With the NHL’s 2016 trade deadline history, here’s a look ahead at what we could see in this summer’s trade market.
More salary-dumping trades. The current cap ceiling is $71.4 million. In December, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projected the salary cap for 2016-17 could rise by $3 million. Thanks to the reduced value of the Canadian dollar, however, few observers expect it’ll increase that much, if at all.
That’s bad news for teams already carrying over $60 million in payroll for next season. Those in that category include the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks.
Clubs with payrolls between $50-$59 million – especially those in the upper range like the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals – won’t have as much cap space as they’d prefer to re-sign key players and make competitive bids in the unrestricted free agent market. It’ll be even less so for those with self-imposed lower cap ceilings.
Some of those clubs could be forced to trade higher-salaried players they would otherwise not move, or ship out invaluable lower-salaried depth players. Those teams will likely be targeted by rebuilding clubs carrying lots of salary-cap room, like the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Potential salary-dump candidates. The San Jose Sharks could once again try to move aging forward Patrick Marleau and the one year (at over $6.6 million) remaining on his contract. The Columbus Blue Jackets could peddle Scott Hartnell (signed through 2018-19)and his $4.75 million annual cap hit.
The Edmonton Oilers might move Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (both with $6 million annual cap hits), while the Tampa Bay Lightning could consider dealing away goalie Ben Bishop (one year left at $5.95 million) or defenseman Matt Carle’s $5.5 million cap hit.
The Los Angeles Kings could try to rid themselves of captain Dustin Brown’s $5.9 million annual salary, while the Winnipeg Jets could seek takers for Toby Enstrom’s annual average salary of $5.75 million.
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard ($5.291 million),Vancouver’s Alex Burrows ($4.5 million) and St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.25 million) could also surface as trade candidates.
Ongoing threat of offer sheets. Teams with limited cap space could be targeted by those with deeper pockets intending to sign their best restricted free agents to offer sheets. Rather than face the possibility of settling for compensatory draft picks if unable to match potential offer sheets, those cap-strapped clubs could try to avoid that threat by instead trading those assets for cheaper roster players.
Player who could fall into this category include Anaheim Ducks blueliners Sami Vatanen or Hampus Lindholm, St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Tyson Barrie, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider and Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman.
All seven Canadian teams could be busy. A number of non-playoff clubs will look to shake things up this summer. That includes all of Canada’s NHL franchises, as at this point they could miss the 2016 playoffs. Expect those teams to be active via free agency and the trade market.
Jonathan Drouin gets traded. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman didn’t get an offer he liked to move the suspended left winger at the trade deadline. Yzerman could let the 21-year-old twist in the wind throughout the summer if he wanted, but expect him to move the unhappy youngster by the NHL Draft weekend in June.