Check out the latest speculations on the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins as they head into the off-season.
VANCOUVER SUN/VANCOUVER PROVINCE: examined potential moves by Canucks management following their disappointing early playoff exit. Elliott Pap noted they’ll have around $55 million invested in 17 players for next season. Assuming the cap ceiling remains the same ($64.3 million) for next season, that wouldn’t leave much space to “add a goalie, three forwards and at least one defenseman”. Brad Ziemer reports agent Mike Liut, who represents Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, wouldn’t be surprised if his client and Roberto Luongo return as the Canucks goalie tandem next season, believing it far from certain Luongo could be dealt. Jason Botchford believes the Canucks “are not physical enough to wear opponents down. They don’t block enough shots. They don’t hit a lot. They lack grit. They back check when they feel like it”, adding they also lack “the size in their top six to out-battle even the B-grade defensive blueliners like Willie Mitchell.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The calls for massive change from Vancouver pundits and fans overlook the fact that most of those called-for changes cannot happen overnight, are often easier said than done, and may be ignored outright by the front office. For all their faults, the Canucks are only one year removed from being a Stanley Cup Finalist, and won their second straight President’s Trophy as the best regular season team. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be any changes, and it’ll be interesting to see how Gillis addresses the goaltending, as well as his other roster needs, but moves will be made, and beyond mere tweaks. Yes, Gillis’ moves this season failed to pan out, but most of his previous efforts to improve the team worked, so calling for his firing based upon his work this season is ridiculous.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance speculated on the possibility of significant changes for the San Jose Sharks this summer, believing it’s time for a dramatic rebuild, which should involve trying to move long-time Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, despite the no-movement clause and two years remaining on his contract. Custance believes they could revisit their interest in Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash, and spend some money in free agency if the right player comes along.
MERCURYNEWS.COM: Tim Kawakami also believes it’s time for the Sharks to part ways with the 33-year-old Marleau, acknowledging his contract and movement clause makes him difficult to move, and doubts they’d get equal value in a return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hat tip to GJ Berg for the Kawakami link. Marleau isn’t impossible to move, for while he earns $6.9 million per season, there’s only two year left on the deal, so it’s possible there might be some interest out there. His NMC, however, will significantly limit potential destinations. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Doug Wilson looks into acquiring Nash, but of course that’ll depend on if Nash wants to come to San Jose, and if Wilson is willing to pony up the huge asking price to land him, which probably won’t include an ageing Marleau. The Sharks could do with a roster shakeup, but teams will have more interest in players like Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, two guys Wilson won’t move.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Ron Cook and Dave Molinari report Penguins management will have plenty of time to consider possible changes to their roster this summer. Cook dismisses calls for the club to fire head coach Dan Bylsma and trade goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and doesn’t see them moving Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but suggested the possibility of moving Jordan Staal, who’ll become a UFA in July 2013. Cook also expressed doubt the Penguins could find takers for expensive, much-maligned defenseman Paul Martin, and believes beefing up the defense is easier said than done, unless Martin can be moved.
Molinari doesn’t believe the Penguins need an overhaul, but their recent playoffs failures suggest more than tweaks and fine-tuning are in order. GM Ray Shero might have to consider moving either Crosby, Malkin or Staal if he concludes he won’t have the cap space to re-sign all three in the near future. He believes Shero could seek a quality backup for Fleury this summer, and must consider revamping his defense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cue the “trade Jordan Staal” rumors this summer, which always seem to pop up every year. If Shero were to consider that option, however, I believe he’ll wait until the new CBA is implemented and make his decisions based upon that. He’s in no hurry to trade Staal this summer. Some will advocate trading Crosby or Malkin, but that seems remote at best. Fleury may have struggled in post-season play of late, but he remains among the game’s better goalies, and perhaps with a more seasoned backup, could elevate his game again. Martin is probably untradeable, and if there’s an amnesty buyout period in the next CBA, he’ll become a prime candidate to be bought out by the Penguins. With over $59.5 million invested in 18 players for next season, Shero won’t have much wiggle room, even if the cap were to remain around $64 million for next season to fill out the remainder of his roster, let alone find the necessary upgrades, especially on defense.