St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is expected to be among this summer's top unrestricted free agents. While the July 1 start of the free-agency period is months away, possible destinations for the 27-year-old is an ongoing topic of speculation for NHL pundits.
During a Jan. 6appearance on Toronto's TSN 1050, analyst Darren Dreger speculated over where Shattenkirk might sign if he becomes a UFA this summer. Given the blueliner's ties to the American east coast, Dreger suggested the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and possibly the Philadelphia Flyers as potential suitors.
Shattenkirk was linked to the Bruins and Rangers in last summer's trade rumor mill. Both clubs still need an experienced puck-moving defenseman. Dreger recently reported the Rangers are shopping around for a top-four blueliner, but they're not the only club seeking that commodity right now.
Flyers GM Ron Hextall might not be keen to get into the bidding for Shattenkirk. With pending UFA blueliners Mark Streit ($5.25-million cap hit), Michael Del Zotto ($3.8 million) and Nick Schultz ($2.2 million) coming off the books this summer, the Flyers have over $50 million invested in 13 players for 2017-18.
Rising star Shayne Gostisbehere is due a significant raise this summer, and that will bite deeply into that cap room. They're also still stuck with the overpaid Andrew MacDonald ($5-million annually) through 2019-20, unless Hextall can find someone willing to take that contract off his hands.
The Flyers are also carrying affordable young blueliners Brandon Manning and Ivan Provorov, with Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim waiting in the wings. Hextall could opt to stick with his kids and look for more affordable veteran depth additions.
Hextall must also re-sign or replace pending UFA goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. Mason, 29, has struggled through the first half of this season. Philly.com's Sam Carchidi speculates a strong second-half effort by Mason could land him a new deal with the Flyers.
Carchidi suggests it could be a short-term deal to bridge the gap until one of their promising goalies, such as Anthony Stolarz, is ready to take over. He feels Hextall should trade Neuvirth for a draft pick and add a backup who can be exposed in the June expansion draft.
OILERS' EBERLE RESURFACES IN RUMOR MILL
As the Edmonton Oilers struggled during the previous two seasons, right winger Jordan Eberle frequently surfaced as a possible trade candidate. Long considered among the Oilers' core players, the 26-year-old is being overshadowed this season by young stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Having slipped down the depth chart to the third line, Eberle has resurfaced in the rumor mill.
Appearing last Thursday on Edmonton's TSN 1260, Darren Dreger said he wouldn't be surprised if Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli started getting some calls about Eberle from rival clubs.
That doesn't mean the Oilers will trade Eberle. Dreger, however, suggests there's a short-term market for the winger if he's no longer considered among Edmonton's core players.
Last summer, the Oilers traded left winger Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. Like Eberle, Hall was once considered among Edmonton's core players. If Chiarelli shops Eberle, his contract will prove difficult to move. He's signed through 2018-19 with an annual cap hit of $6 million. The Oilers GM could wait until the summer to make that deal.
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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