Several NHL teams facing tough UFA decisions, plus the latest on Thomas Vanek and Scott Clemmensen.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance recently reported on several NHL teams facing tough decisions this season regarding their star UFA players. Contract talks between the Buffalo Sabres and pending UFAs Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are currently “non-existent”. Vanek said he’s not interested right now in signing an extension but wouldn’t dismiss the idea… The NY Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist remain apart in terms of dollars and term, while Ryan Callahan could net at least $6 million per season on the open market… Dion Phaneuf doesn’t have a problem with contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs going on during the season…Marian Gaborik’s agent said his client would love to stay long term with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blue Jackets president John Davidson said his club will analyze how things go during the season “and see how we are and how it goes”….The San Jose Sharks opened contract talks with defenseman Dan Boyle but so far no deal is imminent. Patrick Marleau said he’s already taken a hometown discount, which suggests he’ll seek full market value to re-sign with the Sharks. Custance believes Joe Thornton will be the easiest for the Sharks to re-sign, though both sides aren’t rushing to get a deal done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are battling for a playoff berth, they’ll retain Vanek and Miller. If not, they’ll shop them…Does anyone honestly believe the Rangers would part ways with Lundqvist? Not happenin’. Sure, they’ll quibble a bit over term and dollars but ultimately the Blueshirts will make him the highest paid goalie in the league on a six-to-eight year deal…I believe the Leafs will re-sign Phaneuf, and most Leafs fans probably won’t like it. I’m thinking five-to-seven years at $7 million per, though Nonis could try to talk him into accepting longer term for the same salary he’s currently making ($6.5 million per)…If Gaborik has a healthy season and the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, he’ll be re-signed. He’s done the big market scene and seems happier in a smaller hockey market where the spotlight isn’t as harsh… Marleau and the Sharks always seem to go through this contract dance and he ends up staying, so we shouldn’t take it for granted he’s a goner this time. Thornton stays, and so will Boyle if he is willing to accept a two-year deal.
TORONTO SUN: Chris Stevenson reports “the talk around the Minnesota Wild is they will target Buffalo Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek. There’s long been talk he’d like to play in Minnesota, where he lives, and Pominville is a buddy and former linemate from his Sabres days.” Stevenson also claims progress is being made by the Canucks in getting new contracts for the Sedins, with term (rather than dollars) being the sticking point.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering Vanek played his college hockey in Minnesota, his wife is a Minnesotan and he spends the off-season in the state, the Wild seem a natural fit. Theycurrently have over $51 million tied up in 16 players next season, with seven roster spots to fill. If the salary cap increases to $70 million next season, they’ll have $22 million in cap space, but with over $27 million invested in Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville, are they willing to invest big bucks (even if he accepts a pay cut) in Vanek, who’s making over $7 million this season? Time will tell.
MIAMI HERALD: George Richards reports Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who cleared waivers this week, will spend several game on a rehab stint with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. It remains to be seen, however, if he’ll remain in San Antonio after that.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams passed on Clemmensen because he’s coming off minor knee surgery. Once he fully recovers, if he plays well in San Antonio, he could be shopped if the Panthers are happy with the current tandem of Tim Thomas and Jacob Markstrom.