Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo remains the hot topic of recent rumor mill speculation and will continue to be in the coming weeks, but he’s not the only notable starter facing a doubtful future with his current club.
Midway through the Washington Capitals/Boston Bruins series, some pundits began speculating over Tim Thomas’ future with the Bruins, which intensified following the club’s playoff elimination at the hands of the Capitals.
It was suggested Thomas – whose no-movement clause expires July 1 – could be shopped this summer if management believed backup Tuukka Rask was ready to take over as the starter, but GM Peter Chiarelli said Friday he wasn’t inclined to break up his tandem.
Thomas, meanwhile, said he hadn’t given any thought to being traded this summer and attempted to quell the notion he would asked to be dealt.
If Chiarelli wanted to shop Thomas, he could find a market for the 38-year-old’s services.
During the Hotstove intermission segment on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada telecast, Elliotte Friedman said he spoke with two GMs interested in Thomas. They claimed the uproar over his snub of the White House during the team visit in February wouldn’t have any effect on his value.
With more than $59 million invested in 18 players for next season, the temptation might be there to move Thomas’ $5-million cap hit (though his actual salary falls to $3 million for 2012-13) to add depth elsewhere in the lineup.
Chiarelli, however, isn’t under any pressure to move Thomas. Indeed, the Bruins GM is known for his patience and has resisted calls to ship out struggling players or shake up a slumping roster before.
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe believes retaining Thomas for next season would be insurance in case Rask needs more time to adjust to the starter’s role. If Rask plays well, Dupont feels Chiarelli would get a better return for Thomas by shopping him near next season’s trade deadline.
It certainly seems to be a logical route for Chiarelli, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he quietly listens to offers this summer.
JORDAN STAAL ON THE MOVE?
Center Jordan Staal’s future with the Pittsburgh Penguins was also a topic of discussion during this weekend’s Hotstove.
Friedman reported Staal, who’s eligible for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2013, isn’t seeking a trade, but told management he wants more responsibility.
It’s believed the Penguins will do their best to re-sign Staal, but with Sidney Crosby also eligible for UFA status next summer and Evgeni Malkin in July 2014, many around the league wonder how the Penguins can afford to retain all three.
The panel also believes there would be tremendous interest in Staal if the Penguins were to put him on the block. Glenn Healy suggested if they decide to trade him, it would be better to do so this summer rather than next season, as such a move could have a negative impact on the club heading into the playoffs.
Perhaps the best time to move him would be around the NHL draft weekend, a period when teams tend to do considerable wheeling and dealing.
If Staal is available, David Staples of the Edmonton Journal suggests the Oilers should seriously consider offering this year’s first overall pick to land him.
Staples believes Staal, only 23, but with six years of NHL action under his belt (including a Cup championship), would be a perfect fit for the Oilers.
Staal’s two-way play and leadership would certainly be a welcome addition on the rebuilding Oilers, but they’d have to ensure they could re-sign him to a long-term deal and not risk blowing a first overall pick to acquire a star who would depart after only one season.
It’s no certainty Staal will be dealt, nor is it the first time his name has been mentioned as trade bait.
Still, with Staal, Crosby and Malkin all due significant raises on their next contracts, management will be forced to make a choice if those raises bite too deeply into the team’s cap space.
PREDATORS PURSUE PENDING FREE AGENTS
A report in The Tennessean this past weekend indicated the Nashville Predators have yet to turn a profit, though their ownership remained confident the business model was sustainable and pointed out the club’s business operations – including attendance, season-ticket sales and TV ratings – are heading in the right direction.
The team’s inability to turn a profit will raise doubts over the Predators’ efforts to re-sign defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, as well as right winger Alexander Radulov.
Predators chairman Tom Cigarran maintains the front office is committed to re-signing its best players, even if it means increasing the payroll above the current $52 million.
The Predators have $32 million invested in 12 players next season, so they have the cap space to re-sign the trio. Suter, of course, is the priority, as he’s a UFA, while Weber and Radulov are restricted free agents.
Provided all three wish to remain in Nashville, re-signing them shouldn’t be an issue. The problem would be coming up with the dollars to fill out the remainder of the roster.
Assuming Weber would re-sign for a long-term deal at the same cap hit ($7.5 million) he had this season and if Suter agrees to $6.5 million and Radulov $5 million, that would tie up $19 million in just three players, raising the team payroll to $51 million for 15 players.
If the salary cap remains at $64 million next season, it would leave roughly $13 million to re-sign or replace free agents such as the Kostitsyn brothers, Paul Gaustad, Jordin Tootoo, Colin Wilson, Hal Gill, Francis Bouillon and Anders Lindback.
Cigarran’s comments should ease the concerns of Predators fans regarding the team’s intentions for Weber, Suter and Radulov, but won’t end the speculation around the league over their futures in Nashville leading up to July 1.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday 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 Kukla’s Korner.