As the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs move on to the conference finals, here’s a look at recent media speculation over possible off-season moves by the clubs eliminated in the Round 2.
Edmonton Oilers: With restricted free agent center Leon Draisaitl due a hefty raise this summer and captain Connor McDavid eligible next summer for a new contract, the Oilers must free up some long-term cap space. The Edmonton Journal‘s David Staples cites Sportsnet’s Drew Remenda speculating the club will look into moving forwards Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot.
Remenda’s colleague Elliotte Friedman considers the St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and possibly the Los Angeles Kings as possible destinations for Eberle. He and Nugent-Hopkins each carry annual average salaries of $6 million while Pouliot’s is $4 million.
Those cap hits make the trio difficult to move this summer unless the Oilers are willing to retain a portion. They could retain Nugent-Hopkins as their second-line center. Eberle tallied a respectable 20 goals and 51 points in the regular season, but his anemic playoff production (two assists in 13 games) hurts his trade value. Pouliot’s declining stats could make him a buyout candidate.
New York Rangers: After falling to the Ottawa Senators in the second round, the New York Daily News‘ Justin Tasch wonders if the Rangers will consider breaking up their veteran core. A need to upgrade their blueline could result in a buy out of Dan Girardi or Marc Staal to free up sufficient cap space to address that issue.
Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is rumored to be a free-agent target for the Rangers. However, the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks believes they could instead hit the trade market for a rearguard. He lists Carolina’s Justin Faulk, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen and Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin as trade options.
The Rangers need a quality blueliner with a right-handed shot and could draw upon their forward depth for trade bait. Brooks suggests center Derek Stepan as one option but colleague Brett Cyrgalis doubts he’ll fetch a reasonable return. Cyrgalis thinks they could listen to offers for Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller or Kevin Hayes.
St. Louis Blues: ESPN.com’s Craig Custance feels the Blues must add speed at center and create room for their up-and-coming players. He notes they have two first-round picks to use as trade bait for a quality center. However, they could be better off retaining those picks and building from within.
Making room for youth won’t be easy. The expensive annual cap hits for veterans such as Paul Stastny ($7-million annually), Alex Steen ($5.75 million) and Jay Bouwmeester ($5.45 million) will be tough to move.
They could also try peddling center Jori Lehtera ($4.7 million). However, the decline in his production is a big sticking point.
Washington Capitals: Another early playoff exit by the Capitals is prompting some calls for significant changes. The Washington Post’s Scott Allen cites ESPN.com’s Barry Melrose and NBC Sports Network’s Mike Milbury suggesting the club consider moving captain Alex Ovechkin. Allen also notes Capitals play-by-play man Joe Beninati of CSN Mid-Atlantic has a different view, casting doubt on the possibility of a complete overhaul involving Ovechkin or center Nicklas Backstrom.
Allen’s colleague Isabelle Khurshudyan believes salary-cap constraints could see the Capitals part ways with pending unrestricted free agents Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie and Karl Alzner. They’ll need the cap room to re-sign restricted free agents such as Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky.
Rather than seek replacements for those departing veterans via trades or free agency, the Capitals could look at promoting young players. Khurshudyan suggests forwards Jakob Vrana, Riley Barber and Travis Boyd and defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos could get opportunities next season to join the roster.
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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