A look at which Leafs might not return next season, what changes need to be made for the Jets, while the pressure’s on for Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan looks at which players could return for the Maple Leafs next season, and which ones might not. Koshan suggests defenseman Luke Schenn could be gone if the Leafs revisit a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers involving James van Riemsdyk, as some experts believe it could still happen. Carl Gunnarson’s $1.325 million cap hit could make him attractive on the trade market. Free agents Jonas Gustavsson and Jay Rosehill aren’t expected back, while Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur shouldn’t feel safe.
TORONTO STAR: Bob Mitchell recently wondered if energetic checking forward Joey Crabb, an unrestricted free agent this summer, will return with the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Leafs shop Schenn, they should see if they can find a healthier return than van Riemsdyk, preferably a first line center, though Schenn on his own might not be enough to land one. Gunnarson could indeed be of interest to rivals seeking affordable blueline depth. I doubt there would be much interest in Kulemin, but Bozak and MacArthur might have some trade value. Crabb could be an affordable re-signing, provided he wants to return to the Leafs.
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe believes the Jets are definitely in need of change, starting with deciding which of their UFAs (goalie Chris Mason, defencemen Randy Jones and Mark Flood and forwards Jim Slater, Tanner Glass, Kyle Wellwood and Tim Stapleton) to re-sign. Forward Eric Fehr is not expected to be re-signed. Wiebe also reports of “a theory” RFA winger Evander Kane would prefer to play in a bigger market like Los Angeles or New York, but he doesn’t buy into it and doesn’t see a trade in the offing. Wiebe doubts the Jets will be bidders for top potential UFAs like Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, but wouldn’t be surprised if the club dealt for a top-six forward, like a big center or right wing. Wiebe also doubts Winnipeg’s small market and location will be a turn-off for unrestricted free agents, citing the atmosphere at the club’s home games as a possible enticement.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Ed Tait reports none of the Jets pending restricted and unrestricted free agents want to leave Winnipeg, citing as one reason the phenomenal fan support they received this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets won’t re-sign everybody, though it’s a safe bet RFAs like Kane and Ondrej Pavelec certainly will return. Of their UFAs, Wellwood, Slater and Glass stand the best chances of returning, depending of course upon their salary demands. Kane is only 20, and has made steady improvement with each passing season. His best years have yet to come, and unless Kane demands a trade, Jets management would be foolish to move him. I also don’t believe the Jets will be getting into the bidding wars for this summer’s top UFAs, but they will make a couple of signings, likely to bolster their checking lines. It’s also possible they could make a trade for an additional scoring forward. I don’t believe management will be as modest in their moves this summer as they were last year.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports the pressure’s on this summer for Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to improve his club following another disappointing season. The development of their prospects offers some hope for next season. Russo also believes Fletcher has to lure a top player to Minnesota like Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, something he’s been unable to do so far as Wild GM.
TWINCITIES.COM: Ben Goessling offers up a more optimistic view, reporting the Wild will have a “slew of prospects – most notably 2010 first-round draft pick Mikael Granlund” expected to join the roster next season, they’ll also have another lottery draft pick, plus the available cap space to bid aggressively for UFAs like Parise and Suter. Other possible UFA targets could include Alexander Semin, Dustin Penner, Matt Carle or Bryan Allen. “There’s plenty of optimism inside the team’s offices, so much so that general manager Chuck Fletcher soon could receive a short contract extension, according to a person familiar with the team’s thinking”, writes Goessling.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s depth in skilled prospects was why Fletcher was unwilling to trade one or more of them – especially Granlund – this season to bolster his injury-ravaged team. The rash of injuries played a huge role in the Wild’s second-half swoon, but they need to have the depth to cover off for those situations, which Fletcher will aggressively seek this summer. The Wild are thought to have “the inside track” for Parise, who was born and raised in Minnesota, but playing for a Cup contender is also important to him, something the Wild aren’t anywhere close to being at this time. Fletcher will have his hands full trying to outbid teams like the Detroit Red Wings or NY Rangers this summer for Parise or Suter, and might have to look elsewhere for depth if he comes up short.