Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News recently wrote he “wouldn't be surprised” if Sabres star Thomas Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild when his contract expires next July.
Ever since the Sabres shipped former captain Jason Pominville to the Wild at the trade deadline, there's been growing speculation Vanek and teammate Ryan Miller would become trade candidates.
Vanek played his college hockey in Minnesota (where he also met his wife) and spends his off-seasons in the state. Gleason believes the 29-year-old winger also wants to play for a winner, noting the Wild's signings last summer of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as indicative of their intent to contend for the Stanley Cup.
Can the Wild afford to sign Vanek next summer? They currently have over $30.8 million invested in just eight players for 2014-15. Assuming the salary cap for that season rebounds to $70 million, they would have around $40 million to restock their roster.
Some of that money, however, will be spent this summer on re-signing or replacing goaltender Niklas Backstrom, blueliners Jared Spurgeon and Justin Falk, and forwards Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck.
Another significant chunk would be spent next summer on re-signing or replacing Pominville, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Mike Rupp and Zenon Konopka.
The Wild must also ensure sufficient cap room for their promising youngsters. Jason Zucker becomes a restricted free agent next summer, while Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund and Matthew Dumba become RFAs in 2015.
Vanek, who will make $6.4 million in real salary next season (with a cap hit of over $7.142 million), would have to take a pay cut to join the Wild next summer. Even so, there's no guarantee they could afford him.
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS
Jim Nill has been Dallas Stars GM for just over a week, but there's plenty of interest over his potential moves this summer.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes one of Nill's biggest decisions is landing a first line center so Jamie Benn can be moved back to left wing.
Matheson suggests Nill make a bold move by shopping Loui Eriksson, noting the Stars already have a bevy of young wingers (Reilly Smith, Brett Ritchie, Matt Fraser and Matej Stransky) on their club or in their system.
Since 2008-09, the 27-year-old Eriksson has consistently ranked among the Stars leading scorers and would attract considerable interest in the trade market. Moving him for a first line center, however, would hurt their depth on right wing, leaving a fading Erik Cole and inexperienced kids to fill the void.
Nill is more likely to draw from his depth in young assets as part of a package for a first line center.
CLARKSON TO STRIKE IT RICH
New Jersey Devils right winger David Clarkson could be among the most pursued players in this summer's free agent market.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio suggests Clarkson would be a good replacement for Ruslan Fedotenko if he doesn't re-sign with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Clarkson's physical style and scoring punch (30 goals last season, 15 in 48 games this season) would make him a terrific addition to the Flyers lineup, but GM Paul Holmgren is more interested in landing a top-two defenseman this summer.
Holmgren is expected to buy out Daniel Briere and use the savings to invest in a top blueliner via trade or free agency. Unless he moves out additional salary via trade or buyouts, he won't have enough cash for Clarkson, who could command up to $5 million per season on the open market.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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.).