Jason Brough

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

UFA of the Day: Steven Stamkos


Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Steven Stamkos

The prevailing wisdom says you don’t let a player like Stamkos walk away for nothing. He’s a franchise piece, the kind teams intentionally lose to get in the draft.

But the prevailing wisdom sometimes get challenged, and that’s exactly what’s happened here. This has never been a slam-dunk decision for GM Steve Yzerman, for two good reasons:

1. Stamkos isn’t the only excellent, young player on the Bolts. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin. All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next. Tough choices will need to be made somewhere.

2. Stamkos is a great player, obviously. But with all due respect, how great? He had 36 goals in 77 games this year. He had 43 in 82 last year. That’s a lot of goals, but it’s not the 60 he scored in 2011-12. So while he’s only 26, it may be (in fact, it’s likely) that his best scoring years are behind him. Scoring isn’t everything, you say? OK, so does Stamkos play the kind of two-way game that Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar do? No, he probably doesn’t. He’s certainly never been in the running to win the Selke Trophy. That’s why his coach puts him on the wing sometimes.

All of the above is why you hear reports that Yzerman may not be willing to give Stamkos much more than $8.5 million a year, which is a lot of money but a fair bit less than the $10.5 million cap hits that Toews and Patrick Kane boast. (Kopitar’s cap hit is $10 million.)

Make no mistake, the Bolts want Stamkos back. They could even free up some cap space by trading Bishop and going with Andrei Vasilevskiy. But less than two weeks until July 1, if it’s gotten this far, Stamkos may just want to see what’s out there.

The latest from the Tampa Bay Times:

If the Lightning realizes it can’t sign Stamkos, it could try to trade his rights, but would need the captain’s permission as he has a full no-move clause.

But Yzerman said, at this point, he’s only spoken with Stamkos and his agents about signing him, not trading his rights. Yzerman is hoping they’ll have a “clear idea of where we are” prior to this weekend.

“To be honest with you, it’s out of my control,” Yzerman said. “He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I can’t force him to sign a contract with us if he doesn’t want to. If he wants to go to July 1, he has that right.”

As for potential landing spots, if it’s not back in Tampa, there are a bunch:

If the Red Wings can find a taker for Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract…

If the Maple Leafs feel they can be competitive soon…

If the Sabres want to outbid everyone

If the Islanders want to show John Tavares they’re serious about winning, while at the same time insuring against his possible departure…

If the Rangers trade Derek Stepan for youth and/or help on the blue line…

Bottom line: this has been a soap opera for a while now, but the final episode is approaching.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Holland makes argument to keep Howard

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)

How to deal with the departure of Pavel Datsyuk isn’t the only challenge facing Red Wings GM Ken Holland.

There’s also the matter of Jimmy Howard, the team’s 32-year-old goalie with the $5.3 million cap hit for three more years.

Howard, the former number one, went 14-14-5 with a .906 save percentage in 2015-16. For much of the season he was outplayed by young Petr Mrazek, leading many to believe the Wings would try and move the veteran’s contract this summer. Holland admitted recently that he’d “thought about it lots.”

But not so fast.

“Petr Mrazek played about 50 games this year, (and) the wheels came off a little bit in the middle of February,” Holland told The Fan 590 today (audio). “Jimmy Howard really came in and I thought saved our season when our season was on the line. You’ve got to have two goaltenders. … There’s a small group of goaltenders, they’re workhorses, that can play 70 games.”

And according to Holland, Mrazek has yet to prove he can be one of those workhorses.

“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.

Hence, the argument to keep Howard.

Or, at least, that’s the spin.

The reality may be that Howard’s contract is just too tough to move. Even if the Wings were able to trade him, they’d probably have to eat some of his salary. And who’s to say his replacement would be any better? It’s not like there’s a sure thing in free agency.

Mrazek, by the way, still has to sign a contract. He’s a pending restricted free agent.

“I’ve got to sit and negotiate a deal with Petr Mrazek and his agent,” said Holland. “As we go along here over the next week or 10 days, we’ll see where we go with our goaltending.”

Related: Holland will ‘plot a plan’ to solve goalie situation

Report: Linden Vey does not expect qualifying offer from Canucks

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 22:  Linden Vey #7 of the Vancouver Canucks in action against the New York Islanders during their game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 22, 2015 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Linden Vey does not expect to receive a qualifying offer from the Vancouver Canucks, according to a report by News 1130 Sports.

The 24-year-old center is a pending restricted free agent. He’ll become unrestricted should he not be qualified. His cap hit last season was $1 million.

Acquired from the Kings two summers ago, Vey had just 15 points in 41 NHL games last season. He started it in the AHL, clearing waivers in October.

Suffice to say, it was not the season that he’d hoped for. If not for all the injuries that the Canucks suffered, he might have spent it entirely in the minors. 

Of course, little did many know that, since 2013, Vey had been dealing with a serious personal matter. It was revealed in May that his father would be tried for conspiracy to commit murder. Earlier this month, his father was convicted on that charge.

Where the future lies for Vey’s hockey career remains to be seen. Some believe he should seek a fresh start in Europe; others still see potential for him as an NHLer.

The Canucks could still sign Vey even if they don’t qualify him. But as of right now, they’re expected to go with Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund as their four centers. Brendan Gaunce can also play the middle, should the need arise.

Penguins sign Porter for another season

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 29: Kevin Porter #11 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on against the Buffalo Sabres during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 29, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Kevin Porter to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level, the club announced today.

Porter, 30, played 41 games for the Pens during the regular season, tallying three assists while “serving as a valuable member of the club’s fifth-ranked penalty killing.” A broken ankle suffered on March 3 kept him out of the playoffs.

The Stanley Cup champs don’t have many other free-agent forwards to sign. The most notable is 39-year-old Matt Cullen, who may retire. Beau Bennett, 24, is a pending restricted free agent.

Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Tom Kuhnhackl — all of whom, like Porter, spent time in the AHL this season — are under contract through at least next season.

UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Jhonas Enroth

The back-up goalie is an important, and often overlooked, part of the roster. For a bubble team — and that’s a lot of teams in the parity-driven NHL — it can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

For a general manager, the hard part is choosing the right guy.

Consider Enroth, who went 7-5-1 with a .922 save percentage last season for the Kings. That’s an excellent save percentage, but in a limited sample size. In fact, Enroth was pretty frustrated at how little he played behind Jonathan Quick. Apparently, he didn’t sign in Los Angeles to start just 13 games.

“I really thought they were going to play me more,” he told the L.A. Times. “If you sign a guy for $1.2 million, you’re not going to play him 13 games, in my opinion. You should play him 20 or 25. I thought I earned more games, obviously. I played pretty solid in the games I got, but I got a lot of breaks in between games too, so it’s tough to get a groove going.”

Enroth played a lot more in 2014-15, when he started 44 games total for the Sabres and Stars. But his save percentage was just .903 for Buffalo and .906 for Dallas. So in reality, the Kings took a bit of a chance when they picked him to replace Martin Jones. The gamble was that his numbers would improve on a better defensive team, and that’s exactly what his numbers did.

At least, that’s the theory. It’s hard to say for sure if his numbers improved for that reason, or if he just played better. Or, maybe it was because he didn’t have such a heavy workload. Again, this is the hard part for general managers. With goalies, there are always so many variables to consider.

The Calgary Flames have been tabbed as a possible destination for Enroth. The GM there, Brad Treliving, knows he needs to improve the goaltending for his new coach, Glen Gulutzan.

Other UFA goalies include James Reimer, Al Montoya, Chad Johnson and Jeff Zatkoff.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.