Should the Caps try to sign Grabovski?

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Free-agent center Mikhail Grabovski has reportedly narrowed his choice of teams to three.

Which three teams? That we don’t know — except that Winnipeg apparently isn’t one of them.

The question we’re asking here is, should Washington be interested?

According to a good number of Capitals fans, the answer is a resounding yes.

Washington, of course, did not re-sign Mike Ribeiro this summer; he ended up with the Coyotes.

Ribeiro had 13 goals and 36 assists during the regular season. His 49 points were the second most, behind Alex Ovechkin‘s 56, on the Caps and tied for 10th overall in the NHL.

So you’ll excuse Caps fans for wondering/worrying how their team will do without him.

According to Washington general manager George McPhee, however, the team already has Ribeiro’s second-line center replacement in Brooks Laich.

Injuries limited Laich to just nine regular-season games in 2013, but the 30-year-old has put up good offensive numbers in the past. His best season was 2009-10, when he scored 25 goals and added 34 assists in 78 games.

“You need a good two-way player to play there,” said McPhee, referring to Laich.

But Grabovski is also a decent two-way player. In fact, one of the reasons his offensive numbers were down in Toronto this year was that he was given a decidedly more defensive role by Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle, as described here by the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle.

Whether the Caps can afford Grabovski depends on his asking price. According to CapGeek, they’ve got almost $6 million in cap space with 20 players signed. (Restricted free agent Marcus Johansson still needs a contract, too.)

Bought out by the Leafs, Grabovski will be paid $14.3 million over the next eight years by Toronto, plus what he earns on a new contract. If he’s serious about wanting to “win something,” he could do worse than signing with the Caps. (For example, he could sign with the Calgary Flames.)

It’s possible McPhee is hoping to get Grabovski for a bargain, a la the contract he convinced Tomas Vokoun to sign in the summer of 2011.

McPhee may choose instead to go into the season with a bit of cap space.

“It’s never a bad thing to have,” he said recently. “We don’t know what develops, but it’s nice to have some flexibility to do things if we have to.”

Again, so much depends on Grabovski’s asking price. If it’s reasonable, the Caps make sense as destination. If not, they’ll likely pass and hope Laich can stay healthy and Johansson and/or Mathieu Perreault can take their games to another level.

Is Vancouver considering a Markstrom-Nilsson reunion in goal?

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With news that Ryan Miller is set to sign in Anaheim, the Canucks need a netminder to pair with Jacob Markstrom.

And a new report suggests they’re contemplating one of Markstrom’s old crease mates.

Per WGR 550, Vancouver has interest in soon-to-be Sabres UFA Anders Nilsson. Nilsson, 27, is coming off a pretty nice year in Buffalo, where he posted a .923 save percentage over 26 games (while making 23 starts).

Nilsson played last season on a one-year, $1 million deal, just like he did the season prior. But ’16-17 was by far his most successful campaign at the NHL level and, accordingly, he’s drawn interest from across the league.

As mentioned above, Nilsson is pretty familiar with Markstrom. They formed the one-two punch in goal for Sweden at the 2010 World Juniors — capturing bronze in the process — and have an awful lot in common. Both are 27. Their frames are eerily similar in that both are tall, physically imposing netminders — Markstrom is listed at 6-foot-6, 196 pounds while Nilsson is listed at 6-foot-6, 229 pounds.

The Canucks will likely want Markstrom to work in tandem with someone next season. Given his body of work, it’s fair to suggest they won’t hand him the keys to a No. 1 job. So if a timeshare is in the works, it makes sense to go with someone he has history with.

From the Nilsson perspective, Vancouver’s as good an opportunity as any right now. Available goalie spots are getting snapped up almost daily, and there are still several UFAs looking for work: Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, Darcy Kuemper and Ondrej Pavelec, specifically.

 

 

Oilers put Pouliot on waivers for buyout purposes

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Benoit Pouliot‘s time in Edmonton has come to an end.

The 30-year-old forward has been placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of being bought out.

A buyout will mean a $1.33 million cap hit the next four seasons, as opposed to a $4 million cap hit the next two years if Pouliot remained on the roster.

The Oilers could use the cap space, what with Connor McDavid on the verge of signing a massive extension that will start in 2018-19, and Leon Draisaitl requiring an extension for next season.

Pouliot had just eight goals and six assists in 67 games last season.

Related: For Oilers, trading Jordan Eberle was about ‘long-term thinking’

Agent: Numerous Stanley Cup contenders have called on Kunitz

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Chris Kunitz is in demand.

That’s the word from agent Ben Hankinson, who this week told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his 37-year-old client is garnering major interest from a number of teams — and certain kinds of teams, to be clear.

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Hankinson, who represents Kunitz, said he’s fielded calls from as many as 10 teams with a legitimate shot at knocking off the Penguins next season, all interested in signing Kunitz.

“I don’t know where it’s going to end up,” Hankinson said. “Chris does have interest from a lot of teams. Who knows exactly where that interest is going to be once the offers start flying around, but he does have a lot of interest.”

Kunitz, who turns 38 in September, has been told by GM Jim Rutherford to explore free agency (to be fair, Rutherford told all his UFAs this). It’s going to be really interesting what that means for Kunitz, who could bring plenty to a team looking to make a postseason run.

For starters, there’s his experience. Few active NHLers have played — and won — in the playoffs as much as Kunitz. He’s got 161 games on his resume with four Stanley Cups, and was a key contributor for Pittsburgh this past spring.

In 20 games, Kunitz racked up 11 points while averaging 14:52 TOI per night. His nine assists put him tied for fourth on the team, and he famously scored the double-OT winner against Ottawa in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Given the lack of options in this year’s free agent class, Kunitz could score a pretty decent contract. That’s important, as it might be his last. The cagey veteran spoke at the Stanley Cup Final about how this could very well be his last kick at the can with Pittsburgh, and acknowledged that — given how limited opportunities are to win in the NHL — he needed to capitalize on every single one.

“We’ve been together for so long,” Kunitz said. “Our families are close, the kids are getting older and you realize that we’ve been really fortunate to have this great group of guys that have stuck together for so long. It’s rare to have guys stay for that long.

“So you just want to capitalize and make the most of it. [We’ve] all gone out for dinner together before the trade deadline, never knowing where your hockey career’s going to go. It’s something you put into your mind, but you’ve got to go out there and achieve your success every time you can.”

Report: Kovalchuk talking extension with KHL club

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Last week, Devils GM Ray Shero was of the belief that Ilya Kovalchuk was still planning to play in the NHL next season.

Today, however, a Russian media outlet is reporting that Kovalchuk is talking with his KHL club, SKA Saint Petersburg, about a possible extension.

If accurate, that would mesh with an earlier report — the one that Shero ostensibly shot down — that Kovalchuk had decided to keep playing in Russia.

The NHL’s decision to skip the 2018 Winter Olympics may be weighing on Kovalchuk. If he returns to North America, he won’t be able to represent his country in South Korea — a fact that was cemented last week when the NHL released its 2017-18 schedule.

Of course, all this could just be SKA Saint Petersburg making a last-ditch attempt to keep Kovalchuk.

“We have the desire to keep Ilya. He is our hockey player, a patriot and loves to play for the national team,” said club president Gennady Timchenko (translated, per Sportsnet). “We will talk today, and we might have some news later.”

Kovalchuk can’t sign an NHL contract until July 1.