The Vancouver Canucks are looking for someone to play alongside the Sedins next season, and there are plenty of options available via free agency. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers need to search high and low for defense help, especially after Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic nixed his request to be traded out of New York.
It’s been nearly a month since the Vancouver Canucks’ season came to an end. That hasn’t stopped the local media from speculating about the club’s off-season roster plans.
The Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma lists five things he believes the Canucks should and shouldn’t do this summer. Among those they should do is look into the trade status of Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin, though Kuzma expects the asking price could be the Canucks first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year’s draft plus a roster player.
He also recommends pursuing Boston Bruins right winger Loui Eriksson or the New York Islanders’ Kyle Okposo via free agency to skate on the Sedin line. That would buy time for younger players, such as Jake Virtanen, to develop.
GM Jim Benning claims his goalie tandem will remain intact for next season. However, Kuzma believes he should look into any trade interest in veteran Ryan Miller to clear his $6-million cap hit for next season from their books. He also suggests targeting teams with limited cap space to bring in a No. 4 defenseman and letting pending UFA blueliner Dan Hamhuis walk if his asking price is too high.
The Province’s Patrick Johnston, meanwhile, provides a list of affordable UFA forward targets for the Canucks. He considers Okposo, Chicago Blackhawks left winger Andrew Ladd and New York Rangers center/left winger Eric Staal as less-costly options than Eriksson, Tampa Bay Lightning center/left winger Steven Stamkos or the Los Angeles Kings’ Milan Lucic.
With a projected $14.7 million in salary-cap space for 2016-17, and with Hamhuis the only core player not under contract, the Canucks could be well-positioned this summer to bolster their roster. Forwards Sven Baertschi ($900K in 2015-16) and Emerson Etem (over $850K) are their most notable restricted free agents and should be inexpensive to re-sign.
Their cap space could increase by $2 million if (as expected) they buy out the final season of fading winger Alex Burrows. Even re-signing Hamhuis to a two- or three-year deal for around $3.5 million per season wouldn’t eat up much cap room.
Whoever they pursue via trades and free agency will remain a popular guessing game among Vancouver fans and pundits as the end of the playoffs approaches. It’s assumed Benning, a former assistant GM with the Bruins, will go after Eriksson when the free-agent market opens on July 1. Okposo would also be a prime candidate.
Lucic and the Kings are reportedly getting closer to a new contract, so it’s doubtful he’ll be joining his hometown club. Stamkos could cost out $10 million per season, which should price him out of the Canucks’ price range.
Ladd would be a decent option at left wing, but he’d have to play second fiddle to Daniel Sedin and that probably won’t be enticing. The declining Staal would be a gamble, though if they sign him to a one-year deal for around $4 million, perhaps an affordable one.
FIRST-OVERALL PICK STAYING IN TORONTO
Since the Toronto Maple Leafs won the 2016 NHL draft lottery, there’s been ongoing media chatter suggesting they might move that pick for the right return. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons, however, rejects that notion. He claims the word around the Leafs is they’re keeping that pick and selecting top prospect Auston Matthews in the draft.
Of course, that won’t stop some pundits from playing “what if” during a slow news day. Much of the conjecture has the Arizona Coyotes making a big pitch to the Leafs for that pick in order to select local boy Matthews themselves. Some of it had defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the centerpiece of the offer, though that’s been dismissed by team CEO and president Anthony LeBlanc.
The Coyotes, and maybe other clubs, have probably contacted the Leafs to gauge their interest in moving that pick. It would take a monstrous deal to pry that pick away from the Leafs, one that will quickly douse interest from rival clubs.
HAMONIC NIXING REQUEST MAKES OILERS’ ‘D’ HUNT HARDER
Since a trade request made last summer by New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was revealed last November, he’s been a mainstay in this season’s rumor mill. Following the Isles’ second-round playoff elimination earlier this week, however, the 26-year-old blueliner has withdrawn that request.
That puts an end to months of media-generated trade scenarios involving Hamonic. Most had him heading to the Edmonton Oilers for right winger Jordan Eberle or to the Winnipeg Jets for defenseman Jacob Trouba.
With Hamonic off the trade block, the Oilers must look elsewhere for a top-two defenseman with a right-handed shot. The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples suggests the Anaheim Ducks’ Sami Vatanen, the Colorado Avalanche’s Tyson Barrie or Dallas Stars pending UFA Jason Demers as options. Of these, the Oilers stand a better chance of landing Vatanen or Demers. The Avs are expected to re-sign Barrie, a restricted free agent, to a multiyear deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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.).
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