The St. Louis Blues avoided salary arbitration with restricted free agent Chris Stewart by inking him to a two-year, $8.3-million contract last week.
Stewart's signing leaves the Blues with only Alex Pietrangelo, Magnus Paajarvi and Jake Allen to re-sign. Of the trio, Pietrangelo is the priority, as the 23-year-old is recognized as one of the best defensemen in the league.
As per CapGeek.com, the Blues currently have around $8.8 million in cap space. Pietrangelo, coming off an entry-level contract that paid him more than $3 million last season in base salary and bonuses, is reportedly seeking close to $7 million per season.
GM Doug Armstrong insisted he has enough cap space to re-sign everyone, but also admitted it would be tight.
Ordinarily this situation would make Pietrangelo a prime candidate to receive an offer sheet, but TrueHockey.com's Andy Strickland reported the blueliner has instructed his agent to focus on re-signing with the Blues.
Given the declining salary cap for next season, traditional free-spending clubs lack the cap space necessary to pitch Pietrangelo an offer sheet.
Earlier this summer, there was speculation that suggested the Philadelphia Flyers – who made headlines last summer with a failed attempt to sign Shea Weber away from the Nashville Predators – would send an offer to the Pietrangelo camp.
With the Flyers currently above the $64.3 million cap by $2 million, they cannot afford a big offer sheet for Pietrangelo and certainly not one the Blues couldn't match.
Several teams – the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets – have more than $10 million in cap space, but don't expect them to start tossing offer sheets at Pietrangelo. Though they have room, each of these teams is a “budget” team with a self-imposed cap ceiling.
The Jets also have three players (Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little) slated for salary arbitration, so management's focus is squarely on them.
Armstrong has repeatedly claimed the Blues will match any potential offer sheet for Pietrangelo, so any attempt to poach him would likely be a futile exercise.
WHERE DOES TIM THOMAS FIT IN?
Bill Zito, agent for goaltender Tim Thomas, told the Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont he'd spoken with several NHL teams to find the right fit for his client.
Dupont noted that earlier this summer the NY Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers were rumored to have interest in the two-time Vezina Trophy winner.
The Flyers, however, will start next season with Steve Mason and Ray Emery as their goalie tandem, while the Islanders have since re-signed Evgeni Nabokov as their starter with Kevin Poulin as his backup.
Some rumor bloggers suggested the Florida Panthers as a fit for Thomas, but GM Dale Tallon insisted his plan is to build with his young players. Jacob Markstrom, the 23-year-old who has been labeled the franchise’s goalie of the future since he was drafted, is firmly entrenched in the team’s plans and recently signed a two-year contract extension. The team will undoubtedly want him to build on the career-high 23 NHL appearances he made last season.
The Panthers also have Scott Clemmensen under contract, so there's no need to bring in a veteran backup either.
Don't rule out the possibility of Thomas having to accept a training camp tryout somewhere.
DO THE KINGS HAVE ROOM TO KEEP KYLE CLIFFORD?
Contract talks between the LA Kings and Kyle Clifford have reportedly stalled, which could result in the 22-year-old being traded.
Clifford is coming off a two-way, entry-level contract worth $870,000 against the cap last season. He could be seeking a one-way deal worth more than $1 million per season.
With about $1.5 million in cap space and Trevor Lewis still to be re-signed, the Kings don't have much room to keep both players and still stay under the cap. If the Kings shop Clifford, they can't afford to take any dollars back, meaning he could likely be had for a draft pick or prospect.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples suggested Clifford would be a good fit on an Oilers checking line. Staples compared him to Cal Clutterbuck, whom the Oilers reportedly had interest in before the Minnesota Wild shipped him to the NY Islanders last month.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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.).
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