The off-season could bring big changes to several teams who missed the post-season, but what might those changes look like?
Several NHL clubs that failed to qualify for the playoffs face some important off-season roster decisions. Here’s a look at some of them.
Arizona Coyotes. Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports feels the Coyotes must address their need for a top-four defenseman and a first-line center.
Landing a proven top center is their biggest priority but could prove an expensive endeavour. The Coyotes carry depth in promising young players and in draft picks (including two first-round picks in this year’s draft) to dangle as trade bait.
Buffalo Sabres. Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News believes the honeymoon is over for Sabres GM Tim Murray. In Sullivan’s estimation, Murray knows how to tear down a roster but has yet to prove he can build one.
Bolstering the defense corps is a must for the Sabres this summer. Last summer, Murray was among those with interest in Anaheim Ducks blueliner Cam Fowler last summer. Perhaps Murray will target Fowler or another of the young Ducks’ rearguards. Murray must also decide if left wing Evander Kane, slated for unrestricted free agent status in July 2018, has a long-term future in Buffalo.
Colorado Avalanche. GM Joe Sakic put to rest recent speculation suggesting center Nathan MacKinnon isn’t an untouchable. Sakic told the Denver Post’s Terry Frei he considers MacKinnon, right wing Miko Rantanen and forward Tyson Jost as “building blocks” and part of the club’s future.
That future might not include center Matt Duchene or left wing Gabriel Landeskog. Both were subjects of frequent trade chatter this season. Prospect defenseman and 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher apparent reluctant to sign with the Avs, which could also make him a trade candidate.
Dallas Stars. Goaltending remains a serious issue for the Stars. They could dump Kari Lehtonen or Antti Neimi via trade or contract buyout. Free-agent targets could include Ben Bishop of the Los Angeles Kings or Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika speculates suggests prying promising Joonas Korpisalo away from the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade before the expansion draft. Antti Raanta of the New York Rangers and Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals could also be tempting pre-expansion trade targets.
Detroit Red Wings. John Niyo of The Detroit News believes it’s time for the Wings to engage in a full-fledged roster rebuild. He suggests clearing some cap space by packaging a high-salaried veteran such as Justin Abdelkader or Darren Helm with a promising youngster in hopes of enticing the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Wings need a top-two defenseman and were linked in trade speculation last summer to the Anaheim Ducks’ Cam Fowler and the Winnipeg Jets’ Jacob Trouba. They could revisit that interest or target teams that risk losing a good young defenseman in the expansion draft.
New York Islanders. Determining the future of captain John Tavares tops their agenda. The 26-year-old center is a year away from unrestricted free agency. Newsday’s Neil Best reports Tavares maintains his desire to stay with the Isles, but he’ll have a lot to discuss with the front office in the coming weeks. Questions about the team’s roster plans and future in Brooklyn could dominate those talks.
Best’s colleague Arthur Staple believes mishandling the goaltending trio of Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube was GM Garth Snow’s biggest downfall. This issue has dogged the Isles for the better part of two seasons. It cannot continue for a third.
Winnipeg Jets. Defenseman Jacob Trouba’s trade status was a hot topic in last summer’s rumor mill. Though he’s under contract through 2017-18, his name could surface again.
Trouba told the Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman he has no problem playing in Winnipeg, but hinted he could play out next season and see what happens. He’ll be a restricted free agent in July 2018 with salary-arbitration rights.
Vancouver Canucks. Jeff Paterson of the Vancouver Sun includes defenseman Alex Edler waiving his no-trade clause among the 10 things he’d like to see from the Canucks in 2017-18. He feels the blueliner looked dispirited this season and in need of a change. Even if the oft-injured Edler agrees to be moved, shopping his $5.25-million cap hit through 2018-19 could prove difficult.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have one year remaining on their contracts. Sportnet’s Mike Johnston reports the twins don’t see themselves playing for anyone else. Both have full no-movement clauses.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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