With the start of the 2016-17 season only a week away, the Anaheim Ducks have yet to re-sign restricted free agents Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell. While the Ducks have $7.5 million in salary-cap space, it's expected they'll make a salary-dumping deal to free up sufficient room for Lindholm and Rakell.
NBC Sports' Mike Halford speculates the cost of re-signing the 22-year-old Lindholm could exceed blueliner Sami Vatanen's $4.87-million annual average value on his new four-year, $19.5-million contract. Rakell, 23, can expect a substantial raise over the $894,000 AAV of his previous deal. Re-signing both players could use up all of the Ducks' current cap space.
Halford notes the Ducks also carry blueliners Cam Fowler and Kevin Bieksa ($4 million each), Simon Despres ($3.75 million) and Clayton Stoner ($3.25 million). Promising young rearguards Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour and Jacob Larsson are seeing playing time in preseason action.
Given this blueline logjam, Ducks GM Bob Murray is expected to make a trade before the start of the season. In an interview last week with TSN 1040, NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire said the Ducks are in trade discussions with an Eastern Conference team “to unload a significant contract.”
Halford observes Fowler was mentioned several times this summer as a trade candidate, noting the 24-year-old was linked to the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. The Wings, however, are currently $4 million above the $73-million cap ceiling. Placing Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale on long-term injury reserve gets them under the cap, but leaves no room for additional salary. The Canadiens, meanwhile, only have $1.4 million available.
In late-June, the Buffalo Sabres also reportedly expressed interest in Fowler. They have sufficient room to take on his salary. Ditto the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Fowler would certainly fetch a fine return for the Ducks. However, if they're moving him to shed his salary, they can't afford to take back much in return. They could be forced to accept draft picks and prospects.
Despres could also attract interest, but his injury history could be a stumbling block. At 35, Bieksa is no longer the two-way force he was in his prime. He also carries a no-movement clause. Stoner's cap hit makes him a difficult sell.
LATEST ON TROUBA
Since Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba made his trade request over a week ago, much of the speculation over where he could land has quieted down. It's expected his standoff with Jets management will drag on for some time.
During the off-season, the Boston Bruins were frequently linked to the 23-year-old Trouba, His trade request raises the possibility they could pursue the blueliner. However, The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa is skeptical about their chances of landing him.
Shinzawa points out the Jets aren't interested in draft picks or prospects for Trouba, preferring a left-shot defenseman to skate alongside Dustin Byfuglien or Tyler Myers. The Bruins have such a blueliner in Torey Krug, but Shinzawa notes he lacks Trouba's all-around skills. He feels the Bruins might have to package Krug with a promising young player, such as winger David Pastrnak, to interest the Jets.
It's expected Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will take his time finding the right deal, but he has a deadline to do so. Trouba's a restricted free agent and must be re-signed by Dec. 1 or he becomes ineligible to play the remainder of this season.
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.