NHL Rumors: Post-Draft Buzz Around the League
All seven rounds of the NHL draft are locked and in the books, so now the real fun begins for all the teams across the league.
Trade rumors swirl and free agency looms with many big names on the docket for general managers to seek.
Everyone from forwards to goalies are fair game when July 1 arrives. Fitting that it’s Canada Day with so much of the available talent being of Canadian descent.
Training camps start in a little over two months. Now is the time to get the ingredients and see just how they mix. Read on to see a sample of some of the burning rumors leading up to the NHL's free agency period.
Patrick Sharp Being Shopped?
For someone “not being shopped,” there is definitely a lot of buzz surrounding Chicago’s Patrick Sharp. Sharp led his team with 34 goals and 44 assists last season and would appear to be one of those players worth building around instead of letting other teams build around him.
Depending on who you read, this may purely be rumor, or there could be some truth to it. What ignited the rumor was what Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet said on the radio. That pushed the dominoes over so Sharp’s agent, Rick Curran, then told The Chicago Tribune:
"I had met with Stan about six or seven days earlier and I knew there was absolutely no truth to anyone suggesting that in spite of whatever negotiations were going on on behalf of Toews and Kane that Patrick Sharp was available for trade, because he's not," Curran said. "Then when Kypreos said it, knowing that it wasn't true, I just got really pissed off. There's no way a guy should say it with such certainty when it's absolutely not true. So I called Stan, because I recognize that things can change, and said 'Is there any change?' And he said, 'Absolutely not.'
There is no way this guy should get away with saying what he said and have Patrick and his family have to suffer the consequences of an absolutely irresponsible remark.
When allowed to ruminate on the topic, CBS Sports’ Brian Stubits wrote:
So parting with Sharp and his $5.9 million per year cap hit for the next three seasons starts to make even more sense. Ideally the Blackhawks would believe it easier to find a replacement on the wing for Sharp than trying to fill this center hole that has been an ongoing issue despite their success.
It’s anyone’s guess at this point, which is the contract you sign during rumor season. He's had a ton of success in the past three full NHL seasons with 33, 34 and 34 goals. Perhaps that can be credited to having such strong offensive teammates, but that kind of production doesn't get replaced. Rather, it's often missed.
Great White Shark to Great White North?
Joe Thornton, the San Jose Sharks' tenured center, had a season where he was second in the league in assists with 65. The Sharks came off a first-round loss to the eventual champion Los Angeles, but how the Sharks lost is what killed. They were up three games to zero and allowed the Kings to come back and win the series.
As a result, the Sharks have been taking calls about Thornton, this according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:
While Sharks GM Doug Wilson has been telling anybody who will listen the club will be going through a full rebuild, all eyes are on whether Thornton will be asked to waive his “no-move” clause.
Until that happens, Wilson’s hands are tied completely. It’s believed Detroit and Toronto are among a handful of teams that have shown interest in Thornton but he holds the cards.
Adding Thornton—a big and experienced body—to the smaller, quicker William Nylander, who Toronto drafted with the eighth overall pick, could be a promising combination for the Leafs.
Thornton's could be that missing piece for several clubs looking to get over the hump and deep into May and June.
Happy Wife Happy Life
Ryan Miller came off a season where he was third in the league in goals against (154) and third in the league in saves (1,731). Despite those strong numbers, the Blues signed Brian Elliott to a three-year $7.5 million deal, forcing Elliott to compete with prospect Jake Allen.
That leaves Miller to fend for himself after a disappointing bid in the playoffs.
SI.com’s Allan Muir wrote:
The move doesn't come as a complete surprise. Miller was brought in specifically to get a contending Blues team over the playoff hunt. He couldn't get the job done, going 2-4 with a 2.70 GAA and a brutal .897 save percentage in a first-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. He was particularly soft in the Game 6 clincher, allowing four goals on 16 shots in the third period as the Blues dropped a 5-1 decision.
Miller could be at his best on a team with a worse defense than St. Louis. As USA TODAY'S Mike Brehm noted, Miller is best when he’s under duress, "Miller went from facing a ton of shots on the Sabres to seeing very few behind the Blues' formidable defense. Sometimes that is harder on a goaltender. Miller is at his best when busy, as he was in 2010 in leading Team USA to a silver medal in the Vancouver Olympics."
Miller's wife is an actress, so a move out west could benefit them. San Jose is in the running given its meltdown in the first round of the playoffs. Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Calgary are also reportedly interested, but San Jose has to be considered the favorite if Miller's wife has any say in the matter. Happy wife happy life.
Once Denied, Twice Coveted
At some point it feels like vultures are circling the free agent carcasses of these players. Maybe no one is giving off more of that vibe than Colorado forward Paul Stastny.
Stastny comes off a season where he had his best plus/minus ratio since 2008 and a season where he had 60 points on 25 goals and 35 assists. Many teams are interested in signing this veteran including St. Louis.
The Denver Post’s and Bleacher Report's Adrian Dater wrote:
[Stastny’s agent Matt] Keator will meet with Sakic Friday at the NHL draft in Philadelphia. It may be another day or two after that before some kind of final decision is made by the Avs on how to proceed. There are a lot of plates spinning on this whole thing. The Avs are interested in other potential forwards, but they don’t know whether they can get them (they’re the same names everyone else is interested in). If they think they can, they’d feel more comfortable letting Stastny go. If not, they might feel they have to come up to match the offers for Stastny.
According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Blues want a No. 2 center and Stastny could slide right in and contribute. Stastny has scored 47 of his 160 goals on the power play and has eight in the playoffs. Both areas could be a big help the St. Louis front line.
The Blues passed on Stastny in the 2005 draft and watched Stastny go on to score 458 points since. The pick the Blues chose over Stastny played in just one NHL game in his career proving that talent can come from anywhere and that the draft is, and always will be, a crapshoot.
The Accomplished Veteran Problem
He may be 42 and past his prime, but Martin Brodeur is apparently a hot commodity (or, more accurately, just a commodity, no need to add hot) heading into free agency. He won’t be returning to the New Jersey Devils, the team where he spent all of his 20-plus years as a goalie.
Even though the Devils are ready to put him out to pasture, teams like the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks are interested in the veteran.
CBS Sports Chris Peters wrote:
If Brodeur is to go to a perceived contender, it would have to be as a backup who will play sparingly... Another question each of those teams would have to ask is how much they're willing to pay a veteran backup that has been a primary starter his entire career.
Both the Blackhawks and Bruins are under a cap crunch after the $69 million ceiling was announced. Unless Brodeur is willing to play for pennies compared to his prior deals, those don't seem like a real fit.
It’s hard to imagine Brodeur going to a team that is not a contender for the Stanley Cup, yet he’s not the goalie a Cup-contending team will aim to build around, so what’s he to do? Retiring with his three rings seems most logical.
Perhaps he can be waht Bill Walton was to the 1986 Celtics: a role player to fill a spot-start when the first string needs a night off and the rest of the team needs the steady hand of an experienced veteran.
Sellers Market for Big D
As far as defenders go, Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen is selling and everyone else is looking to buy. Teams desperate for a top-tier defensemen are going to knock down the door of Niskanen's agent, Neil Sheehy.
Brian Stubits of CBS Sports, wrote, "Niskanen is going to get paaaaaaaid by some team desperate for defense."
Niskanen had a career year. He not only scored 10 goals and assisted on 36 others, he picked up the slack when his teammates Paul Martin and Kris Letang had to sit out significant chunks of the season. What better time to have had such a season than a contract season?
Niskanen is a Minnesota native and it just so happens Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota's GM, is wild about Niskanen. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo reported that Fletcher met with Sheehy on Friday and could be looking for a max seven-year deal for as much as $6 million annually.
Art Regner of Fox Sports Detriot wrote that Red Wings also want a piece of Niskanen. This is good news for Niskanen. These types of negotiations almost always suit the purse strings.
In either case, Niskanen will provide a ton of value as a lock-down defender on the back line for any team looking to contend in the next five years for a Cup.