Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman published his weekly 30 Thoughts column today and devoted a significant portion to the big name RFAs who remain unsigned. His first note was on Nikita Kucherov, whose agent – Scott Greenspun – Friedman believes has met with at least one club on the subject of an offer sheet. Due to Tampa’s precarious cap situation, both in the short and long term, the Lightning would be vulnerable to an offer sheet, particularly this close to the start of the regular season when all teams must be in cap compliance. The Lightning have roughly $5.5MM in available cap space but Kucherov may well be able to land significantly more than that from another club. GMs tend to steer clear of offer sheets for fear of angering their colleagues but Kucherov’s talent and track record might eventually prove too tempting for one manager to resist.
The full column is always worth the read but here are a few more key points from Friedman:
- With regards to Johnny Gaudreau, Friedman believes there has been progress made since the two sides met earlier this week. He also notes that negotiations could again reach a stalemate if and when the two sides have moved far enough. The key, Friedman says, is how many unrestricted free agent years the Flames will be buying out, suggesting the longer the term, the higher the AAV. Gaudreau has five years remaining before reaching free agency meaning a max, eight-year term would buy out three free agent seasons.
- There may be as many as six teams with serious interest in trading for Winnipeg Jets RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba. The scribe lists Buffalo, N.Y. Rangers, Detroit, Colorado, Boston and Arizona as the clubs looking at making a deal for the talented young blue liner. Of course given Winnipeg’s believed asking price – a left defenseman of similar ability and age – it’s difficult to fathom any of the aforementioned clubs being a match. Evidently that thought has also occurred to the Jets and that has prompted interested suitors to try to engage a third team to help meet Winnipeg’s demands. One obvious team that could facilitate a trade would be Anaheim as Friedman notes. The Ducks still have Hampus Lindholm to come to terms with and recently sent both Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore – two of the team’s top blue line prospects – to San Diego in the AHL. They certainly have the depth to meet Winnipeg’s needs.
- Apparently the Jets also asked Trouba’s camp to provide the numbers it would take to convince the 22-year-old to re-up in Winnipeg but they were told as long as the situation on the right side of the team’s defense remained the same that re-signing “wasn’t going to happen.”
- Friedman wonders whether the St. Louis Blues will employ the newly acquired Nail Yakupov as a power play specialist and if so, would they play him with two right-shooting forwards. He notes that Yakupov’s man-advantage shooting percentage with Edmonton was 14.8% when on the ice with at least two right-handed forwards and just 7.1% otherwise. The problem with the theory is that the Blues list just three forwards who fire the puck from the starboard side and of those, just David Perron is likely to see much power play time. St. Louis does have four right-handed blue liners so the coaching staff could get creative if they have in fact given any thought to Friedman’s suggestion.
- When the Arizona Coyotes agreed to take on the final year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract from Detroit, it was thought their primary motivation was moving up in the 2016 draft four slots to secure the rights to talented young blue liner Jakob Chychrun. Secondarily, Datsyuk’s $7.5MM cap charge would help the team exceed the cap floor. However, Friedman reports that first-year GM John Chayka had something else entirely in mind. With Datsyuk already committed to signing in the KHL, Chayka tried to convince St. Petersburg to allow the Coyotes to speak with two of their players, Yevgeni Dadonov (perhaps misidentified in Friedman’s post as Evgeny Davydov) and Vadim Shipachyov, in exchange for releasing Datsyuk’s rights. Obviously it didn’t work out for Chayka but it shows his willingness to look at outside-the-box for ways to upgrade his roster.