GOING INTO CAMP: METROPOLITAN DIVISION
published 08/11/13 8:01am
There are rumblings that the Capitals are looking to trade Marcus Johansson.
Photo: Rich Kane / Icon SMI
The summer is now in full swing and most of the off-season moves have been made by the 30 National Hockey League teams. However, unrestricted free agents remain un-signed, restricted free agents remain un-signed and teams still have holes to fill (and questions to answer). It's time to take a closer look at what each National Hockey League team faces Going Into Camp. We continue with the Metropolitan Division

METROPOLITAN DIVISION:

1. CAROLINA HURRICANES

The good news for the Hurricanes is that captain Eric Staal appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from a knee injury suffered at the 2013 IIHF World Championship while toiling for Team Canada. Ditto veteran netminder Cam Ward, who dealt with knee problems last season. The only remaining restricted free agent left to sign is winger Zach Boychuk, though the recent acquisition of former Sabre Nathan Gerbe may hurt Boychuk's chances for a new contract. Unrestricted free agent Chad LaRose is not expected back.

2.COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Four veteran unrestricted free agents remain un-signed for Columbus at the moment: wingers Vaclav Prospal and Colton Gillies, defenseman Adrian Aucoin and goaltender Michael Leighton. None are expected back with the Blue Jackets, but Leighton's return is a possibility. The good news is there are no restricted free agents to re-sign, so Columbus appears set to begin training camp. The key injury to monitor will be newcomer Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery), who won't begin his Columbus career until late December (at the earliest).

3. NEW JERSEY DEVILS

In the wake of the stunning Ilya Kovalchuk retirement from the NHL (to play in the KHL going forward), the Devils have revamped their winger situation--bringing in veterans Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr via unrestricted free agency. They still have cap space to re-sign restricted free agent forward Adam Henrique, but they're not expected to bring back unrestricted free agents Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tom Kostopoulos. Meanwhile, veteran winger/UFA Steve Sullivan is contemplating retirement.

4. NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Several veteran unrestricted free agents from the Islanders remain un-signed with roughly one month to go before the start of training camp. The one who may sign back with the Isles is goaltender Tim Thomas, who could form a solid--albeit aging--tandem with starter Evgeni Nabokov. Young Kevin Poulin is the other option to push Nabokov but New York may want him to ripen a little bit more in the AHL to start 2013-14. Otherwise, the Islanders have no remaining restricted free agents, as David Ullstrom left for the KHL.

5. NEW YORK RANGERS

The Blueshirts have been busy re-signing all of their restricted free agents, but one important one remains un-signed: projected first-line center Derek Stepan. They'll probably have to shed some payroll somewhere else to fit Stepan in under the salary cap. Tough guy Brandon Mashinter is their only other restricted free agent of note. Unrestricted free-agent defensemen Roman Hamrlik, Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer are not expected back. Hamrlik (advanced age) and Sauer (concussion issues) may both be forced into retirement.

6. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

The Flyers will likely enter training camp next month over the salary cap, though that should be a mere technicality (veteran defenseman Chris Pronger isn't expected to play in 2013-14, and should be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve. That would get Philadelphia back under the cap). The Flyers would still like to bring back UFA winger Simon Gagne, but they would need to trade someone else in order to do so. Or, they may wait until the regular season begins--since D-man Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) may also land on LTIR.

7. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Pittsburgh is another team currently over the salary cap, now that they've re-signed all of their restricted free agents (except AHLer Riley Holzapfel, who left to play in Sweden for HV 71). However, the Penguins don't have any candidates at the moment for Long Term Injured Reserve, so they will need to shed a salary before the start of 2013-14. Veteran unrestricted free agents such as winger Brenden Morrow and defensemen Douglas Murray and Mark Eaton are not expected to return to the Penguins, but they remain at large.

8. WASHINGTON CAPITALS

The Capitals still have yet to re-sign Swedish forward Marcus Johansson, a restricted free agent. There are rumblings the club is looking to trade the 22-year-old, who spent most of 2013 at left wing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and captain Alex Ovechkin. A resolution should occur before the start of training camp next month. One player who is scheduled to attend Caps camp this year on a tryout basis is 19-year-old forward Nathan Walker, considered by many to be the best Australian hockey player ever produced by that continent.

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