As the Chicago Blackhawks jockey with the Anaheim Ducks in a thrilling Western Conference Final, questions about their off-season plans are starting to churn in the NHL rumor mill. ESPN.com's Scott Powers reports the projected marginal increase of the salary cap to $71 million combined with the Blackhawks' limited cap space (over $66 million invested in 13 players) will force GM Stan Bowman to shed salary this summer.
Bowman must free up cap space to re-sign restricted free agent forwards left winger Brandon Saad and center Marcus Kruger. Powers lists forwards Bryan Bickell ($4-million cap hit), Kris Versteeg ($2.2-million), Andrew Shaw ($2-million) and Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million) as potential trade candidates.
The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle agrees Bickell could be moved, and also suggests Bowman ship out goaltender Corey Crawford. Though acknowledging that move is less likely, Mirtle feels trading away Crawford's $6 million average annual salary (the 'Hawks’ third highest) could go a long way toward getting the club out of cap hell. Promising Scott Darling, currently Crawford's backup, could slide into the starter's role.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook ($5.8-million cap hit) has also become a recent subject of trade speculation. The Province's Jim Jamieson suggests the Vancouver Canucks should make a pitch for the Tsawwassen, BC native by offering up blueliner Dan Hamhuis ($4.2-million) and another asset. The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin expects the Stars to make a “dramatic move” this summer to either address their goaltending or defense corp. He said he'd love to see them acquire the 30-year-old Seabrook.
Every team in the NHL would have serious interest in acquiring Seabrook, but don't expect him to become a Blackhawks salary-cap casualty. TSN's Darren Dreger cites his value to their defense corps, which is very apparent in this year's playoffs.
Another significant factor is Seabrook's current status. He’s among the only veteran blueliners the Hawks have under contract next season (Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson being the others). While he's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, Bowman is under no pressure to move him this summer.
It could cost well over $7-million annually to keep Seabrook in Chicago. Bowman will likely wait and see how next season unfolds and how much cap space he'll have to work with for 2016-17.
BLUES SHAKE UP COULD BE COMING
The St. Louis Blues' re-signing coach Ken Hitchcock for another year is fuelling speculation GM Doug Armstrong could shake up his consistently underachieving roster.
Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Armstrong must free up cap space for superstar Vladimir Tarasenko's expensive new contract.
Gordon feels T.J. Oshie is an obvious trade candidate, citing the right winger's high trade value, significant salary and middling playoff numbers. Another could be underachieving forward Patrik Berglund. Gordon also doesn't rule out Armstrong trading core players previously considered untouchable.
Since a coaching change isn't in the works, Armstrong has little choice but to make a roster move or two to shake things up. He cannot return with the same roster under the same coach next season and expect different results. Oshie, who lacks a no-trade clause, is the most likely to go.
BRUINS, SENATORS WILL SEE LINEUP CHANGES
The Blackhawks and Blues aren't the only clubs facing significant off-season changes. The Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators also have some roster issues to deal with this summer.
With Don Sweeney now the Bruins new GM, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty speculates over which players could be dealt if Sweeney decides to shed salary this summer. Among the possible candidates are long-time Bruins Milan Lucic, Dennis Seidenberg and perhaps captain Zdeno Chara.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Senators brass are preparing for a busy summer. Topping the list is sorting out their crowded crease. With Andrew Hammond re-signed, the Sens must decide if they'll keep starter Craig Anderson or promising backup Robin Lehner.
GM Bryan Murray claims he's received calls from five-or-six teams and expects further discussions in the weeks ahead. Garrioch notes the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks are in need of goaltending help. He also suspects the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues could come calling.
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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