BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Alex Goligoski's decision to sign with the Arizona Coyotes could benefit longtime Coyotes blueliner Keith Yandle, who clearly is the top option on the unrestricted free-agent market and now has even less competition.
In a year in which the July 1 UFA crop actually presents a number of solid forward options, it's tangibly thinner on the back end, especially after Yandle.
Veteran Brian Campbell is available, although he’s going to be picky -- I think -- about where he goes for his last kick at the can, and then there’s Jason Demers and Kris Russell, among a few others.
It’s not deep in high-end talent on defense.
"We've had talks yesterday and we're going to have additional talks today and just see how it progresses from there," Yandle’s agent Jerry Buckley said over the phone Wednesday morning.
Given the market, however, I think it would take a sizable commitment from the Panthers -- north of $6 million a year in my mind -- to get Yandle to pass up the chance to capitalize on his place in that thin free-agent defensemen crop come July 1.
"I mean, Keith is close to free agency but we continue to talk to Florida," Buckley said. "It’s not a case where he’s made up his mind 100 percent he’s going to free agency.
"We're still having discussions with Florida and we’ll see where it goes from there."
"I think they’re good," Panthers GM Tom Rowe said Wednesday afternoon after being asked about his chances of signing Yandle. "Obviously you don't totally know until you shake on it and move on. But we've been going back and forth since we got his rights. We like how he fits into what we’re trying to do.
"There’s a deal to be had there, that’s the best way to put it."
Rowe feels Yandle would greatly help the team’s 23rd-ranked power play.
"We need a mobile defenseman like Yandle that can help us on the power play," said Rowe. "Our goal next season is to be at least in the top 10 on the power play, hopefully top five, and we feel Keith would help us get there."
A few sources from around the league suggested Wednesday afternoon that calls into the Montreal Canadiens have really heated up over the past 48 hours regarding star defenseman P.K. Subban. So while a few weeks ago I suggested just a 5 percent chance of a Subban trade given that at that point only one team that I knew of had called, I would increase the percentage now, given the level of interest suddenly ramping up. Again, that does not mean the Habs move him. It would have to be some kind of deal. But given the level of interest I'm hearing now in the last 48 hours, it certainly makes it more possible. No surprise the phone calls have ramped up given that Subban’s no-movement clause kicks in July 1. The clock has a way of forcing teams to reveal their true intentions. I do not believe the Habs are shopping him one bit, but Habs GM Marc Bergevin isn’t going to turn down phone calls, either. He’s got to listen.
It appears a huge name will be up for grabs, as Milan Lucic told ESPN.com via text message Wednesday afternoon that he's headed to the UFA market. Lucic's agent spoke again with the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday but obviously the contract impasse was not solved, which GM Dean Lombardi confirmed via text. Lucic is ready to go to market after failing the last couple of months to come to a new agreement with the Kings. The Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and a long list of other teams are believed to have interest in the hulking power forward. Lombardi also added that he's sent out a letter authorizing the Lucic camp to solicit offers and talk to the other 29 teams right away; they don't have to wait until Saturday’s window. Stay tuned.
There have been conversations between the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings regarding the Wings' attempts to shed Pavel Datsyuk's $7.5 million cap hit, but as of early Wednesday afternoon there was nothing imminent. I hear the Wings have spoken to a few teams but so far the price for Detroit to be able to shed that cap hit is just too high. I think they’d be willing to give up a second-round pick along with Datsyuk’s cap hit but at this point I don’t see them giving up a first-rounder or one of their very best prospects to get it done. Keep in mind, the Red Wings don’t have to figure this out right now. A team doesn’t have to be cap compliant until the beginning of next season. So even if Datsyuk remains on the cap July 1, it doesn’t prohibit Detroit from making a lucrative offer to pending UFA star Steven Stamkos. Let’s say, for example, the Wings do land Stamkos on July 1. They can then turn around and perhaps be willing to spend a bigger price for unloading Datsyuk’s cap hit. But why, if you’re Detroit, would you trade a first-round pick or a top-end prospect now just to get rid of Datsyuk’s cap hit if you’re not even sure that Stamkos will hit free agency? Or even if he does, they can't be sure he'll sign with them. Food for thought. As is: if Stamkos isn’t an option for Detroit, how badly do you need to get rid of Datsyuk’s cap hit this summer? What if the Red Wings go quiet this offseason but then next year, when Datsyuk’s cap hit is gone, Detroit has more cap room than many teams, with a salary cap that isn’t expected to go up much again? They could be more aggressive a few months before their new rink opens in 2017-18. Another way to look at things.
Goligoski's five-year deal worth $5.475 million per season with the Coyotes was more both in salary and term than the Dallas Stars would have been comfortable paying to keep him. But it just goes to show that teams are in different cycles when it comes to cap space and building rosters. That figure and term is just fine for a Coyotes team that’s young and building, and had a hole there for that type of top-four defenseman who has solid analytics backing him. The Stars have up-and-coming defensemen and also have to be more careful where they tie up their cap space. To me, both GMs made good, calculated decisions there.