Check out the latest on the Rangers, Leafs, and Oilers in today’s Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE RANGERS?
ESPN.COM: With the New York Rangers officially eliminated from playoff contention, Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters looked at the club’s potential offseason plans. While they have plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a big-name unrestricted free agent like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, Kaplan and Peters believe they must be disciplined in their spending. Going the quick-fix route could cause more harm than good.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $61.9 million invested in 17 players for 2019-20, with Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk, Brendan Lemieux, and Anthony Deangelo as their notable free agents. All will be affordable re-signings, leaving enough room to pursue a quality player via free agency. However, that player must be a good fit within their rebuilding roster. The last thing they need is an aging star coming there solely for the money and the experience of living in New York.
They’ve been linked to Panarin, Erik Karlsson, Jeff Skinner, and Matt Duchene. It’s believed Panarin could be their primary focus, but he could cost over $10 million annually. While he puts up good numbers, I don’t think he’s got the leadership qualities the rebuilding Rangers need. Karlsson might be a better fit in that regard, but his recent injury history could be cause for concern plus he might not be keen to join a team in transition.
MARLEAU’S CONTRACT COULD HURT THE LEAFS
TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes Patrick Marleau’s contract will be a problem for the Maple Leafs this summer. While the 39-year-old winger is beloved by his teammates and his declining play hasn’t hurt the Leafs’ overall performance this season, his $6.25-million salary-cap hit will make it difficult for management to find enough cap room to re-sign younger, better players.
Marleau’s on a “35-plus” contract, meaning he was over 35-year-old when he signed the deal, thus his cap hit still counts against the Leafs cap payroll if he retires or is bought out. He also holds a full no-movement clause. If he’s unwilling to waive it, the Leafs could be forced to move another player to free up cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $74.2 million tied up in 17 players. They’ll get $5.3 million in cap relief by placing all-but-retired Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve, but that will quickly evaporate when Mitch Marner signs his new contract. Even if it’s under $10 million per season (and I doubt it will be), it’ll push the Leafs’ payroll to around $78 million, with RFAs like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to be re-signed and UFAs like Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey to re-sign or replace. Assuming the cap reaches the projected $83 million, that won’t leave enough for the Leafs to address those needs.
Someone under contract for next season will be moved. That could mean a good player like Nazem Kadri, or GM Kyle Dubas going back on his word and trading Wiliam Nylander or finding a sucker, er, I mean, a taker for Nikita Zaitsev’s contract.
Some have suggested Marleau might accept a trade back to the San Jose Sharks, who have over $57.5 million committed to 14 players. Assuming they don’t re-sign Erik Karlsson, they’ll have plenty of room to re-sign UFAs like Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, as well as perhaps Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi, plus pay the hefty raises for RFAs Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Beyond that, they probably won’t have enough room for Marleau even if they wanted to bring him back. And if they do re-sign Karlsson, they certainly won’t have enough room for Marleau.
CAN THE OILERS SHED SOME BIG CONTRACTS?
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell recently examined some ways the Edmonton Oilers could trim their salary-cap fat and put the savings toward adding speed, skill, and goaltending depth. Noting how noxious a buyout of Milan Lucic’s contract would be, he suggests packaging a prospect plus picking up part of Lucic’s salary in exchange for a depth draft pick.
Mitchell suggests buying out the final two years of Andrej Sekera’s contract, saving $3 million in each of the next two seasons. He also advocates trading defenseman Kris Russell ($4 million annually through 2020-21).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those three, the contracts of Sekera and Russell will be easier to shed than Lucic’s. Even by picking up half of his $6-million annual cap hit, his performance has deteriorated so much that I don’t see any takers for the remaining four years of his deal.
While trading Sekera would be a better option, buying him out makes sense. Trading Russell might require retaining some of his salary, but there could be some interest in him as a third-pairing shot-blocking rearguard.