It's been over a week since the New York Rangers were eliminated from the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. That hasn't dampened the speculation over their off-season roster plans.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News believes the Rangers should find a replacement for pending UFA defenseman Keith Yandle via the trade market. He suggests they offer up left winger Rick Nash to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Nash is signed through 2017-18 at an annual cap hit of $7.8 million. Shattenkirk, meanwhile, has only only one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.25 million. He'll be eligible next summer for UFA status and could be too expensive to re-sign. This suggested trade would reunite Nash with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who Leonard thinks might get a contract extension. Shattenkirk, meanwhile, could play top-two minutes and thus push Dan Girardi into a secondary role.
While the Blues seem to be in “win-now” mode, a Nash-for-Shattenkirk swap doesn't make sense for them from a salary-cap standpoint. Nash, 31, is far more expensive and could be on the downside of his career, making him a costly gamble over the next two seasons. There's also no guarantee he'll waive his no-trade clause to go to St. Louis.
If the Blues shop Shattenkirk this summer, they might prefer a younger, affordable center for their first or second line, especially if captain David Backes departs this summer via free agency. Blueshirts center Derick Brassard might be an option, though he doesn't have quite the same value as Shattenkirk.
Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports' Greg Wynshynski reports Rangers UFA center Eric Staal isn't ruling out a possible return with the Blueshirts or his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes. The 31-year-old is hoping to join a club where he can play a vital role, something he didn't have during his brief tenure this season with the Rangers. While he knows he won't get another lucrative long-term deal like his current seven-year, $57.75-million deal, he's hoping to find a fair deal.
Given the ongoing decline in Staal's performance, however, he could be disappointed with what he finds in this summer's free-agent market. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes anyone paying the former Hurricanes captain more than $4 million annually on a three-year deal hasn't paid attention to his game in recent years.
WILD COULD TARGET MINNESOTA-BORN UFAs
In his season-ending press conference, Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher claims he's got enough salary-cap room for next season to bolster his roster with a player or two. If Fletcher decides to go the free-agent route Chad Graff of The Pioneer Press notes Minnesota natives Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders and David Backes of the St. Louis Blues could be available this summer.
Graff also points out Fletcher could free up more salary-cap room by buying out under-performing left winger Thomas Vanek, who has a year left on his contract worth $6.5 million. The Wild GM considers buyout talk of Vanek to be premature, but he might not have much choice.
With over $63.8 million invested in 15 players, Fletcher will have only around $10 million in cap space if the ceiling reaches the projected $74 million. Free agents like Okposo or Backes could cost around $6 million per season, which won't leave Fletcher much cap space to re-sign or replace his other free agents.
Fletcher confirms backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper will probably be traded this summer. The 26-year-old netminder is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Graff feels Fletcher could find a more affordable option in the free-agent pool.
RADULOV CONFIRMS RETURN TO NHL
After spending the last four seasons in the KHL, former Nashville Predators winger Alexander Radulov has confirmed his intention to return to the NHL in 2016-17 as a free agent.
For teams seeking offensive depth that lose out in the bidding for this summer's top free-agent scorers, the 29-year-old Radulov could be an intriguing option. Sportsnet's Mike Johnson lists the Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals as possible suitors.
The Wings, Canucks and Devils could certainly use more firepower, while the Ducks could use him as a first- or second-line winger. Given the history between Radulov and Capitals coach Barry Trotz when they were with the Nashville Predators - Trotz suspended him and another player for missing curfew during the 2012 playoffs - it's doubtful he's a fit in Washington.
It's assumed the Avs could pursue Radulov because he played well for coach Patrick Roy during their years with the Quebec Remparts. However, the Avs need skilled blueline depth more than they need a scoring winger. With notable restricted free agents Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie to re-sign, it's doubtful they'll have sufficient cap room to add Radulov.
Radulov's asking price will determine where he ends up. He also has a reputation as a one-dimensional player uninterested in two-way play. That could affect his free-agent value.
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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