Latest on the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Blues, and Ducks.
TORONTO STAR/TORONTO SUN: Kevin McGran reports Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis has his work cut out for him this summer. He must determine if he’ll open contract extension talks this summer with Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf (who’ll be UFAs next summer) and James Reimer (an RFA next summer). The cost of re-signing UFA center Tyler Bozak could spell the end of Mikhail Grabovski with the Leafs, suggesting the latter would have to be moved to free up cap space for Bozak’s new contract. McGran expects UFA tough guy Colton Orr to be re-signed, but Clarke MacArthur, Ryan O’Byrne and Mike Kostka will probably move on. RFA Mark Fraser could be on thin ice if the Leafs land another bruising blueliner. Grabovski, Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles could be compliance buyout candidates.
Lance Hornby, meanwhile, believes Reimer’s solid playoff performance won’t prevent Nonis from calling off his search party for an experienced starter this summer. Promising Jake Gardiner also means Nonis won’t need to shop for a puck-moving defenseman, but the Leafs could use a stay-at-home presence, “with a dash of first-pass breakout efficiency”. While it won’t hurt the Leafs to retain Bozak, Hornby believes Nonis can find a better center via trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $45 million invested in 12 players, giving them around $19 million to invest in the rest of their roster. Komisarek will be bought out, and possibly Liles, but I think Grabovski could be shopped rather than bought out, though Nonis would have to pick up part of his salary. I think the biggest need is finding that elusive first-line center and adding an experienced physical blueliner. Reimer’s performance should take Nonis out of the market for an experienced starter. If he wants to add a more experienced backup, fine, but Reimer’s earned the right to return as the Leafs starter. It would be a waste of assets pursuing a starter via trade or free agency, which could be better invested in more pressing roster needs.
LA PRESSE: Richard Labbe recently reported Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was quick to dismiss any speculation he might might find a replacement for starting goalie Carey Price, expressing confidence the 25-year-old netminder will round into a proven playoff performer. Still, Labbe believes Bergevin should use one of his draft picks this year to find a “Plan B” for the future if Price fails to pan out as hoped. He also believes the Habs could use more size, and called upon Bergevin to start negotiations with PK Subban on a long-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Folks forget Price is only 25 and has yet to reach his playing prime. Still, Labbe makes a good point about looking toward the future long-term. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the Canadiens could use a big, physical blueliner, and another forward in the mould of Brandon Prust.
STLTODAY.COM: Jeremy Rutherford reported Blues GM Doug Armstrong recently acknowledged calls for his club to add a proven scorer, but noted rival teams aren’t exactly giving those type of forwards away, insisting his “home-grown” players will have to step up. Armstrong intends on re-signing each of his RFA players and then survey the situation. UFA forward Andy McDonald isn’t expected to be re-signed. Armstrong also touched upon his goaltending , noting it has become “cloudy” with Jake Allen challenging Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if Armstrong quietly shopped Halak, singly or in a package deal, for a scorer.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Lance Pugmire reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray has a lot on his plate following his club’s disappointing early postseason exit. He intends to let Teemu Selanne have a few weeks to decide his future, planning to meet with him in June. Murray also intends to add more toughness to his lineup, claiming he’s still upset by the blindside hit by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader on Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman. He also said he’d continue contract talks with UFAs Saku Koivu and Ben Lovejoy. Center Dave Steckel also said he hopes to remain with the Ducks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hovering over this is the Ducks limited cap space for next season. Murray only has around $4.88 million in cap space, which won’t be enough to re-sign Selanne, Koivu and Lovejoy and still add some toughness to the lineup. Some salary must be shed, which could resurrect last summer’s Bobby Ryan trade rumors.