While TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted yesterday that Tampa Bay RFA Nikita Kucherov is the most likely of the remaining restricted free agents to receive an offer sheet, he told TSN 690 in Montreal today (via Chris Nichols of Today’s Slapshot) that he doesn’t expect the Lightning to make him available in trade talks:
“Steve Yzerman is not, I don’t believe, going to make a conscious decision to trade him. Because I think of all of those guys, some of them that he signed recently like (Alex) Killorn – we’ll keep Hedman out of the equation because he’s a lynchpin on defense – but when you’ve got all of those guys… Palat is up next year, Tyler Johnson is up next year, you’ve got Killorn. Let’s be honest. The guys that you would think Steve Yzerman would be most interested in moving are guys like Val Filppula and some of the other guys up front, not Kucherov.”
On top of Killorn and Palat needing new deals next year, so too does Jonathan Drouin while Ben Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent. The team has roughly $5.5MM in cap space to work with this season according to Cap Friendly and have just over $55MM committed to 13 players already for 2017-18. While Yzerman has suggested in the past that he shouldn’t have to trade anyone to get Kucherov signed for this season, someone inevitably will have to go sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere around the hockey world:
- The Wild have a quartet of players drafted in the first two rounds back in 2009 that will be crucial to their success this season, writes Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune. Forwards Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker are all 24, which in the eyes of GM Chuck Fletcher is a key year as it often represents the time that players have their breakthrough. The team didn’t change much up front over the summer and will be counting on those four to take another step forward offensively under new head coach Bruce Boudreau.
- After spending 2015-16 in a shutdown role, Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin is looking to get more involved in the attack this season, notes Bill West of the Pittsburgh Tribune. After starting last year on the third pairing, he slowly worked his way up the lineup, finishing the postseason on the top pair while averaging nearly 22 minutes per night. He made a mark at the offensive end late in the postseason and wound up scoring in the Stanley Cup-clinching game which also was just his second goal in 103 games. With Olli Maatta now healthy, Dumoulin is in a battle in training camp to retain his top pairing spot alongside Kris Letang.