Jason Brough

New Jersey Devils left wing Patrik Elias (26), of the Czech Republic, is mobbed by Damon Severson (28), Adam Larsson (5), of Sweden, and David Schlemko (8) after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Newark, N.J.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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Shero says decision on Elias will come ‘later in the summer’

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Patrik Elias may “desperately” want to play next season, but after undergoing knee surgery in May, it remains to be seen if he’ll actually be able.

“We haven’t committed one way or the other, nor has he,” Devils GM Ray Shero said this weekend in Buffalo (video).

“We’re just going to see. He’d love to try to play again, but he doesn’t know yet and we don’t know yet, so we’ll see where that takes both of us. Hopefully he can be healthy and try to make a go of it.”

Injuries limited Elias, 40, to just 16 games last season. He had two goals and six assists.

According to Shero, whether Elias re-signs will depend how the veteran of 1,240 NHL games, all with New Jersey, feels come August or September.

“Until then, I don’t see him playing for another team,” said Shero. “We’ll see where he is later in the summer.”

Related: Devils want to sign Palmieri to long-term deal

Lupul just ‘trying to get healthy,’ hasn’t heard from Leafs about potential buyout

Joffrey Lupul
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If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to sign Steven Stamkos — and based on the latest reports, they’re sure going to try — they may have to clear some cap space to make it happen.

How might they accomplish that?

Well, one way would be to buy out oft-injured winger Joffrey Lupul.

The 32-year-old appeared in just 46 games last season, scoring 11 goals with only three assists. His last game was on Feb. 6. A few weeks later, he was shut down for the rest of the season, reportedly with a sports hernia. He has two years left on a contract with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million.

Of course, injured players can’t be bought out, and based on an interview Lupul did with the Toronto Sun on Saturday, he may still be hurting.

“I’m playing the waiting game,” Lupul told the Sun. “I’m trying to get healthy. That’s my focus right now. I haven’t heard anything (from the Leafs). I really can’t tell you anything.”

But if the Leafs were able to buy him out, and they chose to do so, here’s what it would look like, per GeneralFanager:

2016

So for the Leafs, it would open up $3.75 million in cap space for next season, which is not an insignificant amount. Although four more years with him on the books isn’t ideal.

For Lupul, while he’d lose some salary in a buyout, it would at least give him a chance to sign elsewhere.

“I still want to play hockey,” he told the Sun. “I still think I’m a hockey player.”

Penguins re-sign d-man Erixon

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 8:  Matt Calvert #11 of the Columbus Blue Jackets flips the puck past Tim Erixon #33 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period on April 8, 2015 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced today that they’ve re-signed defenseman Tim Erixon to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

Erixon, 25, only played games in the AHL last season, scoring three goals with 17 assists in 65 contests for Wilkes-Barre. He then had a productive postseason, with two goals and four assists in 10 playoff games.

From the press release:

Erixon also spent several stints on Pittsburgh’s roster during the regular season, but did not appear in any games. During the 2016 Stanley Cup championship run, Erixon was a ‘Black Ace’.

A former first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, Erixon came to the Pittsburgh organization from the Maple Leafs as part of last summer’s Phil Kessel trade. He’s also been a Ranger, a Blackhawk and a Blue Jacket.

Will Erixon get a shot to play in the NHL next season?

Well, the Penguins have a couple of free agents on the blue line. Justin Schultz is a restricted free agent who’s unlikely to be qualified, while Ben Lovejoy is an unrestricted free agent. It may be that neither are back.

But Schultz and Lovejoy both shoot right, unlike Erixon, who’s a lefty.

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has suggested that lefties Ian Cole and Derrick Pouliot could be given a chance to play the right side next season. So where Erixon fits remains to be seen. He may have to wait for an injury, if he gets a chance at all.

When it comes to offseason moves, ‘everything will be affected’ by the expansion draft

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammate Marc-Andre Fleury #29 after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Brad Treliving saw the rules for the expansion draft and immediately was in an advantageous position. The Calgary Flames’ general manager needed a goaltender, and with Las Vegas set to harvest the NHL for two of them in a year, his colleagues had incentive to make a move.

The Flames got Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick.

A full year before the Las Vegas expansion draft, GMs must plan for the inevitability of losing a player to a team that the league wants to be good out of the gate. Already the impact of the impending expansion draft has been felt with the Flames acquiring Elliott and the Toronto Maple Leafs getting goalie Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks knew they wouldn’t be able to keep Andersen and John Gibson forever, and the expansion draft expedited a move.

“After starting to hear what the expansion rules could be, you just knew you weren’t going to be signing both of them,” GM Bob Murray said. “You’re going to come out looking pretty stupid if you did that.”

No one wants to look stupid, and that’s the challenge over the next 12 months.

Teams will only be able to protect one goalie, so the Tampa Bay Lightning will likely have to trade Ben Bishop and the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins have to decide what to do with Marc-Andre Fleury before the yet-to-be-named Las Vegas team picks its first 30 players on June 20, 2017.

With the unrestricted free agent market opening Friday and trade winds gusting, teams have to consider the expansion draft as part of their offseason maneuvers.

“Everything will be affected by that,” Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “In every decision, we’ll have to take into consideration what the rules are and how that might affect our outlook for the expansion draft and ahead of that.”

Each team will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. Any player with a no-movement clause in his contract must be protected, and each team will lose one player.

Players with bloated contracts or who are past their prime will be exposed, but teams could take a serious hit because young and cheap talent will be plentiful.

That’s a danger for a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, who have won the Stanley Cup three times in seven years but are locked into long-term deals with their core players. GM Stan Bowman, who has taken Chicago from the brink of cap purgatory back to the Cup, isn’t worried about losing someone.

“I think sometimes you can get too worked up about it,” Bowman said. “It’s a little bit early to be making moves strictly for an expansion draft that’s going to happen in about 12 months from now.”

Win-now teams shouldn’t get worked up. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford plans to keep Fleury and Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray for now and worry about it later, and making moves for the future alone won’t help anyone capture a title next season.

“It’s tough to take a player you like out of your lineup right now before the season starts, especially if you want to compete for a championship,” Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “You try and find that perfect situation where you’re protected in an expansion draft.”

Expect some movement once teams have a grip on which players they might protect or have in danger of exposing for the NHL’s Las Vegas venture. The Blackhawks have eight players with no-move clauses and the Blue Jackets six, which could necessitate buyouts this week or deals over the next year.

“Nobody could really prepare before they knew what the rules were,” Kekalainen said. “Some teams are in better positions just by accident or by luck or whatever.”

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, who can relax with Connor McDavid exempt because he’ll only have two years of pro experience, said teams will have to think differently if they face the potential of losing a significant player. No doubt that’s a reality for some, but Treliving doesn’t see that flooding the market.

“That idea that now that there’s expansion everybody’s going to be dying to just give you players, that’s not quite the case,” Treliving said. “There is obviously a knowledge of what may happen, so people are trying to see if they can be aggressive or if that’s going to be something in a year.”

 

Canucks, Rangers reportedly have interest in Vanek

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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If July 1 passes and the Vancouver Canucks haven’t been able to land Milan Lucic or Loui Eriksson or one of the other wingers they’re targeting in free agency, then they might consider signing Thomas Vanek.

Yes, that’s how far Vanek’s worth has fallen. He’s become a backup plan for one of the worst teams in the NHL, a team that finished last season with more goals than only the New Jersey Devils.

It wasn’t even three years ago that the Islanders offered Vanek a deal that was reportedly in the neighborhood of $50 million over seven years.

Things are sure different now. From News 1130 Sports in Vancouver:

To be fair to Vanek, the Canucks aren’t the only team that might have interest in the 32-year-old winger. (“Interest” being a relative term.)

From the New York Post:

The Rangers, we’re told, intend to touch base with Thomas Vanek and gauge his willingness to sign the type of one-year reclamation contract that Benoit Pouliot did when he joined the Blueshirts for $1.3 million in 2013-14. Pouliot used that season as a springboard to the five-year, $20 million deal he then signed the following summer with the Oilers.

It would make perfect sense, too, for the Islanders to check in on Vanek, who melded beautifully with Tavares (and, uh oh, Okposo) during his 47-game lend-lease tryout with the club during 2013-14.

Last week, Vanek was bought out by the Wild following an 18-goal season.