The latest on Marc-Andre Fleury, Brad Richards, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Bobrovsky, Daniel Briere and more.
ESPN.COM: Neil Greenberg makes the case for the Pittsburgh Penguins to buy out the remainder of Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract, noting the decline in his performance since the 2009 Stanley Cup Final isn’t worth paying him $5 million per season for two more seasons, as well as his losing the starter’s job this spring to backup Tomas Vokoun.
Craig Custance, meanwhile, listed the Blackhawks, Blues, Capitals, Kings and Islanders as potential destinations for NY Rangers center Brad Richards if he’s bought out this summer, citing the lack of quality depth in this summer’s UFA market for centers could make him an attractive option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: From a financial standpoint, buying out Fleury makes sense, freeing up cap space to either re-sign Jarome Iginla or Pascal Dupuis, or for long-term contracts for Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. Still, while using a compliance buyout for Fleury removes his cap hit from their payroll, they’ll still have to pay him his remaining salary, and ownership might not be keen to spend money on a player no longer on the roster. Furthermore, dumping Fleury still leaves them in the market for an established starter. Vokoun’s been steady and could carry the Penguins to the Stanley Cup, but he turns 37 in July and isn’t a long-term solution. It wouldn’t surprise me if they retain Fleury for another season and give him a chance to rebound.
As for Richards, the Rangers’ deep-pocketed ownership won’t bat an eye about using a compliance buyout on him, but it’s possible GM Glen Sather could retain Richards and fire John Tortorella, hoping the veteran center’s performance improves under a new coach. If not, they could use their remaining compliance buyout next summer on Richards.
NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Pavel Datsyuk’s agent refuted reports out of Russia claiming his client had agreed to a contract with KHL team AK Bars Kazan for next season. Meanwhile, SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL is preparing to offer up big money to Columbus Blue Jackets RFA goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Datsyuk is still under contract with the Red Wings, so it’s illegal for any non-NHL team to make him a contract offer. That being said, Datsyuk enjoyed his stint in the KHL during the lockout and expressed interest in returning to that league one day. The Red Wings would love to keep Datsyuk, of course, and GM Ken Holland plans to meet with him this summer to discuss his future. Datsyuk remains among the NHL’s elite players and arguably the Red Wings best player, but he’ll turn 36 after his current contract expires next summer, and it appears he’d like to end his playing days back home in Russia. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about his plans this summer.
As for Bobrovsky, we shouldn’t be surprised KHL teams are once again targeting some of the NHL’s top Russian free agents. The first season of the new CBA is coming to an end, the salary cap is dropping for the first time, and some KHL teams hope to exploit that. It also works well for players like Bobrovsky, providing them significant leverage in contract talks with their NHL teams. While the KHL can offer up considerably more money on short-term deals of one to three years, the NHL teams can offer up the security of longer term deals as well as a higher level of competition. In Bobrovsky’s case, I expect the Blue Jackets will have little choice but to pay him what he’s seeking on a five-to-seven year deal.
CSNPHILLY.COM: Philadelphia Flyers star Daniel Briere remains uncertain over his future with the team. He’d prefer to finish the remainder of his contract, but it’s expected he’ll become a candidate for a compliance buyout.
DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla calls upon the Colorado Avalanche’s new head coach and co-VP of hockey operations Patrick Roy to shop for a proven starting goaltender this summer, believing current starter Semyon Varlamov isn’t good enough in the job.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While anything’s possible, I doubt Kiszla gets his wish this year. This season was Varlamov’s worst, but he had no help defensively. He’s also under contract (at an affordable cap hit of just over $2.8 million) for one more season, and I expect Roy, Sakic and GM Greg Sherman will give him one more chance. Besides, the Avs currently have over $56 million invested in 22 players for next season, and it’s doubtful ownership will approve pursuing a big ticket free agent. They could try to trade for an established starter and move some salary the other way, but again, I think they’ll give Varlamov another shot. They can always shop around for an improvement during the season.