NHL Rumor Mill – March 17, 2020
The NHL schedule may be paused, but the trade and free-agent rumor mill rolls on. Check out the latest on the Oilers and Stars.
PAUSE IN THE SEASON COULD AFFECT OILERS OFF-SEASON PLANS
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell recently speculated the Edmonton Oilers’ player evaluations and summer plans could be affected by the current pause in the NHL schedule. Those evaluations include recently-acquired players like Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ellis, as well as possible summer free-agent targets like Taylor Hall and Mike Hoffman. Green and Ellis are also eligible for UFA status this summer, while Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Mitchell acknowledged bringing Hall back to Edmonton seems improbable because of the cost of signing him and the Oilers’ limited salary-cap space. Pursuing younger, less expensive options would be preferable.
Mitchell also examines the difficulties facing the Oilers if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2020-21. They currently have over $71.2 million invested in 17 players. Re-signing RFAs like Athanasiou, Ethan Bear, and Matt Benning could gobble up $7.5 million, leaving only around $2 million available. General manager Ken Holland must also re-sign or replace UFA goalie Mike Smith.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A flat cap means Holland must find a way to shed salary to re-sign key players and replace those who depart via free agency this summer. Perhaps the league and the NHLPA will agree to allow one-time amnesty buyouts if the cap doesn’t rise for ’20-’21.
Otherwise, Holland will have to get creative and that means dumping salary via trades. Problem is, there will be other clubs in the same boat and there won’t be as many with sufficient cap space to take on additional salary for next season.
SHOULD THE STARS SHOP RADULOV IN A COST-CUTTING DEAL?
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Matthew DeFranks was asked about if the Stars could move winger Alexander Radulov this summer to free up cap space to add a young second-line center. Radulov’s no-movement clause becomes a modified no-trade on July 1.
DeFranks acknowledged it’s possible but doubts Radulov would fetch a second-line center. “This is the player you’d be trading: a 34-year-old (on July 5) winger with a cap hit of $6.25 million that is coming off a career-worst goal-scoring year. That’s not going to get the value Radulov probably gets last year at this time.”
He also pointed out this summer’s free-agent market is heavy on wingers and light on centers. He suggested Roope Hintz, who plays wing or center, could be their second-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with DeFrank’s take on Radulov’s value and his assessment of the free-agent market. Unless there’s an amnesty buyout implemented this summer if the salary cap remains flat, Stars GM Jim Nill would have to look at cost-cutting trades if he wants to shed salary to address his roster needs.
Lyle, when you say “Problem is, there will be other clubs in the same boat and there won’t be as many with sufficient cap space to take on additional salary for next season” you ain’t just whistling Dixie.
It’s fine for journalists like DeFranks to toss out possibilities like Dallas creating space by dealing a Radulov but doubts a 34 y/o $6.2 mill would “fetch a second-line center” … hell, they’d be extremely lucky to find a taker at ANY return with all the uncertainty about the virus being bandied about, including the continuance of contagion in earnest once the summer months are gone, not to mention the tumbling stock markets (worst single-day drop since the Great Depression yesterday). Fact is, no one knows what to expect – including sports GMs/owners – so you can bet “careful in the extreme” will be the mantra for the next year at least in all major league sports.
Sooo, some teams will be able to “weaponize” their salary cap room. off season will be very interesting.