The opening of free agency may be driving headlines and attention Sunday, but the NHL rumor mill is still churning away at top speed. As free agents fall into place, organizations will begin to get a feel for holes that may still remain on their roster.
For instance, if a team was in on John Tavares until the last moment but he decided to play elsewhere, that need for a center didn't go away; the general manager will simply need to explore other routes to fill that gap.
The free-agent market is noticeably shallow on talent this summer—to the point there's a bidding war going on for Jay Beagle's services. That's right: Beagle, who scored seven goals and 22 points last season and turns 33 in October, has multiple teams vying for his services, thus driving up his cost.
No disrespect to the veteran and new Stanley Cup champion, but he's a depth forward on his last legs who will be brought in to mentor younger players. That he could get three or four years and $10 million is outlandish.
General managers who aren't interested in paying a premium for not-so-prime talent will be investigating possible trades, where there's much more skill available for the right price.
Tampa Bay Lightning Still Interested in Erik Karlsson
The Tampa Bay Lightning seem to have more irons in the fire than just about anyone else in the NHL. They have been connected to some of the biggest free agents available, aren't hesitating to take care of their own business and also apparently remain interested in Erik Karlsson.
General manager Steve Yzerman isn't fooling around as far as his team's Stanley Cup window is concerne and is doing whatever he can to get Tampa Bay ready to take a run in 2018-19.
This is according to Joe Smith of The Athletic, who recently wrote that "(t)he Lightning still, believe it or not, are very interested in Erik Karlsson, if the [Ottawa] Senators star captain is moved this summer."
It's unclear how, exactly, this kind of trade would work. Only the Los Angeles Kings have less cap space than the Lightning, and if Yzerman decides to bring in Karlsson, odds are good that he would like to sign the defenseman to a new contract.
Based on Drew Doughty's new deal, which reportedly carries an $11 million AAV, that might be difficult for the Lightning to swing. Who knows what could unfold, though. Perhaps they think the salary cap will rise enough next summer to create enough room.
Landing Karlsson would also have a ripple effect on the rest of the roster, as Yzerman may look to move someone like Tyler Johnson to create more cap space. Regardless, Tampa Bay is a team to watch Sunday as they jockey for position in the Eastern Conference.
Boston Bruins Interested in Slater Koekkoek
The Lightning aren't the only team looking to improve enough to take a run at a championship. We've seen the Boston Bruins involved in a lot of chatter in recent weeks, and it appears they are looking to add to their blue line.
To that end, Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston recently reported that, among other things, the B's are interested in acquiring Slater Koekkoek from Tampa Bay, writing the following on Friday:
"In fact, it's more likely that the Black and Gold are going to need to pursue a trade if they're going to find a left shot D-man potentially capable of playing top-four minutes. With that in mind, the Bruins have explored cursory talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning on restricted free-agent defenseman Slater Koekkoek, per a league source."
Perhaps this is one of the ways that Yzerman could shed players to create cap space. If he ends up landing Karlsson, he obviously takes up a spot in the top four. Koekkoek, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent the Lightning could deem expendable if they are able to upgrade their blue line to such a magnificent degree.
The 24-year-old has had a difficult time finding consistent minutes as part of a talented Lightning defensive group but could fit in well with the Bruins.
Pittsburgh Penguins Looking to Add Up Front
Despite recently trading Conor Sheary in what amounts to a cap dump, the Pittsburgh Penguins are reportedly looking to add some jam and scoring at forward.
It's unclear which players they could be looking at adding, but it doesn't sound like Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty is among those options.
No one would confuse the 5'8" Sheary with Milan Lucic, but it's a bit strange to hear the Penguins are wanting to add a scoring forward after trading away someone who scored 18 goals last season. It's not like his cap hit was ridiculous—it's $3 million for each of the next two seasons—and odds are good that Pittsburgh won't be able to land a 20-goal scorer for less than that.
Reading between the lines a bit here, the Penguins are probably more focused on the jam aspect. After all, this is the same organization that last year shipped a first-round pick and Oskar Sundqvist to the St. Louis Blues for Ryan Reaves.
General manager Jim Rutherford likes to have grit on his fourth lines, and those are the kinds of forwards he could be looking at bringing in.