The latest from the Edmonton Journal, New York Post and The Sporting News. Happy Memorial Day to my American readers.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson believes it seems incumbent upon the Vancouver Canucks to re-sign UFA defenseman Kevin Bieksa, even if it meant losing Christian Ehrhoff…He wondered if the Calgary Flames would part with Robyn Regehr should the San Jose Sharks offer up winger Devin Setoguchi and blueliner Jason Demers…He dismissed talk of the Sharks buying out the remaining three years of Dany Heatley’s contract…Matheson also reported Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock believes his team not only needs to bolster their defense but also add a top-six forward. Jiri Hudler could become trade bait. The best potential UFAs by age and price for the Wings could be Washington’s Brooks Laich and Philadelphia’s Ville Leino. Another possibility: Calgary’s Alex Tanguay…Matheson believes the Minnesota Wild should retain UFA Jose Theodore and trade Niklas Backstrom but his $6 million per season salary makes him untradeable…
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I too believe if push comes to shove, the Canucks will re-sign Bieksa and let Ehrhoff walk, but I believe GM Mike Gillis intends to re-sign both…Calgary GM Jay Feaster several times this season ranked Regehr amongst his “untouchables”, so unless he’s changed his mind, don’t expect Regehr to go anywhere…I also reject the notion of the Sharks buying out Heatley…Hudler is the most likely of the Wings to be shopped, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be dealt…Laich or Leino would be good fits on the Wings, but forget about Tanguay, the Flames intend to re-sign him…Backstrom’s not going anywhere.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo recent re-signings with the NY Islanders sends a message to other clubs hoping to poach away their best young talent, though Brooks believes it’ll be interesting to see what path John Tavares takes as a restricted free agent next summer…Brooks wondered if NY Rangers GM Glen Sather might have interest in Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss if he fails to sign UFA center Brad Richards in July…
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tavares and his agent Pat Brisson have repeatedly said he believes in the Islanders rebuilding plan, wants to be a part of it, and is happy playing for them. The only interesting part about Tavares’ RFA status next year will be how much he re-signs for and how his contract is structured. He won’t become a target for an offer sheet, because the Isles will have him re-signed before July 1st, but even if they don’t, they’ll match the offer. Yes, I’m that confident about it, and so should Islanders fans….Weiss has maintained he wants to remain with the Panthers, and GM Dale Tallon wants to keep him. Unless either guy changes his mind, Weiss won’t be moved.
THE SPORTING NEWS: Craig Custance looked at several of the more intriguing potential unrestricted free agents this summer (after Brad Richards). He suggested Washington’s Brooks Laich wants to remain a Capital but there might be a temptation to test the market as he’d be the second-best available forward. Colorado’s Tomas Fleischmann could have more upside but comes with health issues. Ville Leino’s agent could have considerable options if the Flyers are unable to re-sign him. Tampa Bay’s Sean Bergenheim could cash in big after having a strong playoff performance, as could Nashville’s Joel Ward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Capitals will do everything possible to keep Laich in the fold. Fleischmann’s health is also a matter of concern for the Avalanche, who must decide if they want to keep him. Leino would attract considerable interest around the league. Teams interested in Bergenheim and Ward must be careful not to overpay them. Yes, they had strong performances this spring, but their regular season numbers pale in comparison.