In the wake of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins being eliminated from the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs a few pundits have proposed the two clubs rid themselves of some expensive talent to free-up necessary cap space to bolster their overall depth.
As discussed last week on THN.com, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Edmonton Journal suggested the Penguins entertain offers for superstar center Evgeni Malkin, while the Boston Globe offered up the possibility of the Bruins dealing away 2009 Vezina winner Tim Thomas.
It’s understandable why the notion of shopping Malkin has been floated. The Penguins lack quality scoring-wingers, they’re probably going to lose puckmoving defenseman Sergei Gonchar to free agency and with roughly $11 million in available cap space, they lack the money to address those issues this summer.
If the Penguins decide to ship out Malkin they’re unlikely to get the return of a “top line winger, a top-pairing defenseman, two roster players and either two top prospects or two first round picks” as suggested by the Tribune-Review. As great as Malkin is and will continue to be, no NHL team will gut its roster to land him.
A more realistic scenario would be peddling him for a couple of scoring wingers, as suggested by the Journal when it proposed a dream trade involving Oilers wingers Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and possibly Andrew Cogliano.
If Penguins GM Ray Shero were to shop Malkin, he’d undoubtedly get plenty of interest, but it remains to be seen if he’s willing to make such a drastic move.
Shero has limited cap space this summer to address his roster needs, but he’s not under pressure to move Malkin or any of his other big-ticket players.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing Shero is finding a replacement for Gonchar, who’s an unrestricted free agent seeking a multi-year deal.
Shero cannot afford to re-sign Gonchar for the same cap hit of $5 million per season he earned on his current contract and would be leery of committing more than two years to a 36-year-old player, because if Gonchar were to retire before the end of his contract it would still count against the Penguins’ cap due to the “over-35” rule in the CBA.
Given his cap constraints Shero won’t be able to afford a comparable replacement for Gonchar unless the GM clears considerable cap space by moving one of his core players. He’ll more likely look to Kris Letang to try and fill Gonchar’s shoes next season.
• The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont went so far as to propose shipping Thomas to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Brian Campbell, perhaps at the upcoming June draft.
Too many factors, however, work against that deal. Thomas and Campbell have no-movement clauses, the Blackhawks would have to find a way to shed Cristobal Huet’s big contract, plus they’re likely pleased enough with Antti Niemi that they’ll have no reason to take on another goalie with a big salary, even one with a Vezina on his resume like Thomas.
More importantly, Campbell’s $7.142 million per season contract would not only add another $2 million to the Bruins salary cap (Thomas’ cap hit is $5 million per season for three more years) it would also eat up valuable cap space for another six years, handcuffing any attempt to re-sign Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron, who’ll be eligible for UFA status in 2011.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest the Bruins could peddle Thomas, but if they do it’ll be to shed salary to free up room for Chara and Bergeron plus leave room to try and bolster their depth this summer.
• Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis is expected to make changes to his roster this summer, but will have limited means to do so.
The Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap reports Gillis needs a backup goaltender, a couple of defensemen and at least four more forwards, but with only about $10 million of salary cap space there won’t be enough to address all those needs.
Pap believes a considerable chunk of that space could be spent on finding a reliable shutdown defenseman to replace the concussed Willie Mitchell, plus it will likely cost Gillis up to $2.5 million per season to re-sign left winger Mason Raymond.
It’s possible, however, the Canucks will go over the cap during the summer and try to shed salary before the start of the season.
Assistant GM Laurence Gilman seemed to suggest that possibility to the Vancouver Province’s Jim Jamieson when he pointed out teams are allowed to spend up to 10 percent over the cap in the off-season, provided they’re under the cap by the start of next season.
Gillis isn’t afraid to make bold off-season moves so it’s possible he’ll get into the bidding for either Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov or Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis and shed necessary salary elsewhere once he’s got one of them under contract.
Meanwhile, pending UFA Kyle Wellwood hopes to return with the Canucks, but given his inconsistent play and the possibility prospect Cody Hodgson could move into the third line center spot next season, Wellwood may have to find a new home.
Restricted free agent defenseman Shane O’Brien has arbitration rights this summer, but indicated he’s not willing to go that route, confessing to the Vancouver Sun the team’s management probably has “a lot of material they could use against me so it probably wouldn’t work too well.”
O’Brien was referring to his ongoing battle with weight and his week-long suspension late in the season after being late for a practice.
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.