What off-season moves could be in store for the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues? How are contract talks going between the Blue Jackets and Sergei Bobrovsky?
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has big decisions to make this off-season but only $9 million in cap space. Topping the list is addressing their goaltending, as 35-year-old, injury-hobbled starter Niklas Backstrom is due to become a UFA this summer. Russo listed possible options for replacement, noting Mike Smith and Ryan Miller could be too expensive and doubts they’ll have interest in Roberto Luongo. The Blues might be willing to move either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott, the Ducks could shop either Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth, while the Kings could shop Jonathan Bernier.
Russo also believes the Wild must boost their offense, an opinion shared by his colleague Chip Scoggins. They must also decide if they’ll re-sign pending UFAs Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Fletcher could also get into the trade market, which “could include shopping players such as Devin Setoguchi, Cal Clutterbuck, Tom Gilbert, Zenon Konopka and seldom-used Nate Prosser.” Compliance buyouts are also an option. Dany Heatley would be a prime candidate but he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and could be ineligible. Russo also speculated Fletcher could approve Jason Pominville and Devin Setoguchi later in the summer regarding contract extensions. Gilbert could also be a buyout candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I detailed possible moves by the Wild in a recent Soapbox update. If they’re to re-sign or replace Backstrom, re-up other key players and add another scoring forward, they have little choice but to shed salary via trades or buyouts. I would also caution against them drawing too much upon their young talent as trade bait for established veterans. Dealing for Bernier could be the best option, as of the goalies Russo listed, he seems the most likely to be traded this summer, and could prove the most affordable. As for their UFA forwards, I think they’ll try to re-sign Cullen, but Bouchard’s injury history likely means they’ll part ways with him.
STLTODAY.COM: Bernie Miklasz calls upon Blues management to add “a proven finisher” to their lineup. Given the poor performances by Andy McDonald and Chris Stewart against the Kings, he wonders how much management will offer them to re-sign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect more postmortems from the St.Louis media in the coming days about the Blues off-season plans. I doubt McDonald or fellow UFA Jordan Leopold are re-signed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stewart (who’s an RFA this summer) is shopped during the Entry Draft weekend. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott become trade bait. The Blues biggest priorities are re-signing RFA blueliners Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk,
COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Aaron Portzline earlier this week interviewed Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who said he doesn’t anticipate any problems re-signing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: One comparable I’ve heard suggested is Halak’s four-year, $15 million deal, but with Bobrovsky nominted for the Vezina, it could be higher than that.