We’re beginning to see the effects of the Seattle expansion draft.
Ryan Graves was traded from Colorado to New Jersey this week for Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick — the Avalanche chose that outcome over leaving Graves unprotected to the Kraken.
On Friday the NY Islanders traded Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings for Richard Panik and a second-round pick, both to get something back for Leddy before having to expose him in the expansion draft and to free up additional cap space. The Red Wings retained 50 per cent of Panik’s $2.75 million AAV as well.
The last-minute jockeying may not be finished yet.
An NHL roster freeze begins Saturday afternoon when protection lists are due, and runs through the expansion draft on Wednesday. That could bring urgency for teams that will be forced to lose a quality player to Seattle.
Here’s the latest buzz around the league…
DEVILS WILL BE SMART WITH THEIR CAP ROOM
Cap space might be the most valuable thing a team can have right now. Given the upper limit isn’t rising any time in the near future, having flexibility around the cap is vital and those with room have a distinct advantage over those forced into buyouts, or having to sell off a player for less than market value.
The New Jersey Devils are one of these teams, with $31.5 million in projected cap room, only Buffalo, Detroit and Seattle have more. New Jersey used some of that to trade for Graves and add a top-four defenceman to their roster.
But if you think New Jersey is eager to use any of that money on someone else’s bad contract if it means adding a draft pick, think again. The Devils have other motives.
“I do think they legitimately want to improve and take a run,” Elliotte Friedman said on Friday’s 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. “I think Lehner is a guy they’re looking at…that one makes a bit of sense to me for Jersey. The definite feeling about the Golden Knights is they want to open up some cap room. The Devils can do that and take advantage of that.”
The Golden Knights have an estimated $6 million in cap room, but ideally would like to re-sign UFA defenceman Alec Martinez. They’re also, as usual, linked to a number of the biggest trade candidates in the rumour mill, including Jack Eichel. There’s no way they could enter into those deals without first shedding salary.
At the same time, they have $12 million invested in the goaltending position between Lehner and Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury. The latter has one year left on his contract and will turn 37 in November; the former has another four years left with a $5 million cap hit.
Adding Lehner would give the Devils a veteran presence to play alongside 24-year-old MacKenzie Blackwood, who is signed at a $2.8 million cap hit for another two years. A strong start to next season and Blackwood may even be on Team Canada’s Olympic radar, at least as the No. 3 goalie.
ZACH HYMAN’S DEVELOPING MARKET
While both Hyman and the Leafs would like the hometown boy to stay in Toronto, if the market plays out the way it seems like it will, Hyman will simply be priced out.
Now that the Leafs have given Hyman and his representatives the green light to speak to other teams, the chances of him returning — however small — will come into focus. Early indications of the market are not in Toronto’s favour. Hyman could get $6 million, or possibly more.
“The best I can piece together is I think Toronto wanted to keep him and he wanted to stay,” Friedman noted. “I think there’s a 6×6 or maybe a 7×6 out there potentially for him. I think what Toronto tried to do, and this is kind of an educated guess, was they tried to max term it to bring down the AAV and I just think it’s too far from where Hyman’s potentially going to go here. There’s a willingness to leave something on the table, I just think the gap was too big.”
The Edmonton Oilers continue to be among the top teams linked to Hyman in free agency.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE BROCK BOESER TRADE RUMOURS?
The Canucks are eager to do business and set themselves up to return a better unit next season. So why, then, was Brock Boeser’s name popping up in the trade rumour mill after he led them with 23 goals this past season?
“This is what I think was going on with Boeser. I think his name came up, but I don’t think it’s because Vancouver’s got him on the market. I think it was Vancouver going after something they really wanted or needed and Boeser’s name came up as the price it was going to cost them. And I really believe that if Boeser was getting moved this year it was purely because Vancouver got something and we would say, ‘Oh OK, now we understand why this happened.'”
So we’ll see. If Boeser is moved, it might be in a whopper of a trade. But the team isn’t shopping him around.
WHO IS SEATTLE TARGETING IN NET?
The goalie market is once again shaping up to be interesting, both in free agency and in trade. The fact Ben Bishop waived his no-move clause for the expansion draft means he could go to Seattle, though his injury history is concerning. The Minnesota Wild will have to expose veteran Cam Talbot or youngster Kaapo Kahkonen.
The Kraken could take control of the goalie market, depending what’s in front of them when the protected lists are filed, and what side deals they strike with various teams.
“Everybody thinks Seattle is taking (Chris) Driedger from Florida and signing him,” Friedman noted. “People are expecting it.”
Driedger had a solid season in Florida and is on track to be a UFA on July 28. The Kraken could come to terms with him in their exclusive negotiating window, sign him, and he would count as their selection off Florida’s roster.
“I think Seattle is interested in (Braden) Holtby, but not at the number ($4.3 million cap hit),” Friedman continued. “I think they want to see if they can get Vancouver to retain something. And then Seattle is undoubtedly going to take some goalies to see if they can flip them.”
Among those possible names? Jake Allen, Alexandar Georgiev and Alex Nedeljkovic.
THE CANADIENS COULD GET WILD AGAIN
When most of the rest of the league was pinching pennies last off-season, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin aggressively added players and payroll, and ultimately it paid off with an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Now he might be in position to make a similar splash.
It’s just that, at the moment, it’s uncertain how much cap room he will have. They’re projected to have $14 million in cap room this off-season before re-signing any players. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen are RFAs, while Phillip Danault, Joel Armia and Corey Perry are UFAs they might want back.
But there are big questions around two other key players. This week it was reported that injuries have put Shea Weber’s career in jeopardy, though it’s not yet clear if the NHL would allow him to go on LTIR and thus give the Canadiens $7.857 million in additional cap space, or if he would have to retire, which would leave a cap recapture penalty instead. And then there’s Jonathan Drouin, who missed the playoffs for personal reasons and with no indication yet when he’ll return.
If neither are back, Montreal could end up with a whole bunch more cap room than initially thought.
“Now we believe Phillip Danault is going to market, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that Thursday night,” Friedman said. “Marc Bergevin is a wild man right? When he’s got money to throw, he’ll throw it. The whole thing about Montreal’s team is this move by Weber, the fact he’s not going to play for at least a year, it changes the entire team…
“I could see Bergevin, because this is the way he thinks, going out and taking a big swing. I said Landeskog. Would it surprise you if that guy got to market and, depending on Bergevin’s situation, taking a swing at that? Eichel? Would that surprise you?
Things are about to get real interesting in Montreal all over again.
COULD TAMPA BE A DESTINATION FOR SETH JONES?
With Nikita Kucherov healthy and, for now, every other key player on track to start the regular season, the back-to-back champions are having to face their tight cap situation. They figure to lose a good player to Seattle, while UFAs Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman and David Savard are all unlikely to be back.
Still, GM Julien BriseBois could surprise us again by doing something over the top. Two in a row is just not enough.
“The other team that’s kind of been in stealth mode a little bit that I’m going to be curious about is Tampa because I think they’re going to go for a three-peat. Colorado is another one…
“I’m wondering if a Tampa or a Colorado thinks about maybe like a one year Seth Jones deal to go for it. Those two teams are in it to win it next year and I think they might try to pull some things that give them a chance.”
PLENTY OF SUTER SUITORS
Bought out by the Minnesota Wild, 36-year-old defenceman Ryan Suter is a 22-plus minute per night defenceman who became a shocking addition to the UFA market.
As you might expect, he’ll have a lot to choose from.
“Lots of teams are interested in Ryan. Lots,” Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told The Athletic’s Michael Russo. “I was talking to somebody yesterday that said, ‘There’s not a single team in the league that could have gone through all of their off-season scenarios and exercises and ever thought that Ryan Suter would be available.’ Now he is.”
Suter, renowned for his heavy usage throughout his career, is seeking a multi-year deal according to Sheehy. Still a solid top-four, or even top-pair, defenceman, Suter will turn 37 in January, so age-related decline still has to be considered.
But until then he’s a hugely valuable defenceman in this league, one who previously was set to finish his career in Minnesota and is now suddenly available to any top contender.
“Ryan’s objective is to win a Stanley Cup,” Sheehy said.