The future of forward Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward with the Carolina Hurricanes could be determined soon. Both are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, and their status remains fodder for the rumor mill.
During Saturday's 'Hockey Night in Canada' telecast, Damien Cox reported Staal and Ward expect to hear from GM Ron Francis at the end of this month if they'll try to negotiate new contracts. If the ownership situation proves so difficult that they cannot, Cox believes the duo will depart via trade or free agency next summer.
Sportsnet's Luke Fox notes Staal, 31, recently told 'Hockey Central at Noon' he'd like to re-sign with the Hurricanes. However, he also told the panel that “decisions have to be made going forward.”
Given Staal's $8.25-million cap hit and no-trade clause, Fox believes dealing the long-time Hurricanes captain could be difficult. However, if a club manages to acquire Staal via trade, Fox thinks there's a chance he could re-sign with that club at a lower rate.
Fox claims “multiple reporters” believe the New York Rangers could be a fit down the stretch, citing their deep-pocketed ownership and the presence of Staal's brother Marc on the roster. While the Rangers may be “cash flush”, as Fox describes them, they only have $1.1 million in cap space this season.
Even if the Rangers find sufficient cap room to take on the remainder of Staal's salary this season, there's no certainty they can afford him long term. They must re-sign restricted free agents Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller, plus decide if they'll re-sign or replace pending UFA blueliner Keith Yandle.
The Nashville Predators could also be a destination for Staal, provided he's willing to accept a trade there. Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski reports Predators GM David Poile wants to improve his forward depth. Wyshynski believes the Predators need help at center, noting the poor offensive production at that position.
The Hurricanes aren't the only club facing a big decision regarding a key free agent. The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reports Bruins management will soon face weighing the cost of re-signing winger Loui Eriksson.
Part of the return from the Dallas Stars in the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade, Eriksson's injury-hampered first season in Boston was a big reason why Bruins fans were upset over that deal. Since last season, however, the 30-year-old Eriksson's become an invaluable part of the Bruins roster.
Shinzawa observes he's among the club's leaders in points, ice time and Corsi. The versatile Swede regularly plays on their power play and penalty kill, plus he's played both wings on the top two lines.
However, Shinzawa notes Eriksson's age and concussion history are concerns. If he seeks a lucrative long-term deal, the Bruins could be forced to shop him at the trade deadline. If so,Shinzawa speculates they could seek a first-round pick and a top prospect, noting that's what the Arizona Coyotes got for center Antoine Vermette last season from the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Toronto Maple Leafs must decide if they're going to re-sign or trade goaltender James Reimer. That seemed an easy answer when the season began, as Jonathan Bernier was signed through 2016-17. It seemed the 27-year-old Reimer's future lay elsewhere.
However, Reimer's recently taken over the starter's job from Bernier, playing the best hockey of his career. He has a 7-3-4 record in 15 appearances, a 2.07 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, ranking among the league leaders in those categories.
Reimer could cool off over the course of this season, but if he doesn't the Leafs could re-sign him. If so, that will raise questions about Bernier's future in Toronto. Sportnet's Chris Johnston recently cited league sources claiming a couple of clubs expressed interest in Bernier. The 27-year-old's recent performance (no wins in eight games, a 3.17 GAA and .896 SP) and $4.15-million cap hit won't help his market value.
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.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.