It didn’t take long after the Washington Capitals’ stunning playoff upset for speculation to begin on possible off-season moves for a team now considered as post-season underachievers.
CSN Washington’s Ryan O’Halloran correctly predicted coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t be fired and singled out the poor play of forwards Alex Semin and Tomas Fleischmann as factors in the Capitals’ early exit.
O’Halloran went as far as to suggest Semin, who will be paid $6 million next season, should be dealt to a Western Conference team.
Corey Masisak, meanwhile, believed the spring performances of young blueliners John Carlson and Karl Alzner could help them crack the roster next season. Masisak also felt re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Jeff Schultz should be amongst management’s priorities.
That likely means pending UFA blueliners Joe Corvo, Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina won’t be returning next season.
It wouldn’t be surprising if GM George McPhee quietly entertained trade offers for Semin and Fleischmann. The latter would probably be easier to move as he’s a restricted free agent whose new contract would be considerably more affordable than Semin’s $6 million hit.
The Washington Post recently suggested goaltender Jose Theodore may have played his last game with the Capitals.
The 33-year-old is a nominee for the Masterton Trophy, but is also an unrestricted free agent. He told the Post he hadn’t spoken with management yet about a contract extension.
While Theodore had a strong second half of the season, he was yanked early in Game 2 against the Canadiens in favor of Semyon Varlamov and spent the remainder of the series riding the pine. Unless Theodore is willing to accept a significant pay cut and a role as Varlamov’s backup, he will probably move on in the summer.
• If the Capitals are interested in bringing in an affordable replacement for Theodore, perhaps they will consider Nashville Predators goalie Dan Ellis.
Having lost his starter’s job with the Predators to Pekka Rinne, Ellis told Predators management he intends on testing this summer’s free agent market.
Just finishing up a two-year, $1.75 million per season contract, Ellis still has potential as a starting goalie and would be an affordable option for teams seeking depth between the pipes next season.
• If a report out of Russia is to be believed, former NHL star Jaromir Jagr is close to re-signing with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental League, where he has spent the past two seasons.
That would effectively quash the rumors of his signing with the Edmonton Oilers. If so, Oilers fans should send “thank you” cards to the GM of Avangard Omsk.
If Oilers management is truly intent on rebuilding their roster from the ground up, the last thing they should be doing is wasting valuable cap space on a fading former NHL star.
• Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney has 14 free agents – eight of them unrestricted – to consider re-signing, but according to the Arizona Republic, he cannot make any moves until the league informs him what the Coyotes’ operating budget will be for next season.
The Coyotes are still without an independent owner, although the league is attempting to sell the club to Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. If the sale isn’t completed before June, Maloney will need to know from the league how much he’s able to spend.
Matthew Lombardi, Zbynek Michalek, Lee Stempniak and Derek Morris are their key free agents. Lombardi and Stempniak are willing to return, but Michalek, in an interview with the Republic, sounded as though he’ll hit the market.
In recent years the Coyotes have kept their payroll close to the league minimum, but with more than $30 million already committed to 13 players next season, it’ll take more than $41 million to retain most of their top free agents and have enough left to replace the departed.
• Buffalo Sabres management is reportedly interested in re-signing UFA defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman.
The poor playoff performances of Tim Connolly and Derek Roy could also have the club in the market for more depth at center.
With more than $44 million being paid to 15 players already next season, landing another center likely means making a trade if there’s nothing affordable to be found in this summer’s free agent market.
Tallinder and Lydman have expressed interest in returning, but of course that’ll depend on their asking prices. Their respective cap hits last season were in the range of $2.5 - $2.8 million.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.