As the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes cleaned out their dressing rooms this week, the media focused on what might be in store for those teams in the off-season.
New York Post columnist Larry Brooks looked at which Rangers free agents may be cut loose this summer.
Amongst them were unrestricted free agents Olli Jokinen and goaltender Alex Auld, while restricted free agent forward Enver Lisin probably won’t receive a qualifying offer, making him a UFA July 1.
Brooks also suggested Wade Redden might be bought out or demoted and looks at the potential salary cap implications of the former, whilst noting demotion would clear Redden’s salary completely from the Rangers cap hit for next season.
Brooks also noted left winger Vaclav Prospal’s future with the Rangers was uncertain, given the decline in his production during the second half of the season.
Prospal told the New York Daily News he’d like to return, but that will depend on whether or not the Blueshirts find a more suitable player via trade or free agency. If not, they could try to re-sign Prospal provided he’s not seeking an expensive, long-term deal.
According to Capgeek.com the Rangers would have just more than $12 million in available cap space for next season, but that will shrink considerably once they re-sign defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi as well as forwards Brandon Prust and Erik Christensen.
If they bury Redden in the minors, however, that’ll free up an additional $6.5 million to be put toward addressing other roster needs.
• The Florida Panthers roster should be considerably different next season as management intends on getting “younger, stronger and faster.”
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun admitted earlier this week he’d be willing to waive his no-movement clause if the deal made sense for him; in other words, if he could be dealt to a winning team.
GM Randy Sexton, meanwhile, told the Miami Herald he intended to meet with coach Peter DeBoer to discuss the coaching staff and which players he wants to bring back next season.
The Herald suggested Vokoun, forwards Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton, plus veteran blueliner Bryan McCabe will be shopped in the off-season.
Vokoun, Weiss and Horton will attract considerable interest if they’re placed on the block this summer, but McCabe might not be an easy sell. He has only one year remaining on his contract, at a cap hit of $5.75 million, but like Vokoun, he has a no-movement clause.
Sexton might find it easier to move McCabe closer to next season’s trade deadline, when most of that salary has been paid by the Panthers.
• The Atlanta Thrashers wasted no time shaking up their front office and coaching staff, firing coach John Anderson, promoting GM Don Waddell to team president and elevating assistant GM Rick Dudley into Waddell’s old job.
Amongst Dudley’s priorities will be re-signing defenseman Pavel Kubina, along with forwards Maxim Afinogenov and Colby Armstrong. Kubina and Afinogenov have expressed a willingness to return with the Thrashers next season, while Armstrong is expected to be contacted by Dudley soon.
Of those three, Kubina could prove difficult to re-sign. He’s coming off a contract that paid him $5 million per season and while he said he wants to be paid fairly, it remains to be seen what that means.
One player who might not return is backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, who’s also a UFA this summer. Hedberg said management hasn’t contacted him about a new contract.
Their potential replacements are currently unknown, but whoever takes over as GM will have their hands full addressing the club’s considerable needs, including more scorers, defensive depth and goaltending.
They’ll also have to impress veteran winger Martin St-Louis, who recently told the St. Petersburg Times he wants to be on a winning team and isn’t getting any younger (he turns 35 this summer), adding he’ll see how things shake out this summer.
It appeared St-Louis, who has a no-trade clause, was hinting he might seek a trade if the club doesn’t show any significant signs of improvement next season.
He’s heading into the final year of his contract and while he’s had terrific chemistry with young superstar Steven Stamkos, the mismanagement and losing records of the past three years have obviously taken their toll.
• The Carolina Hurricanes will continue their rebuilding process throughout the off-season and it remains to be seen if long-time Carolina veterans Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour will be part of that process.
It’s been rumored for some time Brind’Amour will retire, but he told the Raleigh News & Observer he hasn’t made any decision on his future yet. While Whitney, a UFA this summer, has yet to talk contract with management.
It’s believed Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford wants to re-sign Whitney and put gentle pressure on Brind’Amour – who for the past two seasons has been a shadow of his former self – to retire and accept a front office position.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays 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.