NHL Rumor Mill – October 5, 2013.

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Several NHL teams facing tough UFA decisions, plus the latest on Thomas Vanek and Scott Clemmensen.

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance recently reported on several NHL teams facing tough decisions this season regarding their star UFA players. Contract talks between the Buffalo Sabres and pending UFAs Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are currently “non-existent”.  Vanek said he’s not interested right now in signing an extension but wouldn’t dismiss the idea… The NY Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist remain apart in terms of dollars and term, while Ryan Callahan could net at least $6 million per season on the open market… Dion Phaneuf doesn’t have a problem with contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs going on during the season…Marian Gaborik’s agent said his client would love to stay long term with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blue Jackets president John Davidson said his club will analyze how things go during the season “and see how we are and how it goes”….The San Jose Sharks opened contract talks with defenseman Dan Boyle but so far no deal is imminent. Patrick Marleau said he’s already taken a hometown discount, which suggests he’ll seek full market value to re-sign with the Sharks. Custance believes Joe Thornton will be the easiest for the Sharks to re-sign, though both sides aren’t rushing to get a deal done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sabres are battling for a playoff berth, they’ll retain Vanek and Miller. If not, they’ll shop them…Does anyone honestly believe the Rangers would part ways with Lundqvist? Not happenin’. Sure,  they’ll quibble a bit over term and dollars but ultimately the Blueshirts will make him the highest paid goalie in the league on a six-to-eight year deal…I believe the Leafs will re-sign Phaneuf, and most Leafs fans probably won’t like it. I’m thinking five-to-seven years at $7 million per, though Nonis could try to talk him into accepting longer term for the same salary  he’s currently making ($6.5 million per)…If Gaborik has a healthy season and the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, he’ll be re-signed. He’s done the big market scene and seems happier in a smaller hockey market where the spotlight isn’t as harsh… Marleau and the Sharks always seem to go through this contract dance and he ends up staying, so we shouldn’t take it for granted he’s a goner this time. Thornton stays, and so will Boyle if he is willing to accept a two-year deal.

Could the Wild pursue Thomas Vanek in next summer's UFA market?

Could the Wild pursue Thomas Vanek in next summer’s UFA market?

TORONTO SUN: Chris Stevenson reports “the talk around the Minnesota Wild is they will target Buffalo Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek. There’s long been talk he’d like to play in Minnesota, where he lives, and Pominville is a buddy and former linemate from his Sabres days.” Stevenson also claims progress is being made by the Canucks in getting new contracts for the Sedins, with term (rather than dollars) being the sticking point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering Vanek played his college hockey in Minnesota, his wife is a Minnesotan and he spends the off-season in the state, the Wild seem a natural fit. Theycurrently have over $51 million tied up in 16 players next season, with seven roster spots to fill. If the salary cap increases to $70 million next season, they’ll have $22 million in cap space, but with over $27 million invested in Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville, are they willing to invest big bucks (even if he accepts a pay cut) in Vanek, who’s making over $7 million this season? Time will tell.

MIAMI HERALD: George Richards reports Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who cleared waivers this week, will spend several game on a rehab stint with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. It remains to be seen, however, if he’ll remain in San Antonio after that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams passed on Clemmensen because he’s coming off minor knee surgery. Once he fully recovers, if he plays well in San Antonio, he could be shopped if the Panthers are happy with the current tandem of Tim Thomas and Jacob Markstrom.

A Death in my Family.

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Due to a death in my family, updates to Spector’s Hockey will be sporadic from October 5 to October 9, 2013.  Only the Rumors Page will be updated daily during this period. If a significant trade or free agent signing takes place, I’ll note it as well.  Regular site updates will resume on Thursday, October 10, 2013.  I appreciate your patience, understanding and support during this period.  Sincerely, Lyle Richardson, Spector’s Hockey.

NHL Morning Rumor Mill – October 4, 2013.

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Latest on Joe Thornton, Marc-Andre Fleury, the Sedins,Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Miller and more.

Will Joe Thornton re-sign with the Sharks?

Will Joe Thornton re-sign with the Sharks?

ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun wouldn’t be surprised if the Penguins add a veteran number three goalie as insurance,believing GM Ray Shero will ride out his current tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff and re-evaluate them after 20-25 games…The sticking point in Henrik Lundqvist’s contract talks with the NY Rangers isn’t money but term, as the Blueshirts may be uncomfortable investing in the 31-year-old netminder for eight years…The Anaheim Ducks may be in the market for a young defenseman and would be willing to move a forward in return. LeBrun suggests Pittsburgh, Toronto and Philadelphia (teams with blueline depth) as possible trade targets…Joe Thornton’s agent will soon reach out to the San Jose Sharks to talk contract, but there’s no timetable to getting a deal done. Thornton, 34, is eligible for UFA status next summer. As with Lundqvist, LeBrun believes term, not dollars, will be the main issue in negotiations…The Sedin twins have yet to sign contract extensions but the Canucks have made re-signing them a priority. The two sides could negotiate during the season.

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: John Thornton, agent and brother of Joe Thornton, sees the Sharks captain staying in San Jose. While acknowledging Joe would receive big offers on the open market, John doesn’t see him going for that.

SPORTING NEWS: Sean Gentille suggests the Pittsburgh Penguins could make Marc-Andre Fleury a compliance buyout candidate next June if he struggles this season. Fleury has one season remaining on his current contract at a cap hit of $5.75 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the time being, the Penguins will stick with the Fleury-Zatkoff tandem…If Lundqvist has another strong performance this season, the Rangers will have little choice but to re-sign him to the maximum eight-year deal…The Leafs would probably love to move John-Michael Liles to the Ducks, but he wouldn’t fit that description of “young defenseman” the Ducks apparently seek…Fearless prediction: Thornton signs a three-year deal with the Sharks for just under $7 million per season…Another peerless prediction: the Canucks will re-sign the Sedins during this season, probably for the same terms and salary. Discuss!

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes the Maple Leafs have more leverage in their negotiations with Dion Phaneuf than they had with Phil Kessel, suggesting Cody Franson could replace Phaneuf if he departs via free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s as may be, but the Leafs also happily overpaid Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson. If they really want Phaneuf to stay, it wouldn’t surprise me if they inked him to a five-year deal at $7 million per. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson responded to a reader’s e-mail about Ryan Miller or Jonas Hiller replacing Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk if he departs next summer via free agency. Matheson believes Miller could be a good replacement though he’s no longer the goalie he was three years ago. He also noted the Ducks were trying to move Hiller this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers would have better luck landing Hiller via free agency than Miller, who I believe wants to play closer to Los Angeles, where his actress-wife works. If Dubnyk play well this season I believe the Oilers will re-sign him. Better the devil you know…

NHL Canadian Corner – October 4, 2013.

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Flames and Canucks lose their season-openers, updates on Erik Karlsson, Devan Dubnyk and Morgan Rielly, and the latest on the Canadiens and Jets.

CALGARY HERALD: The Calgary Flames blew  two three-goal leads over the Washington Capitals, falling 5-4 in a shootout. Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin scored twice as well as in the shootout to complete his club’s comeback.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames coach Bob Hartley was not pleased with his club’s undisciplined play in the third, which led to Ovechkin potting the game-tying goal on a power-play. Lots of work ahead for the rebuilding Flames.

VANCOUVER PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks gave up four unanswered goals over two periods to fall to the San Jose Sharks 4-1. Roberto Luongo made 31 saves in the loss.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t fault Luongo for the Canucks loss in this one.

Erik Karlsson claims he's feeling no linger effects from last season's injury.

Erik Karlsson claims he’s feeling no linger effects from last season’s injury.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson assures Ottawa fans worried about lingering effect of last season’s Achilles injury that he feels great.  His comments at the start of training camp about still not feeling 100 percent raised eyebrows among the Sens faithful.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It takes time to recover from an injury like that. Indeed, I believe Karlsson didn’t do himself any favors by rushing back in this past spring’s post-season when it was clear he wasn’t fully recovered. He’ll be fine as the season progresses.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk blamed himself for the Oilers 5-4 season-opening loss against Winnipeg, but hopes to put it behind him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubnyk bore part of the blame for that loss, but that doesn’t get the Oilers shaky defense off the hook. Both must improve.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly has outgrown junior hockey but he could still end up this season back with his junior club in Moose Jaw.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens brought some cheer to Lac-Megantic, which was severely damaged during a train derailment and explosion this summer. The Habs, who’ve raised over $800,000 to aid in the town’s rebuilding, staged an open practice yesterday in the town’s arena. The players also spent 30 minutes signing autographs for the townsfolk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another example of why the Canadiens are among the classiest teams in the NHL. 

WINNIPEG SUN: After beating the Edmonton Oilers in their season-opener, the Jets face a much tougher opponent in the Los Angeles Kings.

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