The 2016 NHL trade deadline is history and the start of unrestricted free agency is months away, but questions persist over contract talks between the Tampa Bay Lightning and captain Steven Stamkos. Eligible for UFA status on July 1, the future of the 26-year-old sniper remains a subject of interest in the rumor mill.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes the longer Stamkos remains unsigned, the more speculation will grow over his future. If the Bolts captain hits the open market, Garrioch believes the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres could be among the suitors.
TSN's Bob McKenzie said he was curious to see if the Detroit Red Wings would pursue Stamkos. While expressing doubt that Wings GM Ken Holland would invest over $10- million annually in a single player in today's salary-cap world, McKenzie points out the club's ownership has flexed its financial muscles in the past to land free-agent talent.
Stamkos and the Lightning continue to keep negotiations out of the media. His performance down the stretch and into the playoffs will play a significant part in those talks. The cost of re-signing restricted free agents like Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn will also be a factor. So will potential contract discussions this summer for goaltender Ben Bishop and defenseman Victor Hedman, who are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The possibility of an expansion draft next June could bring another measure of difficulty into the talks.
CANADIENS MAY LOOK TO MOVE EMELIN
As the free-falling Montreal Canadiens stagger toward the end of the regular season, their disappointing performance has some observers wondering about possible offseason changes.
Noting Florida Panthers right winger Jaromir Jagr is eligible for UFA status in July, the Montreal Gazette's “Hockey Inside/Out” panel discussed whether he'd be a good fit with the Canadiens. Habs fans shouldn't get their hopes up about the seemingly ageless star, as the Panthers will likely re-sign him following the playoffs.
Responding to a question on Twitter, TSN's Bob McKenzie said he wouldn't be surprised if the Habs shopped defenseman Alexei Emelin this summer. He points out the 29-year-old's no-trade clause becomes a modified NTC for 2016-17. Emelin must then submit a 10-team trade list.
While Emelin is the Canadiens' most physical defenseman, he's prone to costly penalties. With Habs management expected to shake up their roster this summer, moving the Russian blueliner could be among the changes.
HANZAL EYES EXTENSION WITH COYOTES
Center Martin Hanzal could be talking contract with the Arizona Coyotes this summer. The 29-year-old is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. While his annual cap hit is $3.1 million, he'll earn $3.5 million in actual salary for 2016-17.
Despite a lengthy injury history, the 6-foot-6, 226-pound Hanzal is a big, effective two-way center. He's on pace this season to surpass his career-high of 40 points.
The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports the Coyotes received some inquiries about Hanzal leading up to the trade deadline. GM Don Maloney, however, is interested in discussing a contract extension.
Maloney could face the same difficulty with Hanzal this summer as he did with former Coyotes left winger Mikkel Boedker. Unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, Maloney dealt the 26-year-old to the Colorado Avalanche at the trade deadline.
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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