The Latest Updates on the NHL's Hottest Offseason Speculation

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2016

The Latest Updates on the NHL's Hottest Offseason Speculation

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The NHL offseason has reached the point where there's little activity in the trade and free-agent markets. However, the rumor mill remains busy.

    There's persistent speculation over possible moves involving such notables as New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash. Other rumors involve teams which could make moves to address roster issues, such as the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks. 

    Here are the latest updates on the NHL's hottest offseason speculation. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below. 

Will the New Jersey Devils Invest in More Depth?

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    On Aug 5, NJ.com's Chris Ryan reported that the New Jersey Devils had the NHL's third-most salary-cap space (an estimated $13.2 million) for 2016-17. That provides general manager Ray Shero with plenty of room to take on additional salary to bolster his lineup.

    The Devils could use another skilled offensive winger. Jiri Hudler remains available via free agency. Shero could also get into the bidding for free-agent prospect Jimmy Vesey. He must also decide if he'll bring back longtime Devils forward Patrik Elias for a last hurrah.  

    Having dealt away defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton in June for left wing Taylor Hall, the Devils need an additional experienced blueliner. Shot-blocking specialist Kris Russell could be a free-agent option. 

    While Shero acknowledged to Ryan that it was great to have that cap room, he pointed out that it can be spent very quickly. While not ruling out making other moves, it appears Shero will invest his extra dollars at the right time and only for the right deal. 

Could the Philadelphia Flyers Trade a Veteran Defenseman?

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    On July 27, CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reported that promising defenseman Ivan Provorov could have the Philadelphia Flyers scrambling to find a place for him on their crowded blue line.

    If the 19-year-old earns a roster spot during training camp, the Flyers could make a move to free up a spot for the talented youngster.

    Further complicating things is the Flyers' limited salary-cap space of just over $413,000. They currently cannot afford to add Provorov's $894,167 cap hit

    Panaccio suggested the "simple solution" is to trade Mark Streit. The 38-year-old has a year left on his contract. While Streit has a no-trade clause, Panaccio believes he would waive it to remain in the NHL. However, he claims there's been no interest in the veteran rearguard since last December.

    The Flyers could also demote Streit to the minors, as he lacks a no-movement clause. However, as Panaccio noted, they will only receive $925,000 in salary-cap relief, as the bulk of Streit's $5.25 million cap hit counts against the cap.

    The same goes for Andrew MacDonald ($5 million), who spent part of last season in the minors. Nick Schultz ($2.25 million) or Brandon Manning ($975,000) could also become trade or demotion candidates.

    If the Flyers wish to drum up interest in Streit or MacDonald in the trade market, they could offer to absorb part of their salary-cap hits. They obviously won't want much back in return.

Could the Detroit Red Wings Trade Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar?

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    On July 5, MLive.com's Ansar Khan speculated that the Detroit Red Wings could draw upon their forward depth to land a top-three defenseman. He suggested that wingers Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar could become trade chips. 

    In an Aug. 9 profile of Nyquist, Khan repeated that the 26-year-old winger could be used as trade bait for a defenseman. On July 28, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press suggested the Wings could dangle Tatar for a blue-line upgrade.

    Nyquist dropped from 54 points in 2014-15 to 48 last season, while Tatar fell from 58 to 45. Should promising forwards Dylan Larkin, Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou make significant strides in their development in 2016-17, Nyquist or Tatar could become expendable.

    Their contracts could also be a factor. Nyquist is signed through 2018-19 at an annual salary-cap hit of $4.75 million. He also has a no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1, 2017. If the Wings are to move him, it must be during this season. Tatar, meanwhile,  has a year remaining on his deal worth $2.75 million and lacks a no-trade clause. 

    It could prove difficult for the Wings to move Nyquist or Tatar before the start of the season. On their own, neither is likely to attract an offer of a top-three defenseman. Management could be forced to package a top draft pick or prospect with either one to sweeten the deal. 

Canucks Still Seek a Scoring Winger

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    On Aug. 5, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning told TSN 1040 (via Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot) that he was still seeking a top-six scoring winger. Benning said he had explored all options, including trades and free agency.

    Benning added that he'd spoken with several teams without success and revisited discussions with several free agents, though he didn't indicate who they were. The Canucks GM didn't rule out inviting a free agent to a professional tryout in training camp next month.

    The pickings in the free-agent market are slim. Forwards Jiri Hudler, Alex Tanguay and Brandon Pirri are the best of the bunch. 

    On July 30, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Sun suggested Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, Boston Bruins center David Krejci, Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane and Columbus Blue Jackets winger Scott Hartnell as possible trade options.

    Of these, the most realistic is Kane, but he comes with considerable baggage. He was recently charged with several misdemeanors stemming from an June 24 incident in a Buffalo bar. The 25-year-old also has a lengthy injury history and a $5.25 million salary-cap hit.

No New Contract for Martin Hanzal?

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal is entering the final season of his five-year, $15.5 million contract. The 29-year-old is eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. It appears, however, that he won't get a new deal before the 2016-17 season begins.

    On Aug. 15, according to Arizona Sports' Craig Morgan, Coyotes general manager John Chayka suggested the possibility of evaluating Hanzal's performance in the upcoming season. While the 6'6", 226-pounder reached career highs last season in assists (28) and points (41), Morgan noted that Hanzal's history of back injuries is a concern for management.

    If the two sides fail to reach agreement on a new contract by the February 2017 trade deadline, Morgan speculated that Hanzal could be dealt. Given the club's lack of veteran depth at center, they'll likely hang on to him for now.  

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs Move Joffrey Lupul?

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    On Aug. 2, TSN's Kristen Shilton raised five questions the Toronto Maple Leafs still have to address this offseason. Among them was what to do with oft-injured left winger Joffrey Lupul

    The 33-year-old has two seasons left on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.25 million plus a modified no-trade clause. Shilton wondered if the Leafs will retain him, package him in a trade or place him on long-term injured reserve. 

    Lupul underwent season-ending sports hernia surgery in February. Should he fail his training camp medical next month, the Leafs can place him on LTIR to start the season. 

    If Lupul is ready to start the season, it will be difficult for the Leafs to drum up interest for the veteran winger in the trade market. His value is low, and his injury history is a concern. To entice suitors, they could be forced to pick up part of Lupul's salary or bundle him with a top prospect. 

    At this stage, their best bet is to stick with Lupul to open the season and hope he stays healthy and performs well. That could improve his trade value over the course of 2016-17. 

Could the Winnipeg Jets Trade Jacob Trouba?

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Winnipeg Jets have yet to re-sign restricted-free-agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. While the 22-year-old is a promising blueliner, his development seemed to stall in 2015-16.

    On July 30, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun assessed the Jets' defense corps for the upcoming season. He noted there was speculation earlier in the offseason suggesting they could pursue a top-four defenseman. Wiebe said there's no room for one unless they decide to package Trouba for a left-shooting blueliner. 

    While Wiebe speculated that a trade remains a possibility, he believes Trouba will eventually re-sign with the Jets. 

    Trouba is coming off an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. His only leverage would be accepting an offer sheet from a rival club or staging a holdout. 

    Offer sheets are rare, so it's doubtful Trouba will receive one now. A lengthy holdout will be of little benefit to his development. Expect him to be under contract with the Jets when the season opens in October. 

Rick Nash for Kevin Shattenkirk?

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    During a July 29 live chat, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch didn't dismiss the possibility of the Blues shipping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers for left wing Rick Nash

    Rutherford noted that the Rangers need to replace puck-moving blueliner Keith Yandle. He also indicated that Shattenkirk is from the East Coast and could agree to sign a contract extension with the Rangers. 

    As for Nash, Rutherford pointed out that the winger played for Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock several years ago with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He felt the Blues could benefit from Nash's skills and experience, but the Rangers might have to pick up part of Nash's $7.8 million annual salary-cap hit to make the deal work.

    Shattenkirk would make a fine replacement for Yandle. However, finding a suitable spot for Nash on the Blues roster could be difficult.

    The Blues are already deep at left wing with Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz. They also have the promising Robby Fabbri, a center converted to left wing. They recently signed David Perron, who can skate on either wing. Nash could play at right wing, but he'd have to skate on the second line behind rising star Vladimir Tarasenko.

    Blues general manager Doug Armstrong doesn't seem in any hurry to move Shattenkirk. On Aug 4, he told ESPN.com's Craig Custance that he expected the 27-year-old blueliner to start the season in St. Louis. 

    Salaries and cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.

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