Rumor Rundown: Options for Penguins, Red Wings, Blues and Will Butcher

It’s not an extremely busy time in the NHL but a few sources are claiming discussions are picking up slightly and deals are being considered. In this edition of the Rumor Rundown, the focus is on the Pittsburgh Penguins and their need for a center, the Red Wings cap issues, Alex Steen’s long-term security in St. Louis and college free agent Will Butcher.

Penguins Looking for a Center

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has just over $3 million in salary cap room to bring in a third-line center. He believes that’s a doable task. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Rutherford doesn’t anticipate having to ship out much salary to address their needs down the middle and that trade talk has picked up a little after a dry spell around the NHL.

(Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Lyle Richardson of the Hockey News suggested the Penguins might kick tires on a player like Detroit Red Wings center Riley Sheahan. The Red Wings are in a position that shedding salary is one of their top priorities and while Sheahan’s slightly more than $2 million cap hit wouldn’t solve all the Red Wings problems, it would be a start.

Rutherford has also spoken with veteran Matt Cullen but the 40-year-old center has yet to decide if he’ll return for another season with the Penguins or retire.

Red Wings Cap Troubles

As mentioned, while Sheahan may start the ball rolling in terms of solving the cap space issues in Detroit, Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland may have more work to do. Jared Clinton of The Hockey News is suggesting Holland might look at trading Jonathan Ericsson. If a viable suitor can’t be found, Holland may have to look at Mike Green or Gustav Nyquist.

Without a trade, the Red Wings are stuck in a complicated situation that requires Johan Franzen on long-term injury reserve and sending players down to the minors to become cap compliant.

Steen Staying Put, for Now

With all the viable prospects the St. Louis Blues have at the forward position and some whispers that perhaps dealing Alex Steen made sense if the situation were right, Blues’ beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jeremy Rutherford clarified things for Blues fans, suggesting for now that Steen is safe in St. Louis.

In a live chat, Rutherford said:

I know in the past I’ve said that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a Steen deal, but I would be surprised. The Blues are young and need to surround these players with some experience, and there are few guys that have more than Steen. He needs to produce more and justify the faith the Blues have put in him with the extension. If he doesn’t, perhaps we’ll revisit this topic during the season or next summer.

In a way, the point is relatively moot. Steen has a full no-trade clause and is starting the first year of a four-year contract extension. Logically, the Blues wouldn’t consider trading Steen until at the earliest the end of this upcoming season.

A Few Suitors for Will Butcher

When the University of Denver free agent becomes available on August 15, NHL teams already know that defensive prospect Will Butcher will not be signing with the Colorado Avalanche who hold his draft rights. His agent Brian Bartlett has made that clear. Instead, the 22-year-old Hobey Baker Award winner wants to test free agency.

Will Butcher
Will Butcher [photo: Tom Sorensen]

Among the interested suitors could be the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. THW’s own Melissa Burgess took a look at some other projected landing spots, suggesting Buffalo, New Jersey and Minnesota might also be in the mix.

Butcher produced seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games this past season. He also helped Denver capture the national championship.