With the Calgary Flames playoff hopes all but dashed the focus now turns to what off-season moves management has in store.
Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail suggested the interim label needs to come off GM Jay Feaster's title, which is perhaps the easiest issue facing the front office this summer.
Former GM Darryl Sutter didn't leave his successor much cap space to work with, as CapGeek.com indicates the Flames have $55.005 million committed to 18 players for next season, meaning if the cap increases to $62 million as expected it would give Feaster only $7 million to invest in new contracts.
Duhatschek suggested UFA left winger Alex Tanguay, whose career was rejuvenated playing with Jarome Iginla this season, might not be keen to seek more dollars elsewhere. Center Brendan Morrison may also wish to stay put and could consider an affordable one-year deal to do so.
Left winger Curtis Glencross, on the other hand, is likely a goner, especially if he's seeking a five-year deal as rumored.
Buyouts of the final contract year for Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman (both due $3 million next season) are possibilities, but not so for underachieving center Matt Stajan, who still has three years and $10.5 million remaining on his deal.
Duhatschek doubted the club will shop captain Jarome Iginla this summer, but wondered about the possibility of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester hitting the trade block, though he acknowledged their expensive contracts would be tough to move and would likely mean the Flames would have to take on salary in return.
Iginla, Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester also have no-movement clauses and if they don't want to leave there's nothing Feaster can do about it.
Feaster’s unlikely to shop them anyway as he considers them invaluable core players, though that won’t silence the trade speculation that is sure to be resurrected once the playoffs are over.
BRUINS NEED CASH TO KEEP KABERLE
Add Tomas Kaberle to the list of notable free agents whose contract talks have been postponed until after the playoffs.
It was reported last Thursday there had been no further progress between Kaberle's agent, Rick Curran, and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, as the two sides opted to revisit negotiations following the post-season.
This shouldn't be considered a surprising development. Most free agents on playoff-bound clubs find contract talks a distraction at this point in the season and prefer to wait until it’s over.
That's fine with most GMs, as it buys them further time to evaluate the player and determine available cap space for the following season.
Cap space will be an issue for the Bruins, because while they only have a handful of players to either re-sign (Kaberle, fellow UFA Mark Recchi, restricted free agent Brad Marchand) or replace (UFA left winger Michael Ryder) they currently have a little more than $53 million tied up in 19 players for 2011-12.
Even with the anticipated salary cap increase for to $62 million, that's not going to leave much space for Chiarelli to re-sign his key players and leave sufficient room for potential roster adjustments.
If he wants to re-sign Kaberle - even if the blueliner was willing to accept a salary similar to the $4.25 million he earned this season - it may mean having to ship out one or two salaried players to free up sufficient cap space.
Unless, of course, center Marc Savard remains sidelined next season with post-concussion symptoms, which would provide Chiarelli with the necessary “wiggle room” without having to dump salary.
DEALING WITH RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Kaberle joins Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, New Jersey's Zach Parise and Nashville's Shea Weber amongst notables whose contract talks have been postponed until after the post-season.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun suggested the lack of quality depth in this summer's unrestricted free agent market will shift more focus onto the status of restricted free agents such as Stamkos, Parise and Weber.
Garrioch guessed Stamkos would prefer a 12-year, $120 million extension, while the Lightning would counter with six years at around $8.5 million per. Garrioch also noted the belief in NHL circles is Weber is worth between $6- and $6.5-million per season.
Given the Lightning have Vincent Lecavalier's 11-year, $85-million contract on their books they're unlikely to commit to a 12-year deal for Stamkos; six years at around $8.5 million sounds about right.
The issue for Weber isn't his worth, but whether or not the cost-conscious Predators are willing to commit that kind of cash. The longer they dally, the greater the risk of a rival club swooping in on July 1 and setting the price with an expensive offer sheet.
Parise's situation is another matter. As Garrioch noted, the big question is: does Parise want to remain with the Devils? He's got arbitration rights this year, meaning he can agree to a one-year, arbiter-awarded deal and then walk away next summer via unrestricted free agency.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello undoubtedly hopes to re-sign Parise, but given the Devils’ limited cap space this summer that will prove difficult. Parise could also be an offer sheet target, but it's expected the wily Lamoriello will file for arbitration, which would make the left winger ineligible to receive such an offer.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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.