Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – April 21, 2019
With the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets eliminated from the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, what could be in store for both clubs? Read on for the latest speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE FLAMES?
ESPN.COM: Addressing the goaltending and finding a taker for winger James Neal’s contract could be among this summer’s priorities for the Calgary Flames following their first-round exit from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While starting goalie (and pending free agent) Mike Smith had a solid playoff performance he was inconsistent during the regular season. David Rittich was the better goalie during the regular season but was benched during the postseason. Jon Gillies, once considered a future starter, had a horrible season with their AHL farm team. Perhaps they’ll go shopping for a goalie this summer.
Neal joined the Flames as an unrestricted free agent last summer and had the worst season of his career. He lacks no-trade protection but also has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.75 million. The Flames need to find another team with a contract they’re willing to swap.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek also believes the Flames must figure out what to do with their goalie tandem, suggesting it’s possible Smith and Rittich could return next season, provided Smith is willing to accept an affordable short-term deal. He also agrees general manager Brad Treliving must try to find a way to shed Neal’s contract.
Duhatschek believes Treliving should address his club’s surplus of defensemen, pointing to the rise this season of young blueliners Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, and Juuso Valimaki. With T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic a year away from UFA status, Duhatschek proposes listening to offers for Brodie.
Pointing out the Flames nearly acquired Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker at this year’s trade deadline, Duhatschek wonders if Treliving will revisit those discussions this summer.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Brian Costello also feels the Flames should find a way to shed James Neal’s contract. He suggests a “bad-contract-for-bad-contract” swap with the Buffalo Sabres for winger Kyle Okposo, who has four years at $6 million per season left on his deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Flames have over $69.3 million invested in 20 players for 2019-20. Smith is their noteworthy UFA while Tkachuk, Rittich, and Sam Bennett are the notable RFAs. If the salary cap reaches the projected $83 million, they’ll have around $14 million to re-sign everyone.
Tkachuk could eat up over half of that cap room with a $7-$8 million AAV. Smith might accept a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $3-million base salary, Rittich could come in at no more than $2 million on a short-term deal. That won’t leave much for Bennett, who’s got arbitration rights and established himself as a versatile two-way forward. If they decide to move on from Smith and find another starter, they’ll definitely need to free up more cap room for his replacement.
Shedding Neal’s contract is the obvious move but easier said than done. Buying him out would come with an affordable annual $1.916-million cap hit but would be on their books for eight years. Swapping him for another bad contract might land a slightly better player but won’t resolve their obvious cap issues. Perhaps they can bundle him with a good young player or a top prospect/first-round draft pick to a rebuilding club with lots of cap room, but I don’t see many takers for that contract.
Peddling Brodie would be an easier option. He’s a year away from UFA status, had an eight-team no-trade list, carries an affordable $4.65-million cap hit and would be enticing for clubs looking for a skilled top-four rearguard. Maybe Treliving can dangle him to the Wild for Zucker? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on that, Flames and Wild fans.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE JETS?
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan believes Jacob Trouba’s future with the Winnipeg Jets will come to a head this summer. He’s once again a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, only now he’s also a year away from UFA eligibility. Given the contentious history of contract negotiations between Trouba and Jets management, a trade appears likely. She also expects blueliner Tyler Myers will depart via the UFA market on July 1.
After trading away two first-round picks as part of the deals for playoff rental centers Paul Stastny and Kevin Hayes at the last two trade deadlines, Kaplan believes the Jets must find a long-term solution to their second-line center needs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll see more speculation over the Jets future from the Winnipeg media in the coming days. Most will likely repeat Kaplan’s points.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff probably wants to re-sign Trouba to a long-term contract but their negotiation history means the blueliner will likely hit the trade block in the days leading up to the NHL Draft weekend (June 21-22) in Vancouver. Trouba could be the perfect trade chip to address the Jets’ ongoing need for a reliable second-line center.
No offense to Bryan Little but he’s best suited for the third line role now. Stastny was a perfect fit but they couldn’t afford to retain him last summer and Hayes was a disappointment. Cap space, however, will be an issue.
The Jets have over $55.6 million committed to 12 players for next season. Young star forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor are due for hefty raises and I doubt they’ll be signed to affordable short-term bridge deals.
It could cost between $14-$15 million combined to re-sign the pair. That’ll push the Jets’ cap payroll to nearly $70 million, leaving around $13 million should the cap hit $83 million. That won’t leave much to address their second-line center needs and re-sign or replace pending UFAs like Myers and Hayes and depth players like Branden Tanev, Ben Chiarot, and Andrew Copp.
Perhaps winger Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million annually) could be shipped out to free up some additional cap space. A shoulder injury limited him to 62 games (and 37 points) this season and he’s been a disappointment in the postseason thus far. Nevertheless, his speed and offensive skills could be attractive to clubs lacking players of his abilities. An Edmonton pundit recently suggested Ehlers would be a good fit with the Oilers. Perhaps that’s something worth exploring.