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Ranking how active each of the Canadian teams could be this summer
8 months ago
It could be a very interesting summer in Canada. We’ve had two clubs make GM changes, a few are in cap hell, some are desperately trying to avoid a rebuild while others are trying to exit their re-tooling phase.
Every Canadian franchise is in a very unique spot and they should all be active to some extent which is why I thought it’d be fun to try and rank them in order of who could be making the most news this offseason. For fun, I also threw in what I think could be the biggest splash that the team makes. Enjoy!
1 – THE WINNIPEG JETS
May 24, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) skates in on Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37)) during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s the thing, this Jets team as currently constructed is not going to win a Stanley Cup and they have a bunch of pieces that have made it pretty clear that they aren’t going to re-sign in Winnipeg. So Kevin Cheveldayoff has to start moving players.
Mark Schiefele, Blake Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Connor Hellebuyck could all be moved this summer and the Jets should get a pretty solid return.
If they look for prospects and young NHL players in return, this team could actually turn things around pretty quickly. A core of Nik Ehlers, Kyle Connor, and Josh Morrissey is really good and they have some young pieces, like Cole Perfetti, already in the organization.
If Cheveldayoff is allowed to retain significant money on pieces like Schiefele and Wheeler as well, they could get even bigger returns for them.
Next year might be painful for the Jets, but if they play their cards right I think they can turn things around quickly. There’s no doubt they’re going to be the most active Canadian team this summer.
Biggest possible move: It’s trading all four of the mentioned players. The most significant thing they could do is move out every aging piece of their core and really try to retool this team on the fly. Hellebuyck will likely be the most significant single trade though. They need to hit a home run on this one.
2 – THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
I really don’t think the Leafs will move one of their big three but I still think they will be very active this summer. Brad Treliving will be eager to put his stamp on this team and there are clear areas of need.
Will they run back a goaltending duo of Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll? How will they get rid of Matt Murray’s contract? How will they upgrade their blueline? Can they find cost-effective top-nine forwards? These are all major questions.
To get good pieces, they’ll need more cap space. I wonder if they’ll buy out TJ Brodie considering it would give them $5 million in cap space this summer and only comes with a $2.5 million penalty the following year.
Dubas moved out a significant chunk of their draft capital so making a big splash on the trade market will be tough. If they can LTIR Murray and Muzzin and they buy out Brodie, they could have about $23 million in cap space though. That could go a long ways.
They also need to start talking about extensions with both Auston Matthews and William Nylander. That probably needs to happen before they commit big dollars in free agency.
Biggest possible move: If Treliving gets the sense that an extension for William Nylander is going to cost them too much money, then he probably has to look at moving him. It seems highly unlikely that either Marner or Matthews gets traded, but there’s a chance with Nylander.
3 – THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Apr 13, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) celebrates with defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) and defenseman Cole McWard (48) and center Dakota Joshua (81) after scoring the game winning goal in overtime against the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
After another disappointing season, the Canucks are desperate to improve their team but they’re currently over the cap. They need to shed money before they can do anything else. Brock Boeser, Connor Garland, and Tyler Myers all seem like pieces that could be moved this summer but if the goal is to compete, are you really better if you’re dumping off players like that for picks and prospects?
They’re in a very tough spot, but I suspect that they will be very active this summer as they look to get back into the playoffs in 2023-24. They could potentially place Tanner Pearson on LTIR, which would give them enough money to round out their roster, but they don’t have enough space to make any sort of improvements. They have to shed salary and that means they have to make trades.
Elias Petersson is also extension eligible this summer. That’ll be a big contract.
Biggest possible move: Trading JT Miller before his NMC kicks in on July 1st. He’s about to enter the first year of an eight-year extension that carries an $8m AAV. If they’re ever going to move him, it’s now. If they can get a good young forward, an NHL defenseman, and a first-round pick for him then they should be seriously considering moving him. It would also give them cap flexibility.
4 – THE OTTAWA SENATORS
The Senators made a handful of major splashes in the last 12 months and still didn’t get close to qualifying for the playoffs. There’s some pressure on them to make sure they take a step forward this year.
They’ll have a full year of Jakob Chychrun and a loaded lineup of young pieces that should take a step forward, but they need a goalie. Cam Talbot is a UFA and I don’t think they can head into next season with just Anton Forsberg and Mads Soogard.
There are rumblings they could be in the market for one of the big name goalies that are available and with $17 million in cap space, they can make some significant adds.
Biggest possible move: It’s trading Alex DeBrincat. He’s due a massive qualifying offer this summer and there are rumblings that he won’t sign long term in Ottawa. If that’s the case, then they need to move him. A year ago they gave up a first, second and third-round pick to get him from Chicago. It’ll be interesting to see if they can get similar value this summer.
5 – THE CALGARY FLAMES
Well first, they need a new Head Coach. Craig Conroy is running things in Calgary now and while I have the Flames lower on this list, they could potentially be active. They could also potentially not get up to a whole lot.
It seems likely that they’ll explore the trade market for Dan Vladar in order to make room for Dustin Wolf on the NHL roster.
Other than that, Conroy is going to have to talk to pieces like Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli, and Mikael Backlund. They’re all entering the final years of their deals and he told Frank Seravalli on Frankly Speaking that if those players don’t want to be in Cagary long-term, then he’ll explore the trade market.
He could also let those pieces stick around until the trade deadline. Again, it’s possible that they’re very active and move some key pieces but there’s also a chance that they run back close to the same roster, especially considering the cap crunch that they’re in.
Biggest possible move: I think it’s moving one of Lindholm or Hanifin in a hockey trade. If Conroy gets the sense that they want to test the UFA market next summer, then he should cash in on their value.
6 – THE MONTREAL CANADIENS
Let me start by saying that I think the Canadien’s rebuild is actually going really well. They’ve built up a nice core of young talent and they’re starting to lock them up to contracts that could be very team-friendly in a few years.
I think they’re more or less done selling off pieces and now the focus is on adding in players that can help them take the next step. They have some veterans locked up on their blue line, so I’m not sure if they can make big adds there. Their forward group seems set as well.
One area they could look to improve on is between the pipes. Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault are fine, but GM Kent Hughes should be looking to find this team’s goalie of the future. Other than that, it should be a quiet summer in Montreal.
Biggest possible move: If they want to find their goalie of the future, they should go pry Carter Hart out of Philadelphia. Other than that, I could see them bringing Pierre-Luc Dubois home this summer. There are constant rumblings about his desire to play in Montreal and he would give them another stud top-six forward. If the cost is too high, they could also just wait until he’s a UFA next summer.
7 – THE EDMONTON OILERS
Feb 7, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Are you disappointed to see the Oilers this low on the list? You shouldn’t be. The Oilers core is set in stone and I don’t think Ken Holland is going to be making any major moves in that area. They’ll want to improve their depth pieces but they unfortunately don’t have the money to do it.
So, they’ll work around the edges, try to dump off some overpaid players, and maybe sign a middle-six winger in free agency. They won’t be going too crazy and that’s why they’re last in this ranking.
I also think they’re the closest Canadian team to winning a Stanley Cup and that their roster doesn’t need a major overhaul to accomplish that goal. They’re close and that’s why Holland won’t be making major moves this summer.
Biggest possible move: For me, the biggest possible move would be acquiring a legit top-six power forward like Tom Wilson or Travis Konecny. I’ve written about them both in the past and they’d be great fits in Edmonton, but the cost would be huge, especially for Konecny, who’s under contract for two more seasons. They would need to move out both Yamamoto and Foegele just to make the money work, but adding one more high-end forward to this lineup would be very intriguing.
It seems unlikely, but dare to dream.
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