James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Yzerman says door hasn’t ‘closed’ on Lightning signing Stamkos


Steven Stamkos‘ camp and the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t really tipping their hands about their contract talks, so we’ll have to settle for whatever scraps we can get.

On the bright side: we should know where he ends up soon, even if Stamkos needs to mull his decision over beyond July 1.

There’s also the possibility that the Lightning can re-sign Stamkos before he hits the UFA market, however remote that might be.

For what it’s worth, GM Steve Yzerman told the media that “we know where we’re at” and then added this quote.

“Obviously he’s still the property of the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Yzerman said, according to Tampa Bay Times. “Until July 1. Anything is possible. No doors have been closed.”

As the Times notes, it’s probably unfair to read too much into such quotes.

(Waits for you to read too much into such quotes.)

TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted that there might be a little bit of conflict over the notion that the Lightning wanted an idea of Stamkos’ intentions heading into free agency. Stamkos, meanwhile, might want to explore some options first, especially with the window for teams to “interview” potential free agents opening at midnight on Friday.

It’s possible that “we know where we’re at” indicates that Stamkos & Co. might have resolved the Lightning’s qualm, but perhaps not.

Ultimately, you can file Yzerman’s comments under “saying the right things,” and that’s about it.

For anxious Lightning fans, that might not provide much solace. The silver lining is that at least there should be some closure in a matter of a week or two.

Sounds like there’s at least a chance Lightning might trade Bishop


The Anaheim Ducks decided that two good goalies made a crowd, sending Frederik Andersen to Toronto. Could the Tampa Bay Lightning follow a similar path with Ben Bishop?

That’s certainly not a sure thing, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told reporters including ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun that he has had some conversations with goalie-hungry teams about possibly moving the big goalie.

Such an event could happen soon, too, since a 2016 first-round pick could be part of an attractive deal for Bishop.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith passes along an especially interesting quote that puts Bishop on trade watch.

Well, isn’t that interesting.

The threat of losing a goalie to a Las Vegas expansion team isn’t the only reason to split up Bishop from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop carries almost a $6 million cap hit that expires after 2016-17, so moving him could save money this summer and avoid a possible raise for his next contract.

Naturally, the downside is that Bishop has been a rock for the Lightning, serving as a Vezina finalist in 2013-14 and 2015-16. It’s true that Vasilevskiy boasts first-round pedigree and was impressive during the postseason, yet Bishop’s list of accomplishments keeps growing.

And, if anything, we’ve seen plenty of examples of teams benefiting from having two strong goalies in case one gets injured.

Cap realities and that expansion threat loom large for the Lightning, as Tampa Bay could face challenges even if Steven Stamkos leaves town. Victor Hedman is in line for a big raise, and that’s just the biggest harbinger of a costly future.

In other words, place Bishop high on the list of valuable players to watch in the trade rumor mill.

Bergevin: Habs aren’t shopping Subban, but they’re getting trade calls


Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin downplayed the swirling rumors about a possible P.K. Subban trade, although some wonder if he’s still leaving the door open just a bit.

Bergevin said that he isn’t shopping Subban, yet he is receiving phone calls inquiring about the star defenseman.

NHL GMs are prone to playing coy, so maybe the most important bit of phrasing is that Bergevin doesn’t think a Subban trade would be “realistic.”

For some, it’s not quite enough, as on one hand there’s phrasing that seems dismissive:

… Yet there are nagging phrases such as “never say never.”

For some observers, any GM would be silly not to listen to offers or “take calls.”

Others wonder if Bergevin could do more to really put the rumors to rest, however:

Bergevin’s press conference cools down that hot stove to “warm,” but it probably doesn’t turn off the Subban talk altogether.

Montreal’s franchise blueliner will see a no-trade clause kick in on July 1, so it’s possible that rumors will continue to trickle in for the next week-and-change.

Maybe they’ll slow down merely by process of elimination?

Report: Eriksson, Bruins aren’t close to deal, will try once more


The Boston Bruins and Loui Eriksson aren’t close to a new deal, so the forward is expected to hit the free agent market, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

Lavoie reports that the Bruins and Eriksson can’t see eye-to-eye on the length of the contract.

A few days ago, Eriksson’s agent admitted that he was still waiting on a new offer from the Bruins. It looks like the two sides are far apart, whether an updated proposal came or not.

The 30-year-old forward would likely draw considerable interest as an unrestricted free agent, with teams like the Vancouver Canucks reportedly interested.

Concussion issues were a key component in Eriksson’s early struggles with Boston, limiting him to 61 games played in 2013-14. He really came into his own with the Bruins in 2015-16, generating 30 goals and 63 points.

That production and Boston’s hopeful drive toward a playoff spot forced Bruins management to be picky about a potential trade, and nothing worked out.

Whether fans feel like it was a mistake in keeping him through the trade deadline or not, it sounds like Eriksson’s time with the Bruins will soon come to an end.

The B’s, for their part, seem more concerned about bolstering their defense.

GM Don Sweeney will speak with the media shortly, so PHT will note if anything changes (or if he confirms that Eriksson will become a UFA).

Update: The Bruins will give it another try, for what it’s worth:

In other free agent news:

P.K. Subban trade rumors are going pretty wild right now


Prepare your grains of salt, rumor fans: there are a lot of murmurs about teams trying to trade for P.K. Subban, with the Edmonton Oilers being mentioned most often in the latest wave of speculation.

The Edmonton Journal is really revving up the talk, in part because Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin maybe hasn’t stomped out rumors emphatically enough?

Again, Bergevin could have come right out and said Subban is untouchable because he’s a No. 1 defenceman and there are so few of them, but the GM hasn’t done that. So the door is open, at least a crack, for the Oilers to keep trying to acquire the former Norris Trophy winner.

That’s not the only place where the argument seems to be that “the silence is deafening.”

TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun go into detail about Subban rumors in Insider Trading, noting that possible deals with high draft picks kick up the intensity of talks even more.

This isn’t just about generating rumors around draft time. Subban’s no-trade clause kicks in on July 1, so if teams want to make a push for P.K., this is indeed the moment to do so.

As usual, hypothetical trades are being thrown around, too:

Blame it on the rabid hockey market or any other number of factors, but things often seem a little weird with P.K. in Montreal. Even his massive charitable donations seem to birth some strange moments.

The Oilers really climbed up the rumor mill ranks, yet other trade-hungry teams have been mentioned too.

It’s tough to believe that the Habs would actually move P.K., and it sounds like Bergevin will shed some light on the situation in short order:

Let’s be clear: it’s very hard to believe that the Canadiens would trade Subban. These rumblings only add credence to the feeling that this could be an awfully interesting off-season and that draft weekend could continue to provide fascinating fodder.

Hey, Evgeni Malkin‘s name was out there – only for the Penguins to flatly deny rumors – so it’s an odd time. At least this isn’t boring …

Related: Edmonton’s blueline search is on