The latest on the Penguins, Wild, Bruins, Leafs, Stars and Blues.
TRIBLIVE.COM/POST-GAZETTE.COM: In the wake of yet another early playoff exit by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rob Rossi and Dejan Kovacevic report sweeping changes could be coming to the Penguins front office and coaching staff. They also believe Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will return but there could be some new faces in the Penguins lineup next season. Josh Yohe believes the Penguins’ roster needs to get younger. Dave Molinari also speculates GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma could be in danger of losing their jobs.
NBC SPORTS: Jason Brough believes now is the time for the Penguins to explore trading defenseman Kris Letang. While acknowledging Letang’s health issues (which most recently included a heart condition that sidelined him for several weeks) and poor defensive play, Brough points out Letang still logged over 25 minutes per game and only Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson had more points-per-game, plus there’s a need for defensemen with righthanded shots around the league. He also noted Letang is about to start an eight-year, $58 million contract, plus the Penguins have two blue chip youngsters in rookie Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot.
VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Jason Botchford speculates the Penguins’ playoff collapse could take them out of the running for the services of Canucks’ center Ryan Kesler, who was linked to the Penguins leading up to the March trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if the Penguins return with the same coaching staff next season. It remains to be seen what happens with Shero, who stood by Bylsma last summer. As for roster changes, unless Crosby and Malkin demand to be dealt, they’re not going anywhere. It’s foolish to trade them. They’re the players you rebuild around. I’ll be surprised if they trade or buy out Marc-Andre Fleury. He only has one year left on his contract so it might be wiser to look at adding a promising young goalie for a possible transition if Fleury doesn’t fit into their plans beyond next season. If they do move Fleury, they’ll need a suitable replacement, and there’s not much available via free agency or trade.
Letang’s health issues and big contract significantly hurts his trade value. He also has a limited no-trade clause (listing 12 teams he won’t accept being dealt to), which narrows the list of potential trade destinations. If the Penguins can find a trade partner they won’t get equal value, and they’ll certainly have to pick up part of his salary. They might have an easier time trying to move players like James and Chris Kunitz (who also have limited NTCs but carry more affordable contracts) or defenseman Paul Martin (another with a limited NTC but only one year left on his contract). It depends, of course, on whether the Penguins management (be it Shero or someone else) wants to tinker or conduct a serious rebuild.
STARTRIBUNE.COM/TWINCITIES.COM: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Mike Yeo must address his club’s goaltending situation. He recommends trying to trade backup Niklas Backstrom, even if it means picking up part of his salary, though he acknowledged that won’t be easy to do given Backstrom’s age and injury history. Josh Harding’s health issues also complicates the picture. Darcy Kuemper is a restricted free agent but will be re-signed to a one-way deal. Fletcher must also decide if it’s worthwhile to pursue a UFA scorer like Thomas Vanek while still leaving enough cap space to re-sign his young RFAs. Chad Graff echoes much of Russo’s speculation, while Charley Walters believes the Wild will pursue Vanek via free agency in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I also believe the Wild will pursue Vanek, but after watching the winger’s playoff performance with Montreal, I say be careful what you wish for, Wild fans. Yes, they could use an experienced top-six winger but sorting out the goalie issue and re-signing those young RFAs are the priorities.
THE GLOBE & MAIL/TORONTO SUN: James Mirtle reports Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan doesn’t want to tear down and rebuild the roster. Shanahan also sounds as though he’d prefer retaining defenseman Dion Phaneuf as team captain. Mike Zeisberger reports Shanahan wants to bring back center Dave Bolland, though he acknowledged there are factors involved in attempting to re-sign the pending UFA, who is rumored seeking a multi-year deal worth $5 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Phaneuf trade chatter from earlier this week no longer seems quite as likely. I’m sure Shanahan wants to retain Bolland to a more sensible deal, but if the Bolland camp won’t move off their salary demands, they’ll part ways.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance believes Jarome Iginla would be a worthwhile re-signing for the Bruins, who must also re-sign pending RFA Torey Krug.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the Bruins limited cap space, retaining Iginla won’t be easy. I expect they’ll re-sign Krug to a two- or three-year bridge contract.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika examines several possible options for the Stars in their off-season pursuit of a second-line center. Jason Spezza, Paul Stastny and Ryan Kesler could be among them, along with long-shots like Carolina’s Eric Staal and Jordan Staal. UFA candidates could include Mikhail Grabovski, or if they promote Cody Eakin to the second line, third line options could include Vern Fiddler, David Legwand, Steve Ott and Jay McClement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza and Kesler with their no-trade clauses would have to agree to be dealt to Dallas. Stastny could be an expensive signing as there could be a bidding war for his services. I don’t see the Staal brothers being available. If Grabovski hits the market he could be a worthwhile signing.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues backup Brian Elliott is uncertain about his future. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Blues have already stated they’ll promote Jake Allen next season, and they’ll have to decide if they’ll re-sign Elliott or Ryan Miller, or bring in another goalie.