Most of the focus of the off-season is on the top unrestricted free agents. Most of them are off the board by now, but there are still plenty of pressing plotlines left to be explored. Whether it’s extension talks, possible trades, or area of needs for a particular team, there’s still plenty left to do. Here are some of the biggest issues that are yet to be resolved.
- Kevin Shattenkirk: The Blues’ defenseman has been subject to trade rumors all summer, and for much of his career, with various sources linking him to the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. Several sources reported that the Oilers could have had him in exchange for Taylor Hall, and balked because he remained unsigned, had no intention of re-signing, and prefers to play on the east coast. Shattenkirk grew up in Westchester, and given their tendency to sign big name free agents, one may wonder if “east coast” mostly means the New York Rangers. This late into the summer, the Blues may have decided to hold onto him, given how close they were to last year’s finals.
- Rangers’ Cap: The Rangers managed to clear some space trading Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators for fellow center Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers have a lot of work to do, after falling off from a hot start, being unceremoniously dumped out of the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Pittburgh Penguins, and once again relying heavily on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who turned 34 in March. The Rangers also had several expensive players disappoint last year, including Marc Staal (signed until 2021), Dan Girardi (2020), and Rick Nash (2018). If they are to make a move for Shattenkirk, or make many improvements at all, they’ll have to clear cap space. Their second buyout window may tempt them into cutting their losses with Girardi, and there’s been trade speculation surround Nash for a while now.
- Stars’ Goaltending: No playoff team allowed more goals than the Dallas Stars this year, and in the entire league, only the Calgary Flames had a lower team save percentage. Two of the top available goaltenders, former Blue Brian Elliott, now of the Flames, and former Duck Frederik Andersen, now of the Maple Leafs, are off the market. There’s been a lot of talk about Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, given his pending free agent status, the Lightning’s cap situation, and the percieved promise of backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, who turns 22 on Monday. Still, a Stanley Cup contender in Tampa Bay may not be keen on moving an established star in Bishop, the runner up for this year’s Vezina trophy, to run with someone unproven. There aren’t a lot of other option out there, though there’s been trade talk surrounding the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury, and they may end up having to wait until mid-season to get a goaltender. Incumbents Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are under contract at $10.4MM combined per year in the mean time.
- Ducks’ Budget: The Ducks don’t really have a lot of work to do this offseason. They never did, having won their division, and clearly deciding that coaching was the problem, rather than their core of players. Still, they’re a budget team, with just under $65MM in budgetary commitments, though some of that will be eased by the Maple Leafs, having already paid half of the newly acquired Jonathan Bernier’s salary in his July signing bonus. But they still have to sign restricted free agents Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, and the betting was on the Ducks moving one of their young defensemen this off-season. The Ducks would probably do just about anything possible to keep Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, or Josh Manson, but they’ve displayed a willingness to move Cam Fowler for the right price. It’s difficult to say what exactly they’ll do now, given that the market clearly isn’t paying the Ducks’ asking price for Fowler, but it’s more likely they’ll lower their price for him than let someone like Lindholm go.