Steven Stamkos' recent vascular surgery comes as a blow to the Tampa Bay Lightning entering the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. With a recovery time frame of one-to-three months, the 26-year-old might not return in time to help the Bolts in the post-season.
Given Stamkos' UFA eligibility in July, his lengthy convalescence creates more uncertainty over his future. The Tampa Tribune's Martin Fennelly suggests Stamkos may have played his final game in a Lightning jersey.
TSN's Gary Lawless doesn't expect Stamkos' surgery will scare away free-agent suitors or reduce what could be his expensive asking price. It's expected he'll make a full recovery from the procedure. Lawless wonders, however, if this will have an effect upon Stamkos' future plans, and those of the Lightning.
Lawless also points out the Bolts playoff performance could affect those contract talks. An early exit without Stamkos could sway them into meeting his salary demands. On the other hand, a long playoff run without their captain could convince management they no longer need his services.
If the Lightning fail to re-sign Stamkos, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman speculates they could trade him before July 1. A club acquiring his rights can re-sign him to an eight-year deal before his UFA eligibility, rather than the maximum seven-years if they sign him as a free agent. That extra year could prove enticing.
KINGS, LUCIC PUT CONTRACT TALKS ON HOLD FOR POST-SEASON
Contract negotiations between the Los Angeles Kings and pending UFA left winger Milan Lucic could be put on hold for the upcoming playoffs. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the two sides have held discussions for a month but don't appear any closer to a deal. He suspects the two sides could put aside those talks until after the post-season.
LeBrun notes there's a “sizeable gap” between the two parties. Given the Kings' limited salary-cap space for 2016-17, that could prove difficult to bridge. They have over $65 million invested in 19 players, though Vincent Lecavalier's anticipated retirement at season's end will add another $2.25 million to the coffers.
Lucic, 27, is coming off a three-year, $18-million contract. He'll likely command over $7-million annually on a long-term deal through free agency in July. Though he enjoys living and playing in Los Angeles, it's unlikely he'll leave money on the table for the privilege. That'll leave management scrambling to shed salary in order to create cap space for Lucic's new deal. Otherwise, they'll watch him take his power-forward talents elsewhere.
AVALANCHE HAVE EYE ON RADULOV
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports former Nashville Predators winger Alex Radulov could be planning an NHL comeback. His agent is believed contacting several clubs to gauge interest in his client.
Radulov, 30, was a rising young star with the Predators until he bolted for the KHL in 2008. He made a brief, ineffective return with the Preds late in the 2011-12 season. Friedman said it's assumed the Colorado Avalanche could be interested but other clubs are also involved.
The Avalanche connection is based on Radulov playing for coach Patrick Roy a decade ago with the Quebec Remparts. Given their need to bolster their defensive game, adding a one-dimensional scoring winger isn't going to help the Avs.
Radulov put up good numbers in the KHL, but he also has a reputation as a selfish player. And of course, there's the baggage from his last go-around in the NHL. Teams seeking offense could consider him, but only if he accepts an affordable one-year 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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