NHL Rumor Mill – March 19, 2020
The NHL schedule may be paused, but that hasn’t stopped speculation over potential off-season moves. Check out the latest on the Blues and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE LATEST ON THE BLUES
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat, Tom Timmermann was asked if St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong should pay between $8.5 million to $9 million annually over six years to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo. Timmermann feels it’s worthwhile if he keeps the Blues’ Stanley Cup window open. He also wondered how many teams (Vegas? Tampa Bay?) might get into bidding for Pietrangelo if he hits the open market.
In another live chat, Jim Thomas was asked about Alexander Steen‘s future with the Blues. He feels Steen remains a valuable third- or fourth-line forward, but his annual cap hit ($5.75 million through 2020-21) could be a problem for a club pressed for cap space. Thomas doubts the veteran forward has much trade value at this stage in his career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo could command over $9 million annually on the open market. If the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, however, it will hamper his efforts to attract expensive bids from rival clubs. It might work in the Blues favor but it’ll still be expensive, perhaps between $8 million and $8.5 million per season.
With over $73 million committed to 17 players, re-signing Pietrangelo will eat up their remaining cap space. They’ll have to consider cost-cutting options. Shopping Steen is one, but I concur with Thomas regarding his trade value. He must also waive his no-trade clause. A contract buyout is another, though that will come with some penalty.
If a flat cap raises a potential hardship for certain teams, perhaps the league and the NHLPA will consider a one-year amnesty buyout for each club. It would clear a salary without any penalty, though that player would have to be replaced in the lineup.
LATEST BLACKHAWKS SPECULATION
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently weighed in on the potential impact of the paused season upon the Blackhawks’ summer free-agency plans. Even if the league resumes action and finished the 2019-20 season, it will affect next season’s salary-cap numbers, which are tied to this season’s hockey-related revenue.
If the cap remains at $81.5 million, it’ll leave the Blackhawks only $8 million to re-sign Corey Crawford, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Drake Caggiula. It also won’t leave enough to fill out the rest of the roster, including the backup goaltender position. Pope believes Kubalik’s 30-goal rookie season and Crawford’s stellar campaign will boost their stock.
Pope suggested buying out defenseman Olli Maatta and center Zack Smith would free up an additional $5.5 million, but they would have to be replaced on the roster. It’s possible oft-concussed winger Andrew Shaw ($3.9 million annual average value) could end up on long-term injury reserve.
Speaking of Kubalik, Pope thinks the Blackhawks could go two routes re-signing the 24-year-old rookie winger. They could offer up a three- or four-year deal for between $3 million – $4 million annually, or do a one-year bridge deal for less money. The latter option, however, runs the risk of Kubalik commanding more money next summer if he has a strong sophomore performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $73 million tied up in 17 players. They must shed salary to re-sign or replace Crawford, Kubalik, Strome, Caggiula and others.
If the league and the PA don’t allow amnesty buyouts if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, the Blackhawks will have to look at cost-cutting trades or normal buyouts. That could spark more Brandon Saad trade rumors. He’s got a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million.