An update on Derek Stepan’s contract talks, a suggestion for resolving the Maple Leafs cap crunch, and the Flyers signing of Daniel Cleary could force a salary-dumping trade.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks calls upon the Rangers management to sign RFA Derek Stepan as soon as possible to avoid the possibility he’ll receive an offer sheet from a rival club. “Stepan is believed seeking a five- or six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million per while the Rangers are believed offering a two-year contract worth between $2.75-and-$3 million a year”, writes Brooks, who noted the Rangers only have around $3 million in cap space.

If Stepan received an offer sheet worth $5 million per season, Brooks believes the Rangers would be forced to dump “Brian Boyle ($1.7 million) or perhaps even Derick Brassard ($3.2 million) quickly and in a buyer’s market”. He fears the Islanders could make a pitch for Stepan, thought there’s no indication the Islanders – or any other team – are pondering that option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers are gambling the lowered salary cap will prevent Stepan from receiving an offer sheet. Stepan is a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract. If he doesn’t get an offer sheet, his only leverage is to stage a holdout, a tactic which rarely works in today’s salary cap world. For now, the leverage remains with the Rangers.

Should the Leafs shop Nikolai Kulemin?

Should the Leafs shop Nikolai Kulemin?

THE SPORTING NEWS: Sean Gentille suggests trading Nikolai Kulemin ($2.8 million cap hit) as one way the Toronto Maple Leafs can free up sufficient cap space to re-sign center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Cody Franson and possibly training camp invitee Mason Raymond.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jonathan Willis suggests Kadri should consider using the threat of signing with the KHL as a means of forcing the Maple Leafs hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To sign Kadri, Franson and Raymond, the Leafs would have little choice but to dump salary before the start of the season. Kulemin is a former 30-goal scorer but his career has been plagued by inconsistency. Still, for a team seeking scoring depth on the wing, Kulemin could be an enticing possibility. He’s in the final season of his contract at an affordable cap hit of $2.8 million, and the Leafs wouldn’t want a salaried player in return. 

 As for the KHL suggestion as an option for Kadri, I doubt it’s one he’d seriously consider, but it’s an interesting scenario for future restricted free agents stuck in contract stalemates with their NHL teams.

PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi suggests the Flyers recent signing of Daniel Cleary (three-year, $2.75 million per season) could result in the Flyers dealing one of their high-priced defensemen, like Andrej Meszaros. It also “virtually guarantees” Simon Gagne won’t be invited to Flyers camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers currently sit about $2 million over the salary cap. They’re allowed over the salary cap during preseason but must be cap compliant when the season opens.  They’re expected to place Chris Pronger and his $4.941 million cap hit on LTIR, but that won’t leave much space if the need arises to add more depth to the roster.  Trading Meszaros won’t be easy, given his salary ($4 million) and injury history.