As the Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars head into the off-season, find out what moves could be in store for these clubs.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has a substantial off-season “to-do” list. Noting their lack of offense in their series against the NY Rangers, Carchidi speculates Wild forward Matt Moulson could be on the Flyers’ radar if he hits this summer’s UFA market. Frank Seravalli believes defense should be the Flyers’ priority this summer. The club is also anxiously awaiting word from Kimmo Timonen if he’ll return next season. He’s 39 and a UFA this summer but could lean toward retirement. He also wonders if they’ll shop pending RFA center Brayden Schenn for defensive help. Given the lack of defensive depth in this summer’s free agent market, a trade could be in order.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap space is an issue. They currently have only a projected $6.5 million for next season. That’ll increased in October by $4.9 million when they place Chris Pronger on LTIR again, but that won’t leave enough to bolster their defense and re-sign or replace Timonen, Schenn and others.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Mark Purdy and David Pollak speculate over possible moves by the Sharks, doubting a significant roster overhaul is in order because of the number of key players under long-term contract with no-trade clauses. Purdy also points out ownership could frown on a rebuild for fear it’ll hurt attendance. It’s possible pending UFA defenseman Dan Boyle won’t be re-signed. There’s speculation over the Sharks’ possibly using a compliance buyout to shed the final year (and $5 million cap hit) of Martin Havlat’s contract, though as a rule management doesn’t do buyouts. Purdy also suggests starting goalie Antti Niemi, who struggled against the Kings in their opening-round series, “can’t feel too secure”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen if ownership replaces Doug Wilson as GM. Wilson seems entrench in his role so I’d be surprised if he gets the ax. Coach Todd McLellan could be replaced. I believe they must buy out the final season of Havlat’s contract and use the savings to re-sign or replace key players and bring in additional depth. Boyle could be a goner. They currently have around $13 million in projected cap space.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline notes re-signing RFA Ryan Johansen will be a priority for the Blue Jackets this summer. UFA Derek MacKenzie would love to return, while it remains to be seen if they’ll re-sign Blake Comeau. Part of their decisions on defense will be deciding on re-signing UFAs Nikita Nikitin and Nick Schultz. Portzline doubts the Jackets buy out James Wisniewski and R.J. Umberger. He anticipates management could be busy on the trade front this summer to bolster the club’s speed and skill. He won’t move any of his core players (“The Ryans, Boone Jenner or Sergei Bobrovsky. Defenseman Jack Johnson and center Brandon Dubinsky”).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Portzline doesn’t expect sweeping changes for the Blue Jackets. They’ve got a good core plus some promising young talent so there’s no need for major moves. I do expect, however, management will go the trade route to bolster their speed and skills. They could try to move Umberger or Wisniewski, though their contracts and no-trade clauses makes them difficult to move.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika suggests contract term could result in pending UFA Vernon Fiddler to depart. While he likes playing for the Stars and could be affordable to re-sign, if he wants a three- or four-year deal he likely won’t get it from the Stars. Heika also guesses Avalanche pending UFA center Paul Stastny could be on the Stars radar this summer. He also has doubts former Star Matt Niskanen would be keen to return if he hits the UFA market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars have a projected $20 million in cap space for next season, so there’s room to make a significant move or two this summer. GM Jim Nill showed a willingness to make big splashes last summer, so don’t dismiss the possibility he’ll do so again.