The flat salary cap frustrated a lot of teams. Before the pandemic hit, the expectation was that that the salary cap ceiling would be going up by at least $3 million. Obviously, that didn’t happen and teams had to make some tough decisions and let go of some players that they really didn’t want to. The Oilers having to let go of Andreas Athanasiou is a prime example of that.
We’re now at the point in the offseason where the few teams that do have money left to spend are in a great position to weaponize that cap space. Luke Fox of Sportsnet recently wrote a piece where he listed seven teams that are in a great position to do that.
Fox named the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and LA Kings as teams that are in good positions to make moves.
Now, there are two different ways these teams could weaponize their cap space. For the teams on that list, like the Red Wings, Kings, Senators, and Devils, who are in more a rebuilding mode, they could acquire draft picks or even young players from teams that are tight to the cap in exchange for taking on bad contracts.
Teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks (there are plenty of others) will likely need to clear out some money before next season starts. The few teams with lots of cap space could take an expensive veteran from one of those teams and get a good asset for doing so. Those moves would typically happen earlier in the offseason, but this year is very different.
You could even look at the recent trade made between the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche. Joe Sakic swept in and got a really good young defenseman for nothing more than a few draft picks because the Islanders knew they wouldn’t be able to re-sign both Devon Toews and Matthew Barzal. Teams that are currently rebuilding should be looking to make moves like that with teams that are tight for cap space right now.
As for the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Predators, they could be looking to use their cap space on one or two of the remaining free agents to bolster their roster. ERIK HAULA, Mike Hoffman, Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, and Anthony Duclair could all be really helpful pieces to a contending team, which the three teams I mentioned view themselves as. They’re in a great spot to get an impact player for cheap.
As for the Oilers, they don’t exactly have a lot of money left to make any moves but after seeing what players like Alex Galchenyuk and Dominik Simon recently signed for, I think Ken Holland should be trying really hard to bring in a left-winger with offensive upside and potentially another depth defenseman. There are NHL quality players who will be forced to sign for around $1 million and for the Oilers, if the signing doesn’t work out, you can bury 100% of their contract in the minors.
Usually, the second month of the offseason doesn’t feature a lot of moves, but I think there are plenty of teams still looking to make moves. November could be very interesting.
- I’ll be watching the Winnipeg Jets very closely this month. Jack Roslovic could reportedly be on the move, as could defenseman Sami Niku, although his agent recently said he hasn’t requested a trade. There’s also the Patrik Laine storyline that won’t go away. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could still make two or three big moves before the offseason is over.
- What are the Tampa Bay Lightning going to do? They still haven’t cleared out a significant amount of cap space and because of that, Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli remain unsigned. Something has to give eventually. Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn will likely be the pieces moved to free up cap space but clearly that’s easier said than done.
- Eric Stephens of The Athletic recently wrote that the Anaheim Ducks have interest in Johnson, but not as his full $5 million cap hit. I don’t think Johnson’s contract is bad at all, this just shows that teams are not going to bail out the Julien BiseBois and the Lightning.
- There was recently an article on Sportsnet that mentioned the possibility of Ethan Bear getting an offer sheet from another club. Nothing is impossible, but there’s close to 0% chance that happens. Edmonton wouldn’t even think twice about matching it and with Oscar Klefbom potentially out for the season, they could put him on offseason LTIR and have the cap space to match any realistic offer sheet.
- Mike Futa of Sportsnet did mention the New Jersey Devils as a team that could be in a good spot to go the offer sheet route. If they do, it would probably involve one of Matt Barzal, Anthony Cirelli, or Mikhail Sergachev. Remember, a player has to agree to sign an offer sheet, which is part of the reason we rarely see them happen.
- Ilya Kovalchuk recently told Pierre LeBrun that his next NHL contract has nothing to do with money and that he’s waiting for the right fit to come along. He had a great run with Montreal and he clearly wants to win a Stanley Cup. It will be interesting to watch if a contending team can make room on their roster for him.