NHL Rumor Mill – July 27, 2019
The latest on the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CAPITALS FACING BIG DECISIONS THIS SEASON
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz points out the Washington Capitals face some big decisions with some key players before next summer. Goaltender Braden Holtby and center Nicklas Backstrom are slated to become unrestricted free agents next July while captain Alex Ovechkin will enter the final year of his contract.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan can open contract talks with Holtby and Backstrom now. The club has over $62 million committed to their 2020-21 salary-cap payroll and nearly $50 million for 2021-22.
Of the two, Gretz considers Backstrom, a top-line center and one of the best players in the world, the priority. Re-signing Holtby could be more difficult after Sergei Bobrovsky received a seven-year, $70-million contract from the Florida Panthers. He also believes the cost of re-signing Ovechkin will surely be over $10 million annually.
If the Capitals hope to re-sign Holtby, Gretz believes it’ll take trading a significant player such as Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, or Dmitry Orlov to free up sufficient cap space. Another option would be shipping out some depth players like Lars Eller, Carl Hagelin, and Richard Panik. Otherwise, this season could be Holtby’s last with the Capitals.
NBC WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan noted Backstrom opted for security over money when he agreed to his current 10-year, $67-million deal. He can’t see Backstrom holding the team hostage with an outrageous salary demand.
Regan considers Holtby’s future more uncertain, citing the high cost of money and term, the looming Seattle expansion draft, and the Capitals’ top prospect being goaltender Ilya Samsonov.
NBC WASHINGTON/THE WASHINGTON POST: Brian McNally and Isabelle Khurshudyan examine the cost-cutting options for the Capitals in the wake of re-signing Christian Djoos and Chandler Stephenson. They’re sitting over $1.3 million above this season’s $81.5-million salary cap. One option could be waiving or trading Djoos or Stephenson before the start of the regular season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Freeing up that cap space before the season opens will be much easier for MacLellan than what he’s facing with Backstrom and Holtby before next July. Most Capitals observers share Regan’s belief of Backstrom being the more likely to be re-signed.
Maybe one or both will surprise and accept lesser deals to stay in Washington. Maybe they’ll both demand top dollar. Perhaps they’ll decide their respective NHL futures lay elsewhere and opt to test next summer’s UFA market. Unless they’re re-signed before this season begins, questions over their respective futures in Washington will only grow as next July approaches.
LATEST RANGERS SPECULATION
NEW YORK POST/NEWSDAY: In the wake of the Rangers re-signed winger Pavel Buchnevich yesterday, Brett Cyrgalis and Colin Stephenson look at possible ways GM Jeff Gorton could shed salary. Teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but must be cap compliant when the season opens in October. Cap Friendly indicates they’re above the cap by over $4.1 million and still have restricted free agents Brendan Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo to re-sign.
Cyrgalis speculates winger Chris Kreider, who carries a salary-cap hit of $4.625 million and is a year away from UFA status, could become a trade candidate. Stephenson suggests Kreider, center Vladislav Namestnikov ($4 million), or forward Ryan Strome ($3.1 million) could be shopped.
Stephenson also proposed a buyout of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.65 million AAV for two more seasons) or Brendan Smith ($4.35 million AAV through 2020-21). However, the way their contracts are structured, the Rangers won’t see much savings in the second year of the buyout.
Like Cyrgalis, Stephenson considers Kreider the prime trade candidate. He doesn’t see teams lining up for Namestnikov or Strome and doubts they’ll find any takers for Shattenkirk or Smith even if they agreed to pick up part of their cap hits.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kreider seems the most likely to move, though we can’t dismiss the possibility of Gorton finding some way to move one of those other guys by adding a sweetener in the deal. They could also bury some contracts in the minors.
If Gorton goes the buyout route, he has 48 hours from Friday’s settlement with Buchnevich, who had filed for arbitration, to do so. Otherwise, the earliest we could see a cost-cutting move by the Rangers could be sometime in September.