont., native would return home and join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some Leafs followers, however, are now looking ahead to the summer of 2018, when Mississauga-born John Tavares of the New York Islanders is eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Appearing Tuesday on Sportsnet 590, Tavares chuckled when asked about the possibility of playing for the Leafs. While acknowledging his connection to Toronto, the 25-year-old Islanders captain said not to count on his joining the Maple Leafs. He maintained his commitment to remain with the Isles.
Of course, anything can happen over the next two years. The Islanders efforts to build into a Stanley Cup contender could stall. Tavares could become disenchanted with the club's direction. While the club's new ownership is willing to spend to the cap ceiling, contract talks with Tavares could prove unexpectedly difficult.
However, it's worth remembering there was talk of Tavares bolting the Isles prior to signing his current contract in 2011. At that time, the Isles were still among the league's worst clubs, but he remained committed to improving the franchise. Should they continue their recent improvement, there's little reason to believe he'll depart the Islanders for the Leafs in 2018.
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.