The latest on Kris Letang, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Bernier and Bryan Bickell, plus updates on the Calgary Flames off-season plans.
NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Ryan Dadoun cites a report on the Penguins website where GM Ray Shero acknowledged his focus turns to re-signing defenseman Kris Letang, though until contract discussions begin, he doesn’t know what Letang’s expectations are. “Does he want to be here? Somewhere else? It’s hard for me to know what Kris’ intentions are until I get into some sort of discussions with his agent and Kris”, said Shero, who added he didn’t know if Letang would be dealt if there wasn’t an agreement in place by the draft. RDS’s Renaud Lavoive reports contract talks are expected to begin in the next ten days.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance considered the Penguins options with Letang, including trading him, citing a Western Conference executive who believes 29 other teams would be interested in the blueliner if he’s put on the trade block. Custance speculated at possible fits, including the Tampa Bay Lightning (who hold the third overall pick in this year’s draft), the Oilers (young forwards, seventh overall pick), Ducks (winger Bobby Ryan, goaltending depth), plus the Sharks and Rangers, though they lack the assets to acquire him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shero showed a willingness last year to move out a key player he was unable to get under contract when he dealt Jordan Staal to Carolina. The difference, however, was Staal was never going to get the opportunity to become a top center playing behind Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh, whereas Letang is the Penguins best defenseman. I think Shero tries to get Letang to follow the example of teammates Crosby and Malkin and leave money on the table to remain a Penguin, where he’ll have a chance every year to contend for the Stanley Cup, rather than pursue big bucks elsewhere on a team where he might not get that opportunity.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could have serious interest in Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell if he tests this summer’s UFA market. Bergevin, who used to be part of the Blackhawks management, knows Bickell and was part of the staff which scouted and recruited the forward. LeBrun claims the Canadiens “covet” Bickell, but doubts they’ll overpay to sign him…LeBrun expects the Boston Bruins will re-sign center Patrice Bergeron this summer to an eight-year contract extension. Bergeron has one season remaining on his current contract…The LA Kings have spoken with ten teams regarding their backup goalie Jonathan Bernier. LeBrun anticipates Bernier could be dealt “before or at the draft”…Ignore the rumors of the Canadiens trading Carey Price. Not gonna happen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron’s previous association with the Blackhawks and Bickell could give the Habs an edge if Bickell becomes a UFA, but a number of teams will be interested in him, and ultimately it could be the highest bidder who lands him. The Canadiens will free up cap space by buying out Tomas Kaberle, but they still have to keep an eye on the future, as PK Subban, Lars Eller and Alexei Emelin must be re-signed next summer…Bergeron is making $5 million per season on his current deal and could see a raise to $7 million per on the open market next summer. Should be interesting to see how much the Bruins are willing to pay…No surprise Bernier will be on the trade block this summer. The question now is where he could end up. He’s been linked to the Flyers, Flames, Maple Leafs, Penguins, Wild, Oilers, Coyotes and Avalanche…The Carey Price trade rumors seem more the result of wishful thinking by some of his critics than of any rumored effort on the Habs part to move him.
CALGARY HERALD/CALGARY SUN: Flames GM Jay Feaster finally admitted the obvious: his club is rebuilding, and there’s no quick fix for the Flames roster needs, which include depth at center, bolstering their physical play, and adding a scoring right winger. He also acknowledged a need for more size on defense and depth in goal. Feaster has nine picks in this year’s entry draft, including three in the first round. Unless he gets a solid offer, he intends to retain the sixth overall pick, though he has spoken with the team’s ahead of him in the draft order. Feaster will also keep an eye on possible compliance buyouts by other teams, and acknowledged centre Mikael Backlund and defencemen T.J. Brodie and Chris Butler will return next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rebuild is long overdue but is at least finally underway. Feaster should be able to land a very good prospect with that sixth overall pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to peddle the 22nd and/or 28th overall picks for a good NHL player who can address one of his team’s many needs. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the UFA market for compliance buyout players, as there could be one or two good players who could be had for affordable prices. The rebuild will take time, but it’s important that it be done right. No quick fixes.