Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi recently told the Los Angeles Times he’d had an extended conversation with the agent for Drew Doughty for the first time in a while and expected to hold more talks in the near future.
Lombardi claimed things remain “on track,” but he could shed no further light on how close he might be to getting Doughty under contract.
Speculation had the Kings GM awaiting whatever Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber received for a new contract, but suggested Weber wouldn’t make a good comparable for Doughty, as the Predators blueliner is four years older and has more NHL experience.
Lombardi also said he’d be willing to make Doughty the Kings’ highest paid player, if the blueliner was willing to accept a long-term contract and put off his first opportunity at unrestricted free agency. Anze Kopitar ($6.8 million per season) is currently the highest paid King.
It’s understandable why Lombardi seeks a long-term deal, as Doughty, 21, is only four years away from UFA eligibility. If he develops as expected into a perennial Norris contender, it could prove far more expensive to re-sign him then.
WOLSKI NOT A GONER IN NEW YORK
With the New York Rangers reaching a settlement on Wednesday with right winger Ryan Callahan on a multi-year deal, they’ve not only re-signed their key free agents, but also had a 48-hour window in which to buy out other players if they needed more salary cap flexibility.
For weeks the local media has speculated left winger Wojtek Wolski, who had a disappointing performance after joining the Rangers in a mid-season trade, was a prime buyout candidate.
However, Wolski reportedly not only won’t be bought out, but won’t be traded between now and the start of training camp.
With more than $62.9 million invested in 22 players for the upcoming season, the Blueshirts are approximately $1.3 million under the $64.3 million salary cap, so there’s no need to clear space.
It’s likely another player, perhaps blueliner Michael Del Zotto, will play his way onto the lineup in pre-season, in which case, they’d have to free up cap space via trade or demotion.
Having already sent defenseman Wade Redden and his $6.5 million per season to the minors, Rangers management won’t have any qualms about burying more salary if required, be it Wolski or somebody else.
IS ISLANDERS-DEVILS TRADE A PRELUDE TO ANOTHER BIG DEAL?
Another New York area team, the Islanders, got closer to reaching the salary cap floor next season after shipping out right winger Trent Hunter to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for veteran left winger Brian Rolston, who agreed to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal.
Rolston, 38, is set to earn a cap hit of slightly more than $5 million for 2011-12, so after shipping out Hunter’s $2 million salary to the Devils, the move eats up $3 million in cap space for the Isles. This now means they’ll have to spend another $6 million to be above the $48.3 million floor.
Speculation abounds suggesting the Isles might not be done dealing. Left winger Blake Comeau, 25, is scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing on Aug. 4 and Isles GM Garth Snow recently hinted at the possibility they might not reach a contract settlement before then.
That has some observers suggesting the possibility Comeau might be dealt now that Rolston is on the roster, perhaps for a veteran stay-at-home defenseman. Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Mike Komisarek, a Long Island native, has been linked to the Islanders in Internet gossip, though that may be merely wishful thinking on the part of Leafs fans.
The Rolston-Hunter trade also benefits the Devils, clearing more than $3 million in cap space, leading to the obvious conclusion the move was made to free up the necessary room to re-sign left winger Zach Parise, who is slated for an arbitration hearing on Aug. 3.
EMERY GETS OFFER FROM BLACKHAWKS
Goaltender Ray Emery played well in his short tenure last season with the Anaheim Ducks, but not well enough to land another contract either with the Ducks or another NHL club yet.
Emery, who went 7-2-0 in 10 regular season games with the Ducks, including a 2.28 GAA and .926 save percentage, has accepted an invitation from the Chicago Blackhawks to attend their training camp on a tryout basis.
Despite Emery’s regular season numbers, his stats in the Ducks six-game opening-round series against Nashville (2-3, 3.20 GAA, .897 SP), along with concerns over his recovery from career-threatening hip surgery, may be contributing factors in his inability to land another NHL contract.
This move, however, could not only give Emery a good chance to land a spot with the Blackhawks, but also suggests management isn’t fully sold on Alexander Salak’s abilities to back up starter Corey Crawford.
Salak will have to raise his game in training camp and the pre-season to nail down that role as Emery’s experience could give him an edge.
MANY UFAs WAITING FOR AN OFFER
At least Emery knows he’ll be attending an NHL training camp in September. Other unsigned UFAs currently aren’t so lucky.
As Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star recently observed, several veterans, including Alex Kovalev, Cory Stillman, Marty Turco, Chris Drury, John Madden, Bryan McCabe and Nikolay Zherdev, could face either accepting significant pay cuts if they hope to land with NHL teams next season or look to continue their playing careers overseas.
A few could, like Emery, end up looking around for training camp tryouts in hopes of continuing their NHL playing careers.