In part one of my trade targets series, I took a look at some teams that are currently heading towards the rebuilding process. This week, I’m looking at a handful of teams who are really tight up against the salary cap and could be forced to move on from some talented young players this summer.
Now, the fact that the Oilers are also up against the cap is a challenge and if they want to really make changes to their roster, they’ll have to send out some money in a separate deal. If they could do that without blowing away any assets, then they could be in a spot to take advantage of one of these teams:
The Jets will have around $27 million to sign Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, and Jacob Trouba. They’ll also have to replace Tyler Myers and Ben Chariot, who are heading for free agency. Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp are valuable bottom six pieces that need new deals as well.
They have some pricey vets in Bryan Little (5 years at $5.29 million), Mathieu Perreault (2 years at $4.1 million), and Dmitry Kulikov (one year at $4.33 million). Kevin Cheveldayoff will no doubt try to unload two of those deals before he makes a big change to his core just for the sake of cap relief.
There have been plenty of rumours surrounding both of Jacob Trouba and Nik Ehlers as well. Trouba had a contract dispute with the Jets not too long ago, so I think there is a real chance he is dealt. I’ve also heard that he’s not interested in signing long-term in a Canadian market. Ehlers would be a great fit here and while part of me doubts that the Jets would part ways with a good, young winger, he does make $6 million dollars for the next six years and hasn’t scored a goal in over 20 playoff games. I could see the Jets wanting to shake things up after a disappointing playoff exit.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Leafs are really strapped for cap space this summer and the threat of an offer sheet to Mitch Marner could have them wanting to clear out salary sooner rather than later.
They should have between $8-9 million to start the offseason and they have a long list of RFA’s aside from Marner, who should get more than $10 million. Andreas Johnson is fresh off scoring 20 goals in his rookie season and Kasperi Kapanen potted 20 himself. Both of those guys should fetch between $3-4 million.
They will also have to either sign or replace Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner who are both pending UFA’s. They need defenseman and it will cost some serious money to replace those two.
They have two bad contracts. The first is Patrick Marleau who has one more season at $6.25 million and Nikita Zaitsev who has five more years at $4.5 million. Even if they move both of those contracts, they’ll likely still need to move a young forward.
There was the rumoured Connor Brown for Matt Benning deal at the deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two sides revisited that. Based on the fact that the Leafs need defenseman, I could see them being interested in one of Adam Larsson or Darnell Nurse. If that is the case, the Oilers would no doubt be able to bring back one of Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, or if the deal is bigger, maybe even William Nylander. These two teams appear to be a good match.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GM Julien Brisebois will have some hard work to do in his first full offseason as Lightning General Manager. He’ll have around $8-9 million to play with but most of that will evaporate with the signing of Brayden Point. On top of that, he has RFA’s Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne along and he has four defensemen that are pending UFA’s. There’s not a lot of money to replace the likes of Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Jan Ruuta, and Brayden Cobourn.
They do have Mikhail Sergachev and Eric Cernak who should be able to step up next season but both of those players are RFA’s after next season. Brisebois will have to keep that in his plans.
The really bad contract they’ll likely try to move is Ryan Callahan who has one more year at $5.8 million. Just based on the fact that deal is done after this year, they could probably move that out without much trouble.
I believe we’ll see them try to move out one of their forwards this summer. Tyler Johnson (five years at $5.0 million), Ondrej Palat (three years at $5.3 million), Alex Killorn (four years at $4.45 million), and JT Miller (four years at $5.25 million) are all candidates and are all players I think the Oilers should be interested in.
The issue is that all of those players but Miller have no-trade clauses. That probably means the Oilers would have trouble acquiring them. The Oilers would also have to clear out some money to make those deals work. But I think it’s worth a phone call. The Lightning have forwards to move and the Oilers need scoring.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
After making the NHL’s expansion process seem like a joke, the Golden Knights suddenly find themselves in a tough situation with the salary cap. If the cap goes up $4 million, they will still just have $1.25 million in cap space and they only have one goalie, six defensemen, and ten forwards on their roster. They’ll need to add at least five contracts. They’re also facing an interesting situation with first-line centre William Karlsson who is coming off a down season, but still had 24 goals and 32 assists. He’ll command a minimum of $5.5 million. They’ll need to move some contracts.
I could see them looking to move on from someone like Reilly Smith, who have averaged just over 20 goals a season with the Knights but makes $5 million for the next three seasons. Cody Eakin and his $3.87 million cap hit. He would be interesting on the Oilers third line. He can kill penalties, give you reliable even strength minutes and he scored 22 goals last season. I really don’t like his cap hit, but it’s only for one year.
They could be forced to move a blueliner as well. On the left side, they have Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merril, and newly signed college free agent Jimmy Schudt. They might move on from a veteran, but the Oilers have enough left-handed defensemen so I don’t think they’d be interested. On the right side, they have Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller, pending UFA Deryk Engelland, and Nick Holden. They could let Engelland walk, but they really like him in Vegas. Colin Miller would be a name for the Oilers to target. He’s 26-years-old, shoots right, and was anchoring a Golden Knights powerplay unit in the postseason. He was also healthy scratched at some points, so that leads me to believe the Knights would be open to moving him in a cap dump situation or for a young defenseman, maybe someone like Ethan Bear.
For the Oilers to make a splash on the trade market, they need to clear out some salary of their own. Whether it’s Sekera, Russell, or Lucic, they need to find some money.
Here’s a rough trade proposal: the Oilers send Kris Russell out in exchange for a mid-round draft pick and then flip Ethan Bear and that draft pick for Colin Miller. They’d get a younger right-shot defenseman who can chip in some offence and they’d save $125k against the cap. Vegas would get a draft pick, a young defenseman who could be a third pairing guy in the next 18 months and some salary relief. It might seem like the Oilers are giving up a lot here, but I think Miller would be a good upgrade to their blueline.