A Look At This Summer’s Potential NHL Big Spenders
The NHL salary cap for 2018-19 is projected to reach between $78 million and $82 million. As a result, there could be clubs poised to use their extra cap space to make significant moves via trades or free agency. Here’s a look at seven potential big spenders. Stick tap to Cap Friendly for the salary info.
Buffalo Sabres The lowly Sabres have over $57.2 million invested in 15 players. Goaltender Robin Lehner and winger Sam Reinhart are their noteworthy restricted free agents.
After Jason Botterill’s first season as general manager, the Sabres are once again mired near the bottom of the standings. While Botterill cannot be blamed for the mess he inherited, he’ll face considerable pressure to finally turn this long-struggling club around. Re-signing Lehner and Reinhart should leave plenty of cap room to pursue talented players via trades or free agency. Botterill’s biggest problem, however, will be convincing that talent to join a team that’s been spinning its wheels for years.
Dallas Stars The Stars have over $57.3 million committed to 13 players. They’ll likely part company with notable UFAs Kari Lehtonen and Dan Hamhuis. It shouldn’t put a significant dent into their cap room re-signing restricted free agents such as Mattias Janmark and Stephen Johns.
Considering the Stars’ late-season collapse puts on the verge of elimination from playoff contention, there could be some significant changes coming this summer. A lack of secondary scoring and the need for another skilled defenseman could be high on their wish list. Maybe they’ll get into the bidding for UFAs such as Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson, attempt to bring Vegas Golden Knight winger James Neal back into the fold or pursue Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk
Montreal Canadiens The Habs carry over $62.3 million invested in 21 players. With all the core players under contract, only inexperienced youngsters to re-sign and a front office determined to retool instead of rebuild, they should have sufficient room to swing a big deal or two this summer.
For months, it’s been speculated they could make a pitch for New York Islanders center John Tavares if he hits the open market. Washington defenseman John Carlson could be another target. If they decide to peddle left wing Max Pacioretty and his $4.5-million cap hit for next season they might get back a quality center or defenseman. Perhaps they’ll target clubs with limited cap space in hopes of prying away a good player or two.
San Jose Sharks Los Tiburones have over $60 million invested in 20 players. Joe Thornton, Evander Kane and Joel Ward are their notable UFAs while Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo are restricted free agents.
Re-signing those RFAs could cost around $9 million. They’re likely to part ways with Ward and must decide whether to bring back Thornton for one more season, re-sign Kane to a big raise or cut one or both loose in pursuit of a big-ticket option such as Islanders center John Tavares. Either way, the Sharks are in good position to make a significant move or two this summer.
St. Louis Blues The Blues carry over $62.6 million being paid to 18 players. Goaltender Carter Hutton is among their UFAs while defenseman Joel Edmundson is their noteworthy RFA.
Having dealt away Paul Stastny at the trade deadline, the Blues could use a proven top-line center, making them a potential suitor for Tavares. With promising winger Robby Fabbri’s future in doubt following back-to-back knee injuries, they could also be in the market for another top-six winger. They were linked to Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman leading up to the trade deadline. Perhaps they’ll revisit their interest this summer.
Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs have over $49.7 million tied up in 16 players for 2017-18. James van Riemsyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov are their noteworthy UFAs while William Nylander and Connor Carrick are restricted free agents.
The Leafs could afford to re-sign all those players, even with van Riemsyk and Nylander due to significant raises. But if they part ways with their UFAs, they’ll have lots of payroll dollars to seek a top-pairing blueliner such as John Carlson, a center like Tavares or a winger such as San Jose’s Evander Kane, James Neal or David Perron of the Vegas Golden Knights. They could also go the trade route by perhaps dangling some promising prospects to clubs in need of shedding cap space. However, they must ensure they leave sufficient long-term room for young stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who will be due hefty pay raises following next season.
Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights head into their sophomore season with $47.4 million committed to 18 players. Forwards James Neal and David Perron are their notable UFAs. One or both could be re-signed. William Karlsson and Shea Theodore are their top RFAs and due for substantial pay bumps.
Assuming it costs a combined $15 million to re-sign all four, the Golden Knights would still have enough cap space to pursue a big-name player via trade or free agency. They were reportedly close to acquiring Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan from the Ottawa Senators before the trade deadline. If the Sens can’t get Karlsson under contract this summer, maybe Vegas becomes his new home.