In theory, at least, NHL training camps are just weeks away. But there are a number of teams that still have some significant roster issues to address. Which ones are most intriguing? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Tim Thomas in Boston.
The 2010-11 Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner announced he would be taking a leave of absence from the game this season, but some veteran industry observers wonder whether he’s using the idea of a sabbatical as a negotiating ploy to control where he would land in a trade. If the 38-year-old is interested in playing this year, he could represent a solid option for a team in need of help between the pipes.
9. Lubomir Visnovsky in Long Island/Anaheim.
The Islanders believed they’d acquired an above-average veteran to bolster their blueline when they landed Visnovsky from Anaheim in June. But the 36-year-old is contesting the transaction, claiming his no-trade clause that’s part of his current contract was still valid and he wasn’t given the option of vetoing the deal. He’s scheduled to meet with an arbitrator to settle the matter in early September and the result of the decision set in motion a domino affect on the Ducks and Isles’ rosters.
8. Teams below the salary cap floor.
Although there’s no telling what the CBA negotiations will do to the labor landscape, the current salary cap floor has been set at $54.2 million and eight of the league’s teams – Phoenix, the Islanders, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Dallas, St. Louis, Florida and Colorado – have payrolls below it. Even if the cap floor drops, a few of those teams will have to sign some veterans before the season begins to get there.
7. The Flyers’ blueline.
Philadelphia made a strong pitch for the services of Shea Weber, but the Predators matched and left the Flyers back at square one – looking for a replacement for likely-to-retire star Chris Pronger and departed free agent Matt Carle. They’ve been rumored to have interest in Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester, but they’re not the only team in that department (see below).
6. New contracts for RFA defensemen P.K. Subban and John Carlson.
Both young blueliners are integral parts of their respective team’s future, yet both remain unsigned as September approaches. Many comparable young talents have been locked up on multiyear contract extensions and it will be fascinating to see whether Canadiens and Capitals management follow suit or choose to ink them to smaller, less lucrative deals.
5. Shane Doan in Phoenix.
The summer’s longest-running soap opera involves the long-time Coyotes cornerstone’s search for a new contract. Doan has bent over backward waiting for Phoenix’s ownership situation to be settled, but his agent has said he definitely will sign with one team before the collective bargaining agreement expires Sept. 15. If he leaves, Phoenix will have a giant void to fill on and off the ice. If he stays, teams that pursued him could look to jump-start the trade market. Either way, his decision will have a notable impact.
4. The Red Wings blueline.
Like the Flyers, the Wings have an enormous hole in their defense corps after the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart to San Jose. They’ve still got more than $13 million in cap space and could be another team bidding on Bouwmeester, but if that doesn’t happen, a top-four of Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson and Ian White won’t be frightening too many opponents.
3. Bobby Ryan in Anaheim.
For much of the off-season, there was speculation the Ducks were preparing to part ways with Ryan, but a deal never came to fruition. Depending on where Doan goes, Ryan could represent the most attractive option on the market for a team looking to bulk up on the wing. Of course, Anaheim GM Bob Murray could choose to keep him, too.
2. The Maple Leafs’ net.
Toronto GM Brian Burke can say he’d be comfortable going to training camp with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens as his netminding tandem all he wants, but few people believe him. The Leafs need veteran goaltending help to push their youngsters and whether that help comes in the form of Thomas, the gentleman at No. 1 on this list or someone else, the only thing you can count on is the Buds won’t go to camp with their current duo.
1. Roberto Luongo in Vancouver.
Luongo has publicly stated his days as a Canuck are over, leaving it to GM Mike Gillis to find him a new home. That’s much easier said than done thanks to Luongo’s 12-year contract. Gillis’ asking price will have to drop if he hopes to move the star (to a place like Toronto, Chicago or Florida), because it’s very unlikely he keeps Luongo as backup to new No. 1 Cory Schneider.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.