Several NHL teams with unrestricted free agent stars are looking forward to next week's NHL Board of Governors meeting, when they'll get what ESPN's Pierre LeBrun called a “clearer projection for where the salary cap might stand for next season”.
It's predicted the cap will rise to $67 to $70 million for 2014-15. The higher it rises, the more cap space for clubs with multiple stars to re-sign.
The San Jose Sharks are among those teams. LeBrun claimed they've had “ongoing discussions” with center Joe Thornton, winger Patrick Marleau and defenseman Dan Boyle, all slated to become unrestricted free agents in July. The trio want to re-sign and the Sharks hope to keep them, but cap space will be a crucial factor in those negotiations.
LeBrun reported the Sharks swapped contract numbers with Thornton and Boyle, but not yet with Marleau, who remains without an agent following the death of Don Baizley. The Sharks currently have almost $45 million invested in 14 players for 2014-15. Thornton, Marleau and Boyle have a current combined cap hit of $20.6 million. Their respective ages (Thornton and Marleau are 34, Boyle 37 38) mean they won't get long-term deals. Depending on the cap, they could end up taking hometown discounts to stay in San Jose.
Another club anxious to hear that cap projection is the New York Rangers. Having re-signed Henrik Lundqvist to an eight-year, $59.5-million contract, their focus shifts to captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi, who will be expensive re-signings.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks speculated about how much Callahan and Girardi could get on the open market, pointing out David Clarkson got a seven-year, $36.8-million deal with Toronto last summer and Dennis Wideman a five-year, $26.3-million contract with Calgary in 2012.
Should the cap ceiling be lower than anticipated, the Sharks and Rangers will face difficult choices. The Rangers could be forced to decide between Callahan and Girardi or could dump salary to retain the pair, while the Sharks could face a choice between Marleau and Boyle.
Miller and Ott on the block in Buffalo?
Ryan Miller's status with the Buffalo Sabres remains a dominant topic in the rumor mill, but captain Steve Ott also faces an uncertain future.
Ott is also due to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported the 31-year-old winger is willing to be part of the club's rebuild, but acknowledged he could be shopped before the March trade deadline.
Ott carries an affordable cap hit ($3 million) and would be coveted by teams seeking grit and leadership. The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford last month reported the Canucks made a trade offer for Ott before he was dealt from the Dallas Stars to the Sabres in 2012. They could revisit their interest in him, though Botchford noted Ott’s salary could be difficult to absorb for the cap-strapped Canucks.
Kane to the Caps?
CSNWashington's Chuck Gormley observed Winnipeg Jets assistant GMs Craig Heisinger and Larry Simmons took in Tuesday's Carolina Hurricanes-Washington Capitals game, wondering if they had interest in Capitals winger Martin Erat or defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
Gormley noted Jets winger Evander Kane is the subject of recent trade rumors, but believes it would take more than a package of Erat and Orlov to pry him out of Winnipeg. He speculated the Jets might be willing to move defenseman Mark Stuart.
He also took note of the Vancouver Canucks' reported interest in Erat and believes Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis would be a perfect fit for the Capitals, but doubts they can offer up enough to land Hamhuis.
One scout Gormley spoke with told him teams might shy away from Erat because of his two public trade requests in less than a year. Factor in his declining production and $4.5-million annual cap hit and the prospect of an Erat trade seems remote.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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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