Another early playoff exit by the San Jose Sharks has sparked speculation the club could see significant change in the off-season.
It’s already begun behind the bench as the team fired head coach Ron Wilson. While management seeks his replacement there are musings over possible roster moves.
GM Doug Wilson is expected to make a strong effort to retain defenseman Brian Campbell, who Wilson acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline. But that could prove expensive as Campbell could command up to $7 million per season in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market.
Persistent rumors of Wilson trading Patrick Marleau have predictably flared up again, but unlike this time last year they won’t be dragging on for an entire season.
Marleau’s new two-year, $12. 6 million contract – with a no-trade clause – kicks in on July 1, so if Wilson is in fact shopping his long-time captain he has a limited window to pull off the deal. That new contract, combined with Marleau’s drop in production this season, could prove very difficult to move.
Still, there could be a few suitors out there, as the Columbus Blue Jackets have around $20 million in available cap space this summer and are believed very interested in Marleau, as they’re seeking a center for Rick Nash’s line.
– Speaking of Campbell, there’s some talk he might return to the Buffalo Sabres, but that appears to be little more than wishful thinking.
If the Sabres were unwilling to pay Campbell the five-year, $25 million contract he sought last fall to remain in Buffalo, they’re definitely not going to pay more than $6 million per season this summer.
And no, Sabres fans, he’s not going to take a “hometown discount” to return to Buffalo. This is Campbell’s best opportunity to land the biggest contract of his career and he’s not going to pass that up for the Sabres, Sharks or anyone else.
– It seems former New York Islanders center Alexei Yashin is interested in returning to the NHL next season.
The Islanders bought Yashin out of the final years of his contract last June, making him an unrestricted free agent. While there was some interest in his services last summer, his asking price of $4.5 million per season proved too expensive.
He starred this past season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League and apparently has a standing offer from the club for next season. Yashin’s agent, however, is shopping around in hopes of landing an NHL contract for his client.
Clubs seeking offensive depth at center could have interest in Yashin, but unless his camp lowers their asking price he can expect to play another season in Russia.
– Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake created a stir recently when it was reported he wouldn’t object if the Leafs were to trade him this summer.
His agent, however, moved quickly to squash speculation Blake was unhappy with the Leafs, adding his client was merely talking about the possibility of his being shopped as a means for the team to free up cap space.
Leafs interim GM Cliff Fletcher has already stated he sees Blake as part of the roster next season and has no plans to trade him.
Even if Fletcher were to consider that option he would find Blake hard to move. While the winger lacks a “no-trade” clause, his $4 million per season salary and concerns over his health would be as effective as a movement clause.
Meanwhile, speculation persists the Maple Leafs could buy out the remainder of Darcy Tucker’s contract in June, at a cost of $6 million spread over the next six years.
It’s also possible goaltender Andrew Raycroft might be bought out and defenseman Pavel Kubina could be dealt.
-Last summer the Nashville Predators lost several players via trades and free agency for cost-cutting reasons as the club was for sale, but this summer under new ownership it will be a different story.
The Predators have re-signed several key players – the latest being winger Martin Erat – and are intent on re-signing UFA goaltender Dan Ellis and RFA defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. They’ve also re-signed their coaching staff to long-term extensions.
GM David Poile has also suggested he could try to bolster his club’s depth via unrestricted free agency, depending on how much available cash is left after re-signing his remaining free agents.
Don’t expect a rival team to successfully pluck away either Weber or Suter via offer sheets, as Poile has already stated he’ll match any offer.
All of this is good news for Predators fans and should go a long way toward boosting the club’s season ticket sales this summer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.